LONDON and DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Calling on organizations to do more to accelerate progress, EY has today published a report that highlights how organizations can create more supportive environments for women to succeed and help companies and economies achieve greater economic returns.
The survey of leaders in 400 companies around the world was commissioned from Longitude Research by professional services organization EY in response to an October 2014 report from the World Economic Forum that predicted it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender equality in the workplace.
EY will also be highlighting the 80 years until gender parity at this month's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. On Wednesday, January 21, at 18:00 CET, the organization will unveil a sculptured wall of ice through which they will project a countdown clock and films showing the progress of gender equality and calling for accelerated change. The ice wall is a first of its kind for Davos and will be positioned at 93-94 Promenade, with drinks served each evening from January 21 to 23 between 18:00- 19:00 CET.
The report, Women. Fast forward: The time for gender parity is now, asks what are the biggest barriers and accelerators to women's career advancement. Interestingly, men and women both believe that more female leadership leads to stronger companies, suggesting closing the gender gap may be, at this point, less reliant upon education and more dependent upon men and women working together to create supportive working environments that allow all talent to flourish.
While 33% of women and 30% men agree that women must take a proactive approach to their own careers, this will not be enough to accelerate change. Men and women working together to demonstrate how women's careers can progress, eliminating conscious and unconscious bias and establishing progressive policies are also needed.
Mark Weinberger, EY Global Chairman and CEO, says:
"As we think about the keys to growth, business, nations and economies cannot afford to wait another 80 years to fully engage the talent represented by the world's women. For EY, as for others, accelerating women's progress is essential not only to creating a better working world but also to our success as a business. As an organization, we are focused on making a difference both internally and externally – and believe it's time to accelerate our efforts."
Inspired by a large and growing body of research that supports the economic benefits of gender equality and women's advancement in the workplace, the survey asked men and women at management and C-suite levels for their personal experiences of factors that supported or blocked women's progression, with the aim of identifying what organizations can do to accelerate progress. Tellingly, companies EY identified as "high performers" within the survey — those growing at more than 20% on an annualized basis over the past three years – appear to be doing more than others to encourage women's advancement.
The report identified three clear steps that organizations can take to help accelerate gender equality:
1. Illuminate the path to leadership. Good opportunities for progression are considered a top enabler by men (26%) and women (35%), suggesting that organizations must work harder to make the path ahead clearer to women, demonstrate what is possible and show them career opportunities that match their skills and ambition.
2. Speed up culture change with corporate policy change. The twin enablers of work/life balance and flexibility are high on the women's list of accelerators. From its own experience and what the high-performer responses suggest, EY says informal flexibility for both men and women is highly effective in helping all employees balance their personal and professional lives.
3. Establish a supportive environment and work to eliminate conscious and unconscious bias. Men cited unconscious bias as the number one barrier for women in the workplace. Twenty-seven percent of men said that in their own experiences having a supportive culture is the best way to support women's career advancement. To advance women, EY recommends that leaders must spread an organization-wide message that bias is unacceptable.
Beth Brooke-Marciniak, EY Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, says:
"Without a little nudge, it's easy to gravitate toward colleagues and leaders who think, look and act like we do. Unconscious bias on the part of those in power is undoubtedly partly responsible for the glacial pace of change."
The survey's high performers are ahead of the curve, often offering flexible work arrangements for men and women, setting goals to increase numbers of women in leadership and offering programs that expose women to all company operations and functions. From these indicators, EY says that building bridges to leadership for women likely helps build a healthier company culture, which leads to better performance and improves the bottom line.
Uschi Schreiber, EY Global Vice Chair – Markets and Chair of Global Accounts Committee, says:
"We need strong role models and women leaders, greater accountability aimed at increasing diversity and inclusiveness, and a concerted effort to overcome conscious and unconscious bias. And that's not all. Women leaders need to look to their legacy and place themselves in stewardship roles to make their organizations better places for future generations of women."
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