NEW YORK, March 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- While many strides have been made toward closing the gender gap in global business, targets may still be necessary to make significant progress, according to panelists and participants of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited's (DTTL) third annual International Women's Day (IWD) webcast.
An audience poll conducted during the webcast indicated that three-fourths (75.4%) of participants believe that targets around female representation in business and government are necessary in order to make significant progress. However, according to the panelists*, targets are one catalyst to bring about change, but are not sufficient on their own: leadership support and accountability are also crucial.
"You have to have the most respected business leaders coaching their peers in other organisations to do the right thing and understand why it's important," says panelist Heather Hancock, Managing Partner, Innovation and Brand, Deloitte UK. "Then, I think companies need to take it a step further. Their annual reports should cover women in leadership—what those companies are doing about the advancement of women, what their future plans are, and how are they progressing. Actually having to put it in print year-on-year is a very powerful mechanism to drive attention, focus, and change."
Another polling question asked the webcast audience why they believed women were leaving their organizations. The main reasons cited were work/life balance issues (59.1%) and a lack of opportunities for advancement (52.3%). The panelists discussed these and other challenges confronting women in the workplace, and how organizations can overcome these obstacles.
"In order to make significant progress to advance women leaders, we must look at this issue as more than just a human resources problem," said Jim Wall, DTTL Chief Diversity Officer and Global Managing Director, Talent. "To truly progress, businesses will need to approach investing in women as a cultural shift, one that should be addressed at both the executive and the employee level."
The IWD webcast was organized by DTTL's Global Retention of Women (GROW) Council. GROW leads a worldwide effort to increase representation of Deloitte member firm women in leadership positions through mentoring programs, skills-building workshops, and networking sessions that will help women progress in their careers.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are an integral part of Deloitte member firms' business strategy. Deloitte leadership recognizes that an investment in women by governments and organizations around the world provides the opportunity to harness an untapped source of economic growth. This year, DTTL released two studies on this topic—The Gender Dividend and Women in the Boardroom—which outline the importance of investing in women in business.
For more information about the Deloitte organization's IWD and diversity activities, and a recording of the webcast, visit www.deloitte.com/iwd.
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*The webcast panelists included Shireen Ann Zaharah Muhiudeen, Managing Director, Corston-Smith Asset Management (Malaysia); Heather Hancock, Managing Partner, Innovation and Brand, Deloitte United Kingdom (UK); and Paula Goodman, Director, WOLF Enablement Team, Women’s Leadership Forum, Best Buy Co., Inc (United States). The panel was moderated by Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders, Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs.