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Organizations Falling Short with Concrete Planning for Gender Equality

Despite progress and good intentions, gender equality in the workforce is still a long way off.

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According to Mercer’s “When Women Thrive 2020 Global Report,” the majority (81%) of organizations worldwide claim that improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) is important, yet less than half (42%) have a documented, multi-year strategy for achieving gender equality.

In tandem with this finding, only 40% of the global workforce is female, up slightly from 38% four years ago. Additionally, while representation of females in senior leadership roles is improving (up three percentage points at the top two levels), it decreases as career levels advance. Mercer’s research finds that women make up 47% of support staff and 42% of professional level positions, but only 29% and 23% of senior and executive-level positions, respectively.

“Gender equality has evolved into a global imperative, and organizations are taking actions to make a difference,” said Martine Ferland, president and CEO of Mercer. “However, as women continue to face challenges of unequal senior-level representation and limited opportunities for career development and advancement across industries and geographies, there is still much work to do to achieve gender balance.”

As organizations around the world pay more attention to gender equality, despite slow and uneven movement, there are bright spots showing forward momentum and progress with lasting impact. According to Mercer’s research, rates for hiring, promoting and retaining women are now comparable to rates for men, which is an improvement from four years ago.

  • Additionally, organizations are adopting more disciplined methods for analyzing pay equity as well as implementing measures to take accountability. Mercer’s research finds that almost three-fourths (72%) of organizations have teams dedicated to conducting pay equity analysis, up from 45% previously, and more than half (56%) use a robust statistical approach to conduct their pay equity analysis, up from 35%.

Another positive aspect advancing workforce gender parity is the involvement of leadership. According to Mercer’s research, two-thirds (66%) of organizations report senior executives are actively engaged in D&I initiatives and programs, up from 57% in 2016, and more than half (57%) report the same for boards, up from 52% in 2016.

“Slowly, but surely, organizations are enabling women to step in and step up,” said Angela Berg, partner at Mercer. “And, those organizations that are taking actions to systematically improve the representation of underrepresented groups and create a more inclusive culture will achieve tangible, long-term results and the benefits that go with it.”

Other findings:

  • Globally, organizations are optimistic about their ability to hire, promote and retain women. Less than one-third report challenges with attracting (32%), advancing (32%) and retaining (20%) women.
  • Half (50%) of organizations around the world do not have staff exclusively dedicated to D&I.
  • Just 64% of organizations worldwide track gender representation and even fewer analyze hires, promotions and exits by gender.
  • Despite the importance of employee well-being and financial wellness, only 25% of organizations track gender-specific health needs and 9% track gender-specific financial wellness.

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