Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has become intrinsic to and synonymous with organizational health in today’s world. This is partly because wider social forces have encouraged organizations to listen to and empathize with a broader group of stakeholders whose interests they affect — from investors to customers, employees, suppliers, vendors, communities and governments.
By this standard, how healthy are companies in the wake of the pandemic? A swing from the experience economy due to the renewed thirst for goods during the COVID-19 era has been detrimental to women, who dominate service industry jobs. And we know that increased caregiving responsibilities often fall on their shoulders. According to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study, 44% of companies say that remote working has led women to exit the workforce. Why? Longer hours may be the culprit. Fewer women (40%) than men (52%) say they have reaped the benefit of shorter hours through remote working.
To make true and lasting progress toward gender equity, we cannot squander what we have learned from the pandemic. Instead, we must reset and then build a more gender-balanced future.
The good news is that executives of all genders have DEI as a priority this year. To make that prioritization count, leaders should consider:
Closing the gender gap requires that all stakeholders have their eyes wide open, keep an ear to the ground and – when progress stagnates – be among the many voices raising a rallying cry. In 2022, we expect to see organizations build off their gender commitments (such as those created under the Good Work Alliance) and set diversity goals for their employees, managers and (for some) partners in their supply chains. The hope is that these human capital metrics will permeate business plans and reporting this year.
My hope is that everyone reading this sets their own contribution commitments. We can’t solve the challenges of our time – the Great Resignation, the skill shortage, the shortage in front-line workers, and rising health and social costs – without addressing the very real challenges that women face. Caregiver challenges, role stereotyping, pay inequity and trailing pension adequacy are just a few of the factors holding gender parity back.
Together we need to take action to build inclusive work environments, sustainable talent practices and psychologically safe environments where the different skills and approaches of women are equally valued. This means moving beyond the boundaries of where and when we work, so that women can grab opportunities earlier in their careers and at the outer reaches of our business. My hope is that those who have the capacity to change women’s trajectories do not shy away from the challenge as they launch into building back their future of work agendas.
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