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International Women’s Day Roundtable: Measuring and Maximizing Equity

International Women’s Day Roundtable: Measuring and Maximizing Equity

Research shows that gender equality benefits the economy — $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality, per a McKinsey Global Institute report — but progress on that front remains precisely that: a work in progress. With this in mind, how can we make a difference in our own workplaces? Earlier this month, Perceptyx’s Chief People Officer Lisa Sterling hosted a panel that brought together leaders from different industries to share their professional experiences related to the 2023 International Women's Day theme of embracing equity:

Here are some of the highlights of that session.

Equity and Equality

Lisa Sterling: “A few weeks ago, I asked two of my daughters to define the difference between equality and equity. I wasn’t surprised by the fact they really could not clearly define the difference between equality and equity. I simply used an example I knew would resonate to help them understand how to define the difference. That example was shoes. Equality is everyone having a pair of shoes, while equity is everyone having shoes that fit. Over the years, our focus has been about driving a future of equality, but that narrative is shifting now. There is more of a focus on creating equity for employees. The latest research report from the World Economic Forum stated that we’re still 132 years from reaching gender pay parity. That's improved by four years since 2021, so I guess we should be excited that there's some progress. However, if you dig into that data even further, you will find that white women make 83 cents on the dollar, whereas Black women make 63 cents on the dollar, and Latinx women make 57 cents on the dollar versus men. That’s the difference. We're talking about pay equality overall, but what we want to get to is pay equity. We're 132 years from equality. Can you imagine how far we are from really gaining pay equity?”

David Gawellek: “Equity means something different for all of us, including within groups like women, so it’s important that we have an intersectional perspective. When we talk about equity, we need to be inclusive of women of color, transwomen, women who are part of the LBTQ community, and women with disabilities. Historically, this also means shifting power relations. Embracing equity is something that needs to be embedded in everything that we do and in all the spheres in which we find ourselves, whether it's workplace culture, inclusive recruitment, or the technology that we use to deliver on our mandate.” 

A Voice at the Table

Melissa St. Clair: “The reality of the situation — in the US specifically — is that women have only constituted a significant part of the workforce for 50 or 60 years. It hasn't been a long time. Even when women entered the workforce, they were segregated into specific jobs, such as the secretarial pool, and kept away from positions of power. The exclusion of women has enabled men to achieve power and thus run the show for a long time. Women are now asking to be let into the door. We're asking to be given a voice at the table. That's threatening to the power structure. It’s going to take continued conversations like this. Change depends on every person being open to shifting the way they think about things from a place of being threatened by that to understanding the richness and value that can be added by diverse perspectives.”

Demonstrating Vulnerability: “No One’s Perfect Here”

Shelley Eades: “As one tries to understand, say, the Black female experience, which can be different in the United States versus the United Kingdom where I am located, there are things that you wouldn't even realize unless you seek understanding. There's a lot of curiosity that's needed to understand where inequities exist, and there's discomfort in that. I think the willingness to accept the fact that there’s going to be some discomfort with this process, because with discomfort comes learning. Opportunities to share that vulnerability and discomfort with each other are powerful and that's something that we are trying to explore here at Zebra. We’re trying to say, ‘Hey, no one's perfect here.’ If we all demonstrate vulnerability and curiosity, then we can find where these inequities exist and then — without passing blame or judgment — unite around remedying them.” 

Leadership Opportunities

Lisa Sterling: “There was a recent report done by LeanIn in coordination with LinkedIn that found that in 2022, the global share of women in senior leadership positions was roughly 33% and that there were a lot of identified challenges creating severe equity gaps. Only 1 in 4 C-suite executives is a woman and only 1 in 10 is a woman of color. In a New York Times article from 2015, it was reported that there were more CEOs in Fortune 100 companies named John than there were women CEOs across companies in the United States. ‘The Johns’ came in second place by year-end 2016, but not by much. As we think about that, each of us have a sizable and significant role in driving change in our organizations.”

Work-Life Balance Matters

Melissa St. Clair: “For women to thrive in corporate life, we need strong partnerships at home, and that's not really anything that Eaton can provide. However, what we can focus on is being more flexible, open-minded about work-life balance, including hybrid work options, remote work, and even non-traditional work weeks or non-traditional work hours.”

Shelley Eades: “One of the tension points that I’ve noticed in my global role concerns employment benefits related to family leave. There are European nations that are much more advanced than the US in this respect, as an example. When you try to advance some policies across the parts of the organization that are based in less progressive countries, you could be confronted with, ‘that's much more significant than what we offer elsewhere.’ You end up with a tension point across the organization regarding where and to whom we are giving enhanced leave, pay, benefits, flexibility for family-related leave, and caregiving leave. To a certain extent, we're challenged with differing government requirements, because it can manifest itself as inequality in the organization, which is counter to what we're trying to get to in terms of equality and equity. Obviously, we’re trying to normalize the most progressive types of leave for everybody. 10 years ago when I had my first child, the United Kingdom had just passed new legislation allowing you to share your maternity leave. In the UK, you can have 12 months maternity leave. I shared six months of that leave with my husband, yet if we look at some of the statistics now, and I think it's less than 2% of fathers in the UK that are taking advantage or are able to take that leave.”

Lisa Sterling: “As organizations, we play a role in this — maybe unintentionally — through the way we develop our leave programs. It's very common practice here, at least in the United States, that when you look at a parental leave program, it is very lopsided in terms of giving time away from work to the mother. In many instances, the partner does not get that time away. While there are a higher percentage of men now in the United States that take parental leave or paternity leave, it’s usually for a shortened amount of time. I've always wondered if we gave men more time off, would it give women the ability to get back to work faster because we're still leaving the care of our children in the hands of their other parent?”

Changes at the UN

David Gawellek: "When we talk about parental leave, there has been a positive change in the UN system in terms of the perception and policies. There is 16 weeks of parental leave for all staff at the UN. It is important to push for parental leave being inclusive meaning it captures the realities of parents who adopt or same-sex couples. Also, there is gender parity at the highest levels of the UN, and we have a Secretary-General who is committed to achieving gender parity throughout the organization by 2028. If it comes from the Secretary-General, that is trickling down to the whole organization. When you have a leader who has a vision for gender equity and parity in their organization, it underscores the importance of leadership in these efforts."

Back to the Status Quo?

Shelley Eades: “So much great progress was made during the pandemic, and it feels like we are defaulting back a little bit. We are returning to something rather than thinking about what's next.  It indicates to me that we are trying to go back, which has had an impact on some of the progress that has been made.”

David Gawellek: "Our research has shown that this trend of going back to how it was before can also be seen at the UN when we talk about remote working for example. On the other hand, you can also see how the pandemic democratized certain structures in the organization. Through meetings, you get much easier access to leadership or meetings that were usually behind closed doors. I would also like to underline the value of allyship and granting access to these meetings. Being an ally doesn't mean giving up your power or your position. It just means that you're doing something that is beneficial to the whole organization.”

The Power of Networks

Melissa St. Clair: “Manufacturing is a fascinating industry in which to talk about equity, given the fact that engineering has been a male-dominated field for a long time. One of the biggest things that we do at Eaton is knowing where those networks are of those groups of talented people we're trying to tap into. For us, there's the Society of Women Engineers, which is an external network of like-minded women focused on careers in engineering. We tap into them. We become an ally to that group. We've increased our participation with them, our partnership with them, and our advocacy with them. In return, we recruit from them, so it’s become a fulfilling partnership. Tap into those external networks of people that you know already exist and see where you can deploy your resources and support to have a mutually beneficial outcome.”

Shelley Eades: “Society of Women Engineers is another partnership that we've had at Zebra. We're also doing a lot of work in the community and thinking about socioeconomic status as well. In the UK, we've worked with schools in lower-income areas. We've invited them along to our customer showcase — what we call our Zebra Experience Center — so they can learn about jobs in technology. We showcase our technology and talk about different roles in technology with students from ages six to 17. We have employees hosting those events, discussing their roles as they demonstrate our technology for the students.”

Tracking Representation

Melissa St. Clair: "One of the things that we track is representation. We have an inclusion index. We've committed in our 2030 sustainability goals that we'll have top quartile inclusion across some of our minority groups along with increasing the representation of women on our board and senior leadership team. These are really important things that drive this idea of equity long term.”

Shelley Eades: “We have a similar focus on aspirational goals for 2025 representation. We are giving more data points to our leaders so that they can reflect on areas like hiring and attrition. Using the data points to drive curiosity, for example, going back to hiring processes to review diverse slates and potential learning points. We just released the inclusion index score from our recent pulse survey that we ran with Perceptyx, which is a high-scoring area. It’s testament to our culture that we have achieved this and we could just celebrate that. Instead we've set the bar even higher for 2023, aiming to go to the 90th percentile. To achieve this, we will need to maintain curiosity about where there might be nuances in that feedback, including drilling down into intersectional perspectives. Are we seeing the consistent feedback from certain groups? We have to stay curious to continue strengthening our inclusive culture.”

David Gawellek: “We are actually currently working on the Secretary-General's report on the improvement of the status of women in the UN system. That report is released every two years and is also looking at the creation of an enabling environment and a working culture that is conducive to gender parity.  Measuring culture in the UN, with 30,000 people from all over the world, is quite a difficult undertaking, but it is great to have a bird's-eye view on what is going on in the UN. When we talk about reporting, something else that we have set up is a gender parity dashboard for the UN system. That was the first time that we were able to report on this data to the public. To have this transparent website where member states and UN managers who might be making hiring decisions can go to see where they stand represents progress in terms of monitoring.”

International Women’s Day Is a Reminder of the Progress and the Possibility of Greater Workplace Equity

Perceptyx’s research has shown that DEIB is important to organizations for a multitude of reasons, but how can your organization take steps to progress its DEIB journey? For more information and guidance from our People@Work team, you can read our related IWD research blog or download our DEIB playbook

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