Bold action can help reverse the shrinking leadership pipeline
ARMONK, NY, March 8, 2021 / PRNewswire / – New study from IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) (NYSE: IBM) reveals that despite heightened awareness of the challenges women face in the workplace due to the COVID pandemic -19, gender equity is still not a top priority for 70% of global companies, according to professionals surveyed. The study also shares actions that can help drive bold and lasting change in business, with lessons from companies that rank gender inclusion as a top business priority.
The global study ‘Women, Leadership and Missed Opportunities’, which follows similar research published in 2019, also shows that gender equity may be at a crossroads, and the pipeline leadership for women is shrinking. Fewer women surveyed hold Senior Vice President, Vice President, Director and Manager positions in 2021 than in 2019.
“The data shows that many women leaders are facing challenges right now. If these issues are not addressed more deeply than in previous years, there is a risk that progress will decline further, ”said Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, Global Markets, IBM and Senior Executive Sponsor of IBM’s Women’s Community. “We must seize creative solutions now and redouble our efforts to bring about meaningful and lasting change that can help all women reach their full potential.”
Additionally, the study indicates that employees surveyed feel fatigue and waning optimism about ineffective programmatic efforts to address gender equity. Only 62% of women surveyed (down 9 percentage points from 2019) and 60% of men surveyed (down 7 percentage points from 2019) expect their organization to significantly improve gender parity in the world. over the next five years.
More programs don’t mean more progress
According to the study, more organizations are implementing more programs to help improve gender equity and inclusion compared to 2019, such as gender-neutral job screens and parental leave for the women. However, the study suggests that this did not translate into better outcomes in part because mindsets and cultures have not changed enough along with the programs.
Compared to 2019, for example, fewer survey respondents from repeat organizations * agreed that senior executives openly challenge sexist behavior and language.
The “First Mover” advantage
The study identified a group (11%) of survey respondents, called “First Movers”, who identify the advancement of women as a formal business priority, see gender inclusion as a driver of financial performance and are highly motivated to act. First Movers self-reported better financial performance – up to an average revenue growth rate 61% higher than the average reported by other organizations in our study – along with stronger innovation and greater customer and employee satisfaction.
A roadmap for sustainable progress
According to the study, organizations can take specific and bold steps, like First Movers, to help accelerate progress on gender equity in the workplace.
- Pair bold thinking with big commitments. For example, make gender equity one of the top five priorities for formal business and create pathways for women to re-enter the workforce. IBM offers a six-month paid “ return ” for technical professionals who have not been in the workforce for 12 months, which provides training, access to tools and technology, mentoring and assignments working on technical projects that match their expertise.
- Apply specific interventions related to the crisis. For example, additional benefits like childcare support and access to mental health resources may be essential. Other recent IBV research has found that top performing CEOs say they are committed to supporting the well-being of their employees, even at the expense of profitability or budget.
- Create a culture of intention and insist on making room. Emphasize empathetic leadership and empower middle managers to advocate for positive cultural change. Human leaders can intentionally champion inclusive team cultures, with flexibility aligned with the personal and professional needs of individuals, and define accountability in business and individual goals to sponsor the future pool of female leaders.
- Use technology to accelerate performance. Organizations can use technologies such as AI to help reduce bias in the candidate selection process, provide cloud-based digital communication and feedback tools to reveal what works and what doesn’t to support women in the workplace, and invest in collaborative tools and collaborative practices that enable women and men to engage effectively in physical and remote environments, even after the pandemic has ended.
The global study, conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value in cooperation with Oxford Economics, interviewed more than 2,600 executives, middle managers and professionals – an equal number of women and men – in 10 industries and 9 geographic regions . It follows a 2019 study that interviewed 2,300 respondents representing the same range of roles, industries and regions to allow for longitudinal analysis.
* Repeat organizations refer to organizations that had survey respondents in 2019 as well as 2021 studies.
About the IBM Institute for Business Value
The IBV Institute for Business Value (IBV) provides trusted business insights from our position at the intersection of technology and business, combining the expertise of industry thinkers, leading academics and experts in material with global research and performance data. IBV’s thought leadership portfolio includes in-depth research, benchmarking and performance comparisons, as well as data visualizations that support business decision making across regions, industries and technologies. Follow @IBMIBV on Twitter and to receive the latest information by email, visit: www.ibm.com/ibv.
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