The task before companies is not to find ways for women to better fit the current business model, but rather to rethink the model entirely so they can create inclusive places to work.
In the last decade, numerous authoritative studies have proven the strong correlation between gender diversity in companies’ top management and their performance. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that achieving gender equality in the workplace could add $12tn to global GDP by 2025. Research has shown year after year that companies in the top quartile for female participation in executive committees outperformed their peers – at times by up to 55%.
The causes of the gender gap are widespread and well-known, from faulty talent pipelines that fail to retain the best leaders, to unconscious bias – outdated perceptions that women cannot work to the same level as men – and unequal expectations related to ‘unpaid care work’.
As employers, corporations have a significant role to play in addressing the gender gap, particularly in areas of the world where public policy lacks. Mirroring the battle against climate change, corporations have a social responsibility to step up and tackle one of the defining issues of our time.
How they choose to do so could range from implementing inclusive human resources policies that better manage maternity and paternity leave, normalising a work-life balance and reviewing what ‘good performance’ looks like. Perhaps it is time to retire the harmful ‘long hours, no breaks’ mindset. Systematic training at all levels could address unconscious bias, as could committees responsible for recruiting and appraisal decisions.
At Mazars, we have developed several strategies to achieve a greater gender balance in our own offices and for our clients.
While 53% of our global workforce (in certain countries, such as South Africa, that number jumps to as high as 60%) and 55% of our group governance council are women, we have set specific global targets to increase the number of female partners by 2025. We have also held the annual Women Leaders Seminar since 2016, which covers essential topics such as empowerment, visibility and development, and gives our senior leaders the opportunity to learn how they can boost diversity.
In the UK and France, Mazars runs ‘returner programmes’ that help women who had paused their careers to re-enter the workplace. In the US, we launched Women@Mazars in 2016, an initiative that connects women to sponsors to gain clarity on the path to senior positions, offers training to end unconscious bias, and highlights personal leadership stories to make women’s success more visible.
Corporations have a social responsibility to step up and tackle one of the defining issues of our time.
Equality checklist and other tools
We recently worked with the Observatory for Gender Balance to develop a gender equality checklist for chief executive officers. This is a way for them to assess whether their company has implemented the measures essential to achieving gender diversity. Mazars, alongside a number of large companies, is piloting the checklist internally.
In addition, we have developed assessment solutions for our clients that reveal the diversity of an organisation and its processes, while also spotting the disparities between an organisation’s desired and actual culture of diversity.
We have also built a predictive analysis tool that takes a current employee structure, forecasts its evolution based on current trends and allows the client to determine new parameters and set targets to increase the team’s gender diversity. A module is also incorporated to generate an organisation’s gender pay gap reporting.
The task before corporations is not to find ways for women to better fit the current business model, but rather to rethink the model entirely so they can create inclusive places to work. Diverse teams perform better. Any business that wants to compete in the coming years needs to end gender inequality now.