It’s no coincidence the UN Women has chosen the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos — the retreat where global leaders from business, politics, and academia discuss major global issues — to release its first ever parity report as part of its HeForShe campaign.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women executive director, told Business Insider ahead of the report’s publication: “You can’t get more elite than that [Davos].”
“That really is the iconic place for the private sector,” she said.
UN Women convinced 10 companies’ top male executives (CEOs, a chairman, and a global managing director) to release numbers on how many women are in their workforces, senior leadership, the board, and among new hires.
The companies that lifted the lid on gender parity at their organisations were: Vodafone, Unilever, Twitter, Tupperware Brands, Schneider Electric, PricewaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey & Company, Koç Holding, Barclays, and AccorHotels.
In short, the report shows that while the companies are making great strides to attract and retain women in the workplace, there is still a lot of work to do (see the results below.) It’s “not flattering,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
Mlambo-Ngcuka told Business Insider that the company deliberately selected the WEF annual meeting to release the report because it will offer the HeForShe movement far more outreach than usual UN Women campaigns. That’s because she’s inviting some of the “corporate impact champions” who were involved with compiling the report to speak at the HeForShe event to directly plea to other CEOs to improve gender parity in the workplace and release their numbers too.
She said: “The issue of peer pressure we should not underestimate … these are not people we speak to every day, but [at the WEF Annual Meeting] they will be spoken to by their peers in a language they understand.”
CEOs shouldn’t delegate the issue of gender equality to anyone other than the CEO
Working on this report validated the importance of the CEO leading from the front and being hands-on when it comes to improving gender equality in their companies, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
“In all of this, there was always the temptation at certain times for this to be delegated to someone else that did not have as much authority as the CEO — and we resisted that all the time, ” she said. “Whenever the CEO was the one driving [the issue,] you actually saw the company moving up and moving forward. They have to take responsibility. This is not something to be delegate to someone that is junior that does not have authority.”
The other important observation from working with the 10 companies was the importance of budgeting the resources to bring about change.
“Gender equality is not cheap. But has a high rate of return once you have been able to put all of the necessary building blocks in place. These companies have themselves to invest in projecting what the benefits will be in the medium to long-term,” she said.
Fortunately, McKinsey & Co. have already done a lot of this work and the management consultants collaborated with the CEOs of the other companies involved to exchange data and information on what the benefits would be in the long-run.
The HeForShe movement defines parity as anywhere between 40% and 60% between the genders. While women make up 39% of employees at these companies — close to parity — the number of women in senior leadership — defined as the top 6% — at the companies involved ranged from anywhere between 11% and 33%. Unilever reported a higher figure, but it defines senior leadership as the top 9% of management roles.
Here are the numbers, which were based on a 2014 reporting cycle. Click the images to enlarge:
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said she hopes many more companies will be involved with the project in Davos next year. By 2020 UN Women will conduct a much “deeper” cross-industry global analysis, with refined methodology, she added.
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