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Management

Driving an inclusive culture? Here’s what you need to get right

40 factors that business leaders can implement to create a workplace where everyone can advance and thrive

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 March, 2018, 11:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 March, 2018, 10:22pm

Accenture’s latest research, Getting to Equal 2018, looks to have proved that creating a workplace of equality unlocks human potential.

And we have uncovered the 40 factors that business leaders can implement to create a workplace where everyone can advance and thrive, influence advancement and drive change.

We surveyed more than 22,000 working men and women with a university education in 34 countries to measure their perception of factors that contribute to the culture in which they work.

We modelled the potential impact of those 40 on gender balance in the workplace and on women’s pay, and found that if all organisations were to emulate the environments where these factors are more extensively and commonly used, we could see significant results:

Globally, for every 100 male managers, there could be up to 84 female managers, as opposed to the current ratio of 100 to 34.

Women would also be four times as likely to reach senior manager and director levels.

As a result, their pay could increase by 51 per cent, or up to an additional US$30,000 per woman each year. That equates to a lift of women’s earnings by $2.9 trillion.

According to data collated from national and international statistical agencies, women currently earn US$73 for every US$100 a man earns.

Our modelling estimates that if the environments in which these factors are most prevalent were enjoyed by all working people, women could earn US$92 for every US$100 dollars a man earns, nearly closing the gap (this represents the 51 per cent increase in their salaries).

So how do companies do this?

Our research groups the factors into three categories and shows how companies can improve gender equality by acting in each of the three areas:

1. Bold leadership: a diverse leadership team that sets, shares and measures equality targets openly.

2. Comprehensive action: policies and practices that are family-friendly, support both genders and are bias-free in attracting and retaining people.

3. Empowering environment: one that trusts employees, respects individuals and offers freedom to be creative and to train and work flexibly.

It’s fair to say, that sometimes people read these types of statistics and think, “well that is great for women, but what about for men?”

What we’re finding is if companies and organisations succeed, they will not just accelerate career advancement and pay for women. As they close the gender gap, they will also improve career progress for men.

That is because when women rise, men rise, too. When the factors are more extensively and commonly used we have found that men are 23 per cent more likely to advance to manager levels and beyond. Men are over twice (118 per cent) more likely to advance to senior manager or director levels and beyond.

Overall, this is positive news, and it’s up to business leaders to be bold in leadership, implement comprehensive action plans and create empowering environments.

Bold leadership entails clearly articulating equality targets. That means culture is set from the top, so if women are to rise, gender equality must be a strategic priority for the CEO and leadership team.

We found that there were almost three times more women on the fast track in organisations with at least one female senior leader, compared to those where all senior leaders are male (23 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively).

We define women on the fast track as those who reached manager level within five years and led their peer group in terms of advancement in the workplace.

Executives can take comprehensive action when they put in place workplace policies, practices and programmes that drive advancement for all. Our research shows that some policies that are targeted at women can be counterproductive.

Executives can take comprehensive action when they put in place workplace policies, practices and programmes that drive advancement for all. Our research shows that some policies that are targeted at women can be counterproductive

For example, implementing maternity leave alone is likely to hold women back from career progression. But when companies introduce parental leave for men and women, the negative impact on women’s career advancement is removed.

Additionally, involvement in a women’s network correlates with women’s advancement, but half of the women in our study work for organisations that do not provide a network.

Where there is a network, almost all women participate in it. Most women belong to networks that include men as well.

Leaders who set up empowering environments enable employees to be themselves shows respect for individuals that fosters goodwill.

For example, according to our research, advancement is linked to not asking employees to conform to a dress or appearance code, rather it is linked to being trusted and given the responsibility and freedom to be innovative and creative.

Companies and organisations that empower their people through more relevant skills training, build environments where women advance more quickly. Just over half of non-fast-track women in the survey (56 per cent) say their organisations provide relevant skills training. That number rises to 70 per cent among fast track women.

Our research found that achieving all three, creates a virtuous circle, with each category enhancing the others so that they deliver an even greater impact than they otherwise would in isolation.

Together they nurture a culture of purpose, accountability, belonging, trust and flexibility.

Anne O’Riordian, Hong Kong based senior managing director of Accenture’s Life Sciences industry group

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