Coronavirus caused deep wounds on society in 2020 and exacerbated the problems of inequality that has plagued society for hundreds of years.
Corporations in particular were forced to look in the mirror and answer for the lack of diversity and inclusion across its workforce, particularly the higher you go up the ladder. While generations have focused on greater equality for women, companies and societies have had wake-up and focus on intersectionality, as they couldn’t ignore the truth any further — women of colour are the worst off when it comes to jobs, pay, and progression.
For example, Black women suffer most from job losses around the world. White woman gained more jobs at the end of 2020 compared with Black and Latina women and Black and Asian people are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Ethnic minority representation at board and executive are particularly woeful. Global consultancy McKinsey’s benchmark annual report, entitled “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters,” showed how progression on bringing more women of colour into the highest levels in the company is slow.
On a panel, entitled “Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work, and Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators,” at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) digital annual gathering of the world’s most powerful people — dubbed The Davos Agenda, for this year — some of the globe’s most influential women discussed what policies, practices and partnerships are needed to shape an equal future of work for women and accelerate progress towards parity.
Martine Ferland, CEO, Mercer on Monday pointed out that while corporations have a “willingness” to focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) into their company growth strategies, the lack of data masks the reality.
“There’s lots of willingness [from companies] and 81% of companies say they focus on D&I,” said Ferland. “Yet, again, only 41% of them track flow of diverse talent in and out of the company and for promotions, so it’s difficult to see if actions [they pledge] are making progress, if you are not tracking metrics.
“Again, 80% of companies say equality and equity is a focus for them but, yet again, only 42% have a formal pay equity progress [metrics]. There’s a lot of willingness... but we need more rigour and accountability from the metrics and utilise new techniques.”
Laura Liswood, secretary-general, council of Women World Leaders, who was also part of the same panel, talked about the need for a particular “multi-stakeholder” is needed to bring about gender parity and how metrics are essential in bringing about real change.
“A multi-stakeholder approach is essential for each sector. Government’s have great influence, the private sector has resources, and civil society has the grassroots to enact. This is the foundation,” she said.
She mentioned how big companies across the globe are putting money towards programmes and vocally leaning into tackling the lack of diversity in their groups but says, “I am beginning to believe quotas are essential for seat at the table and on boards of directors because that’s where much of the power lies but that’s not where women are.”
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