The news about the 'State of Gender Parity' - announced at the World Economic Forum ‘23 meeting in Davos - is not good. The report states: It will take 151 years to close the global economic gender gap. The report is clear - this growing gender gap continues to impact the global economy and business success for every organization.
This news is what I have feared. The number of years to reach economic equity for women continues to climb. In 2018 it was 68 years. In 2020 it was 99 years. In 2022 it was 132 years.
Today that gap has more than doubled to 151 in only 5 years. As an executive leadership coach and faculty director of the Executive Women’s Leadership Programs at the George Washington University-Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, I am horrified. I am constantly working on ways to counter this growing trend by providing women and organizations with more tools to counter it.
The Gender Parity for Economic Recovery panel at Davos came to the conclusion that what is needed is “More He for Shes”. This is NOT news. That’s what has always been needed. Today, it appears that there are more men supporting women than in the past. Yet the gap continues to grow.
Let’s look at some of the solutions needed to begin to close this gap, besides the ones discussed by many panels.
• Organizations need to offer and invest in more leadership training specifically for women at every level, including young women. Pepsi is an example of a corporation which has groomed more women leaders into the C-suite due to leadership training. GWU’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership programs offers leadership programs for mid to high-level women and women leaders on the rise.
• Organizations that provide childcare options and family support to employees attract and retain more women and give them more opportunities to take on greater responsibility. Some offering in-house childcare include Prudential Financial, Disney, Cisco, Merck, IBM and Walgreens. See The Best Companies to Work For List for others.
• Organizations will retain more women leaders with workplaces that offer flexibility and the option to work remotely. Unfortunately, more and more companies are quickly returning to the old required in-office model. Research shows that women were the most effective leaders during the pandemic while leading remotely and continue to be effective today. The Great Breakup (McKinsey) reported that more women leaders are leaving due to this lack of flexibility.
• Male leaders need to look at their unconscious bias and judgements about women, especially those with children, when choosing candidates for promotion into leadership. Too often leaders choose to promote a man, less qualified than a woman, due to his personal biases, assumptions, and his own comfort level.
• Women need to look inward and observe their own habits and limiting beliefs which may be holding them back from moving into the leadership positions they desire. Research has shown that issues relating to communication, relationship building with influencers, mindset, delegation, perfectionism, and confidence stop many women from going for their vision and goals. Programs like those presented at GWU for women executives at all levels, support women in overcoming these limitations. The Her Circle Leadership program trains coaches, consultants and in-house HR/DE&I people to support women in all these areas.
Unless we all take action together, not only will the global economic gender gap continue to increase, but the economic growth and development of companies, countries the world and all people will decline, and many will suffer.
--Leslie Grossman, Executive Leadership Coach, Faculty Director, Executive Women’s Leadership at The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership; and founder of Her Circle Leadership Women’s Leadership Coach Training Program.