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Employee Engagement

Despite progress and good intentions, gender equality in the workforce is still a long way off. According to Mercer’s When Women Thrive 2020 Global Report, the majority (81%) of organisations worldwide claim that improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) is important, yet less than half (42%) have a documented, multi-year strategy for achieving gender equality.

In tandem with this finding, only 40% of the global workforce is female, up slightly from 38% four years ago. Additionally, while representation of females in senior leadership roles is improving (up three percentage points at the top two levels), it decreases as career levels advance. Mercer’s research finds that women make up 47% of support staff and 42% of professional level positions, but only 29% and 23% of senior and executive level positions, respectively.

“Gender equality has evolved into a global imperative, and organisations are taking actions to make a difference,” said Martine Ferland, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercer. “However, as women continue to face challenges of unequal senior level representation and limited opportunities for career development and advancement across industries and geographies, there is still much work to do to achieve gender balance.”

As organisations around the world pay more attention to gender equality, despite slow and uneven movement, there are bright spots showing forward momentum and progress with lasting impact. According to Mercer’s research, rates for hiring, promoting and retaining women are now comparable to rates for men, which is an improvement from four years ago (see Figure 1).

Additionally, organisations globally are adopting more disciplined methods for analysing pay equity as well as implementing measures to take accountability. Mercer’s research finds that almost three-fourths (72%) of organisations have teams dedicated to conducting pay equity analysis, up from 45%, and more than half (56%) use a robust statistical approach to conduct their pay equity analysis, up from 35%.

Another positive aspect advancing workforce gender parity is the involvement of leadership. According to Mercer’s research, two-thirds (66%) of organisations report senior executives are actively engaged in D&I initiatives and programs, up from 57% in 2016, and more than half (57%) report the same for Boards, up from 52% in 2016.

Michelle Sequeira, Diversity and Inclusion expert at Mercer commented: “For the first time since the launch of our ‘When Women Thrive’ study, six years ago, we’re starting to see significant progress around female representation in business. However, unless the pace of change accelerates it will take us over 30 years to achieve full gender representation in the workplace.

“To enact real change businesses need to focus on inclusion as a whole and turn commitments to sustainable action. This includes prioritising initiatives that build an end-to-end employee experience which is adaptable for all, fostering a culture of caring for diverse health and financial needs, and underpinning with policies and practices that embrace flexibility and a personalised work environment.”

Other findings:

Globally, organisations are optimistic about their ability to hire, promote and retain women. Less than one-third report challenges with attracting (32%), advancing (32%) and retaining (20%) women.

Half (50%) of organisations around the world do not have staff exclusively dedicated to D&I. Just 64% of organisations worldwide track gender representation and even fewer analyse hires, promotions and exits by gender.

Despite the importance of employee wellbeing and financial wellness, only 25% of organisations globally track gender-specific health needs and 9% track gender-specific financial wellness.

Mercer’s When Women Thrive 2020 Global Report, the most preeminent of its kind, shares insights from senior HR and business leaders from 1,157 organisations in 54 countries and six regions, representing seven million employees. The research covers policies and practices related to diversity, inclusion and gender equity, including issues pertaining to accountability, leadership engagement, pay equity, career development, health and wellbeing and financial wellness.

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