A report from the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women outlines that despite a commitment to advancing women in the workplace, a lack of clear goals and objectives, accountability and metrics have hindered companies in closing the gap between women and men in business. The report also found, however, that “significant research exists” to guide companies in creating action plans that accelerate progress for women.
Details in the report outline how few companies in the two countries have a proactive plan to advance women to roles in senior leadership. Only 36% of Canadian companies and 40% of American companies surveyed have such a plan, and only 52% of Canadian companies and 59% of American companies even have data on the percentage of women management in their firms.
Accountability and planning may tip the scales. With 67% of Canadian and 72% of U.S. companies reporting they have a board member responsible for ensuring gender equality. To move forward in closing the gender gap, the report recommended businesses should articulate their goals to employees, use data to track their progress, hold leaders accountable for their actions, set hiring and advancement targets and use existing research to create a plan of action.
Gender disparity in the workforce, particularly at the C-Suite has been the focus for many companies in response to the need for equality as well as consumer demand. But women still face challenges across almost every industry. A Hive report found women work harder than their counterparts, producing 10% more work and being assigned 55% of all work, compared to the 45% of work assigned to men.
Wage gaps continue to be reported, and for women of color, disparities are even larger at the bottom line. Black women earn 38% less than white men, and it’s also been found they earn 21% less than white women. They’re also promoted more slowly. In some industries, like tech, STEM and finance, gender disparity is well documented and pronounced. Some studies suggest the gender pay gap costs the tech industry billions and could take decades to close.
As companies set targets in advancing women, as the report suggested, learning leaders will need to assess whether their practices help or hurt women looking to move up within a company or simply get better at their current jobs. When Sodexo North America partnered with the Paradigm for Parity initiative, it implemented the “5-Point Action Plan,” which shares many similarities with the steps outlined by the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women. The “5-Point Action Plan” devotes two steps that fall within learning leaders’ realm. The plan suggested employers advance their employees based on how they perform and what business results they produce, rather than presence. The plan also prompted employers to identify women with potential and pair them with mentors. Learning leaders can implement strategies at such to make way for more advancement among women employees.