Global Employers Haven’t Prioritized Gender Equity During Covid

Covid Woman

Despite increased awareness of gender diversity issues and the continued challenges facing women at work during the Covid-19 pandemic, 70% of global businesses don’t regard gender equity to be a top priority.

Indeed, a study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that the leadership pipeline for women is shrinking, with fewer women holding positions as senior vice presidents, vice presidents, directors and managers than did when similar research was published in 2019.

Most global businesses don’t see gender equity as a top priority; women's leadership pipeline shrinking. @IBMIBV #HR #HRTech Click To Tweet

Employees are fatigued and losing optimism because of ineffective efforts to address gender equity, the survey said. Only 62% of women (down 9 percentage points from 2019) and 60% of men (down 7 points) expect their organization to significantly improve gender parity over the next five years.

That comes despite the fact that more companies are launching programs designed to boost equity and inclusion, including gender-blind job screenings and parental leave for women. The study suggests these efforts haven’t translated to better outcomes, in part because mindsets and cultures haven’t changed enough. For example, fewer respondents from organizations in both surveys agreed that senior executives openly challenge gender-biased behaviors and language.

Commitment Works

Eleven percent of the organizations surveyed, called “first movers,” make the advancement of women a formal business priority, view gender-inclusivity as a driver of financial performance and are highly motivated to take action. These organizations self-reported stronger financial performance, as well as stronger customer and employee satisfaction, than others in the survey IBM said.

The survey’s suggestions begin with making specific commitments around the gender equity, including it among the company’s top five business priorities and following through with specific actions related to the pandemic, such as training programs for professionals who’ve been out of work for extended periods of time and offering benefits like backup childcare or access to mental health resources. It also recommends fostering increased inclusivity, encouraging HR to champion inclusion, and incorporating accountability into business and individual goals.

In terms of technology, IBM—not surprisingly—contends that AI can help reduce bias in candidate screening, and other solutions can facilitate communication and surface what’s working and what’s not in supporting women in the workplace.  

The data show that many women leaders are experiencing challenges at this moment. If these issues are not addressed more deeply than in prior years, there is a risk of progress backsliding further,” said IBM Senior Vice President Bridget van Kralingen, who’s also senior executive sponsor of the IBM Women’s Community.

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