Is women’s progress stalling at your company? Here’s how to get it moving again

By Matt Dallisson, 29/03/2019

So organizations believe D&I is critical to achieving financial goals, and, on average 80% of leaders say they are committed to the D&I agenda overall. It therefore follows that leaders looking to implement a successful D&I agenda understand that it’s about people and business strategy.

Unfortunately, commitment and passion for change is not enough to sustain progress. During my time at the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos in January, I sat in, and on, a number of panels focused on closing the gender gap. What struck me was, for all our collective efforts, good intentions and attention to detail, we have made progress, yet still have a way to go. While there are pockets of success stories, overall, we look a bit, well, stuck. So how do we increase momentum?

Many CEOs have made pledges to diversity and appear sincere in their desire for change, but in reality, it takes more than CEO commitment. In our research and experience with clients, we see that CEO commitments can work, but only when programs and processes are specifically designed and coordinated around those commitments.

Every leader, every manager should not just commit to action. We also need to be held accountable. As with any other business goal, holding leaders answerable is key to driving progress. During my time as regional president for Mercer EuroPac, I worked closely with our talent & inclusion center of excellence to implement diversity goals.

For example, we introduced a goal to include early-career female employees in sales pitches. It had a dual payoff. It gave women better exposure to client opportunities and gave Mercer higher win rates: when there was at least one woman on a sales team, the overall win rate increased by 28%.

How do you ensure commitment and accountability such as this? Consider asking: do we have the right leaders and managers? Certifying this requires development of inclusive behavior in your leaders – and your succession pipelines. It also means being willing to make tough decisions when your leaders don’t act according to your core values.

Companies willing to use data and analytics are better able to assess which programs and processes are the leading causes of a homogeneous workforce. Our 2019 Global Talent Trends study found that half of C-suite and HR leaders (combined) would find data-driven insights around why women and other underrepresented populations are failing to progress within the organization as a top three insight that would add the “most value to the business”.

This stress can manifest in interesting ways. For example, willingness to go for a promotion or a new job is correlated to financial courage; with women continuing to be less financially secure and more stressed about their current and future prospects, we will continue to see a reluctance to take risks within their career.

To find that place, data analytics can play a vital role. It can help organizations identify areas of pay inequality and life stages that warrant targeted conversations. Meanwhile, personalized resources and tools, along with coaching, mentorship, and executive sponsorship of gender-specific programs can help women holistically focus on their health, wealth and careers.

As a global leader of 23,000 employees I don’t see profitability and D&I as zero-sum games. I see D&I more broadly, also as leadership and employee wellness issues. It is not enough, however, that the CEO believes it. We need to surround ourselves with the right leaders.

Like everyone else, at Mercer we’re still on the road toward gender parity. Only by actively listening, being willing to confront our own data honestly, meeting our employees where they are, and committing to take action as both individuals and a collective leadership team, can we come together for change, stay out of neutral and drive forward into a sustainable future for all.

This content was originally published here.