Each month, Mercer brings together in-house experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals around the world engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our March 2021 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.

There’s a two week period every year that serves as a stark reminder of the need for greater progress on gender equality. Like the volatile spring weather that accompanies this stretch of the calendar, every year I watch the cause for women’s empowerment follow an annual cycle of dizzying highs of International Women’s Day on March 8 to the sobering reality of Equal Pay Day in late March.

 

This year was no exception, but rather than allowing ourselves to become discouraged, I #ChoosetoChallenge us to seize this as an opportunity. After a year of industry disruption and organizational redesign and a widening of the gender gap, there’s no better time than now to advance the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, and business leaders around the world are more ready than ever to listen to their employees and clients about how they can change. What’s more, we have more data than ever to help us do so.

 

So with a positive outlook in mind, we embraced the mid-March window as an opportunity to find the solutions to help cross the finish line on gender equality. In doing so, we asked some of the industry’s most prominent thought leaders to share their perspective on how to build for a more gender equal future, and below are some of the highlights from our conversation.

New Backgrounds, New Perspectives

The best organizations in the world are built on ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’re pioneering AI or baking bread, the innovation that will carry your business through the next decade is waiting uncovered somewhere within your organization, just waiting to come out. That’s why it’s genuinely remarkable that so many organizations fail to tap into their full strength!

 

When organizations bring more voices into the room (to say nothing of boardrooms), they win. A diversity of voices brings new perspectives, ideas and solutions, per Walter Jennings, which in turn drives the creativity and innovation that Lori Almeida spoke to during our discussion. Leaders looking to tap into new approaches to problem solving or access undervalued markets via new sales or marketing angles would be wise to bring more women into critical conversations, allowing for the diversity of ideas that Patricia Schouker described.

 

Sounds great, but is there proof? I’m so glad you asked. As Petra Hailu pointed out, there’s a clear correlation between greater gender diversity and business performance, and JoAn Santiago went further to cite study results showing that gender diverse companies are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability. It’s clear that when it comes to business, diversity pays.

Diversity of ideas is biggest benefit of a #diverse workforce. Tired of trying the same solution? Stuck with deep-seated business problems? Different backgrounds mean new perspectives

Walter Jennings

 

Having both women and men in your teams means you benefit from the different points of view and approaches that come from different life experiences. A multiplicity of perspectives can spark creativity and innovation.

Lori Almeida

 

There is a direct correlation between gender diversity and a company’s financial performance. Women leaders bring diversity in perspective, higher ROI and create a more inclusive company culture. When women lead, everyone benefits.

Petra Hailu

 

Time & again, evidence supports the theory that gender diversity had a positive impact on the bottom line. Gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.

JoAn Santiago

 

A multitude of viewpoints often leads to a multitude of paths towards success. Men and women tend to view the world in different ways and approach tasks in different manners, which opens up a number of possibilities in the workplace.

Patricia Schouker

Commitment and Communication

If change were easy, it would have happened by now. More than 100 years after women gained the right to vote in the US, we’re still pushing for equality, and the situation is only getting worse. The gender gap has only grown since the beginning of the pandemic as more women face the added burden of responsibilities at home, or what Amisha Gandhi called the “mom penalty”, and breaking the cycle requires leaders to regard diversity as more than a buzzword, per Carrie Maslen.

 

But, critically, that doesn’t mean that words don’t matter. As Zofia Gryta pointed out, language and how we communicate shapes our behavior and perception, so leaders would be right to start there in an effort to advance equality. This means embracing the difficult conversations that Marcia F. Robinson described and listening to employees to ensure they’re represented in the organization. In doing so, they’ll gain valuable insights on how they can grow and adapt for a more gender equal future, all of which is much more meaningful than the optics glorification that Salima Nathoo rightfully derided during our chat. 

This is one of the major issues of the #pandemic > the wage gap is paying a big role here: “Mom penalty" vs. the "dad premium". 

Amisha Gandhi

 

Diversity cannot just be a buzzword. It has to be a goal. Your results depend on it.

Carrie Maslen

 

Language shapes our behaviours, if we don’t change it, how are we expecting to the change the status quo.

Zosia Gryta

 

Ask. Have difficult conversations. Be ok with answers. Women can define what we need. Women who lead have to be mindful about how we build our sisters. 

Marcia F Robinson

 

DNA - "Do Not Accept/Allow/Amplify" any policy, process, conversation, or comment that is less than what is right. Stop optics glorification. Oh and stop silencing dissenting opinions. People don't dissent when the culture is inclusive.

Salima Nathoo

Leaders and Re-org

Ultimately, it comes down to this: does your organization want to change? You can show your leaders all the evidence about better business performance, you can demonstrate how greater diversity is a growing demand from talent and consumers (as Jennifer Merrick pointed out), and you can make it as easy as possible to affect change. When it comes down to it, leaders must choose to adapt. And we must #ChooseToChallenge.

 

This is why change almost always starts at the top. Tara Benson observed this during our conversation, pointing out that leaders can impact an entire organization simply by making gender diversity part of the culture. They do this by engaging front line mangers to build trust and accountability, as Rayna Edwards shared, and in doing so can create the type of proactive managers and engaged leaders that Tamara McCleary called for.

 

However, not all support programs are alike, as many of our chat participants were quick to point out. Notably, Robin Schooling shared that organizations need to discern between the lip-service of casual “mentorship” programs and the more career-advancing framework of “sponsorships”, in which senior colleagues actively support and advocate for high-potential junior colleagues. It’s these types of programs that matter more than ever, as Emily Klein pointed out, as the challenges for working through the pandemic and remote work have introduced more obstacles to women in the workplace than their peers.

Consumers and employees are demanding business leaders take stands on social justice movements, like gender diversity and taking a more holistic approach to DEI can put companies in a unique position to truly drive change.

Jennifer Merrick

 

Gender diversity must begin at the top with leadership. If gender diversity goals begin at the top then these goals will be implemented company-wide and become part of the company culture.

Tara Benson

 

1) Engage leaders and front line managers 2) Build trust and accountability - be transparent about the current state and plan for action 3) Take action and continuously track progress.

Rayna Edwards

 

We need active managers & leadership promoting women, but what we also really need is a greater voice from male advocates. We need more men in a leader role, mentoring & promoting women and advocating for greater workforce diversity overall.

Tamara McCleary

 

Review the differences between “mentorships” (sometimes busy work and assignments) vs. “sponsorship” (more planning and “endorsing”)  

Robin Schooling

 

Sponsorship matters, now more than ever, for all women. For working mothers this has been a longstanding challenge, but is essential.  Embedding flexible work into organizational DNA & celebrating nonlinear career paths should be prioritized

Emily Klein

Danielle Guzman
Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media