When will women thrive? This is a question with profound implications for businesses striving to establish competitive advantage, because the link between women’s participation in the workforce and economic growth has never been clearer. It is also a question of urgency for women themselves — and for the families and communities that depend on them.
To answer this question, Mercer reached out to a large set of employers globally and relied on objective, statistical analysis to find out how female talent is faring and to uncover the real story of what drives gender diversity in organizations. The results, captured in the new report When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive, indicate that despite diversity efforts over the past several decades, employers are still decades away from true gender equality if they don’t implement changes, and that a holistic strategy for supporting women across several key aspects of their personal and professional life cycle is key to success.
Based on 178 submissions from 164 companies in 28 countries covering 1.7 million employees — including more than 680,000 women — Mercer’s research reveals that:
Standalone programs and siloed initiatives are not advancing gender diversity. Statistical analysis of the data provided by respondents reveals the following key drivers:
1. A BROAD, ENTERPRISE-WIDE FOCUS IS LINKED TO SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. Organizations that focus on broad and holistic approaches to support female talent are on an accelerated path to gender equality.
2. ACCOUNTABILITY IS NOT ENOUGH — LEADERSHIP NEEDS TO BE ENGAGED IN PROMOTING AND MANAGING DIVERSITY. Formal accountability turns out to be insignificant in increasing gender diversity when divorced from true leadership engagement. But organizations in which leaders are actively involved in diversity programs have more women at the top and throughout the organization, as well as more equitable talent flows between women and men.
3. THE ACTIVE MANAGEMENT OF TALENT DRIVES MORE FAVORABLE OUTCOMES THAN TRADITIONAL PROGRAMS. Simply implementing programs to support women’s needs is not enough — and may actually slow the trajectory for women in the absence of proactive management of their careers. Specifically, the research found that:
4. NONTRADITIONAL SOLUTIONS IMPACT FIRMS’ LONG-TERM ABILITY TO ENGAGE AND RETAIN FEMALE TALENT. Innovative programs that target women’s unique health and financial needs are helping organizations better attract, develop, and retain female talent and include:
5. MEN AND WOMEN OFFER EMPLOYERS DIFFERENT BUT EQUALLY IMPORTANT SKILLS. Although companies view female and male managers as having somewhat different strengths, they rank those strengths as equally important to success. And those companies that embrace the different strengths that men and women bring to their roles are more successful at achieving gender diversity.
These findings are a call for employers to think and act in new ways in order to better utilize female talent. To accelerate progress on gender diversity, employers should:
This analytically rigorous research points employers toward fundamentally different and more effective approaches for fully utilizing the female workforce. However, those who apply predictive analytics in their own organizations to identify and respond to their vital talent business issues — whether they relate to gender,the engagement and participation of other diverse groups, or other workforce matters — can identify their own most impactful interventions and, in doing so, facilitate the achievement of rapid and dramatic change.
Download Mercer’s newly released research report, When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive.
Register for our webcast on December 9, 2014, to hear Mercer experts discuss the research findings in more detail.
|Brian Levine, PhD (New York)
Partner, North American Workforce
Analytics & Planning Leader
+1 212 345 4194
|Katie Edkins (Boston)
Women@Mercer Project Manager
+1 617 747 9368