Women fast forward imagine when XX equals XY

Monday 06 March 2017

Blog by Karin Lutz, Y Global Strategy & Analysis, Lead Partner - Global Markets

As we prepare to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD 2017), I am excited to be involved with EY, as well as the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), for the launch of the #BeBoldForChange campaign.

This year’s theme aims to highlight the many positive aspects of achieving gender-parity in the workplace. There is still much work to be done to re-balance the scales of the gender split in management today. CMI statistics provide evidence for this now well-known, and disappointing, reality:

“Male managers are 40% more likely than female managers to be promoted into higher roles. This remains the number one cause of the 23% gender pay gap.”

Source: CMI statistics

“The result for many organisations is the ‘missing middle’ – while women outnumber men at junior levels, not enough make it through to the top.”

The Missing Middle

One way to try and rebalance the scale is to find the middle management women who left their careers mid-way and didn’t return.

If it is a ‘missing woman’s’ choice not to return to work again, then that is her prerogative.

However, sometimes women feel anxious about returning to work due to a dip in personal confidence, maybe linked to the perceived stigma regarding their ability to cope after an absence or they may even begin to question their own value as a ‘returner’. More needs to be done to help these women regain their confidence. .

When women are motivated and able to return to their career, they must be encouraged and supported to do so. Finding a mentor or perhaps someone with whom they can re-visit their values, skills and self-confidence could help many more women return to work.

To achieve a 50/50 split of management jobs between men and women by 2024, as is the aim of the CMI, it requires 1.5m of these management roles to be held by women.

At a recent Bloomberg event I attended which focused on gender equality in the workplace, one of the speakers was Gina Fordham, the author of the Citi report on “Women in the Economy: Global Growth Generators”.

An update of this report will be released to coincide with IWD 2017 on March 8, 2017.

This report highlights how the relevance of gender to economic growth is still a relatively new field in mainstream business research.

This report talks about women’s economic empowerment as a growth argument rather than a diversity argument. It looks at the practicalities and barriers to entry for women entering the workforce.

So just when are these barriers put in place? Is it at school when girls are choosing their subjects for university and their future careers? Are they fully equipped to do so and encouraged to select the options they want as opposed to ‘the ones most suitable for a girl’. Hopefully those days are over!

A conundrum posed in this research is: how is it that average female labour forces have flat-lined over the last 20 years, despite impressive gains in education?

We are being told that girls outperform boys in their high school finals and have the lion’s share of examination success at university too so why is there still a massive mis-representation of women making it to senior management positions and C-level.

Harriet Minter, former editor of The Guardian newspapers ‘Women in Leadership’ section believes that despite women outperforming men in education grades today the main barrier is Fear - The fear of going for it. Harriet offers a humorous view of how women need to be more confident, take more risks and understand that yoga has nothing to do with it.

Is it ‘Fear’ that is inhibiting the progress of women in the workplace today? Is the fear of inequality holding us back from trying harder? Is it ‘Fear’ preventing us from realising our full potential and from breaking through the barriers? -. Some women have done it so why can’t we all do it if we want to?

IWD 2017 is an opportunity to speak up for equality and gender-parity, with an authentic voice. Fear not, for on Wednesday 8 March 2017, IWD 2017, #BeBoldForChange, you have the opportunity to be heard. Use it wisely.