Advances (or the lack thereof) in gender equality

2017 was a year in which discussions concerning gender equality figured prominently. Although plenty of painful wounds were brought out into the open, it still seems like it will take decades for the problem to be resolved entirely. Amazingly, some analysts think it may even take centuries: according to the World Economic Forum women’s wages will take 217 years to catch up with those of their male counterparts. There are signs that people’s views of gender equality are entrenched: surveys point out that many people believe that everything is fine as it is. Here we’d like to bring some clippings to your attention in which these advances (or the lack thereof) are painfully evident.

Globally, women generate 37 percent of the world’s GDP, despite accounting for 50 percent of the world’s working-age population. Looking at similar data over a ten-year period, McKinsey has been studying matter through its annual Women Matter report, which was designed to build a case for the increased presence of women in corporations’ upper management. The report contains insights as to how firms can go about creating actions to facilitate such change. This year, McKinsey collaborated with 16 global business leaders and produced a study highlighting the ten attributes of an inclusive organization. Take a look at what they came up with:

  • Unorthodox. Policies, rules, norms, and practices are constantly challenged to consider the needs of all, not just one dominant group.
  • Polymorphic. Diverse leadership styles are used, recognizing that effectiveness comes in many forms.
  • Empowered. Instead of “command and control,” everyone is empowered and has the ability to shape the future.
  • Multifaceted. The organization mirrors the society we live in—multicultural and reflecting a broad range of religions, cultures, and ethnicities.
  • Meritocratic and fair. Processes are fair, and everyone is treated equally, in settings free of bias.
  • Caring and safe. The environment is no-fear, nonhierarchical, and nonviolent.
  • Respectful. Women are considered peers; everyone has the same share of voice and can be heard by all.
  • Balanced. The organization enables work-life balance, which means no more long hours and an understanding that performance is not linked to physical presence and time commitment.
  • Global and agile. There is full connectivity, on a global scale, and flexibility—leveraging technology.
  • Inventive. A forward-thinking CEO is surrounded by bold and creative millennials.


Data from Women in the Workplace 2017

The study Women in the Workplace 2017, also conducted by McKinsey in partnership with Lean In, has a strong hypothesis for why the advancement of women has been so slow. It is as evident as it is complex: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we cannot solve problems that we don’t see or understand clearly.

Many employees are left with the impression that women are well represented in a company’s leadership when they see a few in senior positions. When we become comfortable with the status quo, we feel no urgency to affect change. Moreover, most men do not fully comprehend the barriers faced by women. As a result, they feel lower levels of committment to gender diversity. And we now know, as the study notes, that progress requires the participation of society as a whole.

The report Women in the Workplace 2017 is based on data from 222 companies employing more than 12 million people, and also includes a survey of more than 70,000 of their employees. This year, another critical issue was directly addressed: companies ignore the reality of black women as well, a segment of the population that faces the greatest obstacles and receives the least support. “When companies take a one-size-fits-all approach to advancing women, women of color end up underserved and left behind,” the article states.

Take a look at three factors that limit the ability of women to compete:

Right from the beginning, the business environment is distorted in favor of men.

Entry-level women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts. If those women were promoted at the same rate as men, the number of women at the senior vice president and C-suite levels would more than double. Thus, women are less optimistic about their prospects and are less predisposed than men to aspire to top positions.

For black women, it’s even worse.

Black women receive less support from managers and are promoted even more slowly. For them, contact with top-level colleagues is even more limited, and they have fewer opportunities to access such people. Compared to other women, they are significantly more likely to consider starting their own business after leaving their current job.

Men think it’s okay.

Men are more likely to think that the workplace is equitable; while women see more room to improve. In fact, almost 50% of men believe that women are well represented in leadership positions in companies where only one in ten senior leaders are women. In addition, 15% of men think they will be harmed by any efforts to change the status quo.

Further reading on gender equality:


How does your company intend to help change this paradigm?

Many companies have begun to wonder what they can do to change the current scenario. But when leaders these days talk about gender equality, are they just paying lip-service? Is it possible to measure the effectiveness of actions? How can we unveil the unseen problems that are cited as the main barriers to progress in gender equality? These are some of the issues that we will need to address in the coming years.

One step that we can take immediately is to choose tools that contribute to a more inclusive and diverse environment. Runrun.it is an example of this because it helps managers and employees organize and execute tasks, as well providing information on the best-performing employees in an objective, unbiased manner.

To better control the workflow within your company, without interfering with the attributes that make your company exceptional, use our management software. Sign up for a free trial today at http://runrun.it.

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