Women around the world continue to be constrained when it comes to economic empowerment and advancement, due to a variety of social, legal and institutional barriers: the double burden of work and domestic responsibilities; gender stereotypes around women in the workplace; which sectors they choose; lack of female role models; and lack of opportunities to network.
One of the most effective ways of eliminating these constraints is by changing things at leadership levels, and the G20 EMPOWER Alliance, which brings together private sector leaders and government counterparts to jointly advocate for and enact women’s advancement to leadership positions in the private sector, is working to implement this change by ensuring women having equal access to necessary financing, capital, skills development and training, leadership, and market opportunities.
Women’s underrepresentation in leadership limits the presence of female voices in important decisions, and deprives girls and young women of strong role models. While far from the only cause, women’s underrepresentation in leadership also contributes to related inequalities, such as the gender pay gap and gender differences in wealth and economic security.
Tackling gender inequalities in leadership can help tackle gender inequalities elsewhere, as there is ample evidence that diverse and inclusive companies are likely to make better, and bolder decisions. Also, as explained by McKinsey during the 1st Plenary of G20 EMPOWER, if all countries matched their best-in-region country in progress towards gender parity, 12 USD Trillion could be added to the world GDP in 2025.
This is why the business leaders from the G20 and guest countries, working hand in hand with governments as part the G20 EMPOWER Alliance, have decided – under the 2021 Italian Presidency – to accelerate this front by taking ambitious stands on the topic of measurement.
G20 EMPOWER will release its final recommendations to G20 Heads of States in the coming months; but its community of business leaders across 28 countries is already taking action to progress on measurement, without which gender inequalities in women’s economic representation and in leadership positions can’t be tracked or addressed. In the meantime, here are three important measurement actions that the private sector can encompass to accelerate female advancement around the world:
- Establishing and Tracking Clear Metrics: Establishing and tracking clear metrics at the basis of any discussion on women in leadership is critical. Companies need to set clear, quantifiable diversity goals, measure their progress over time, and foster transparency by reporting their progress publicly. Perhaps most important, these organizations should implement the use of KPIs to hold leaders accountable for results. Companies can use these measurements to refine their approach, building on successes and rethinking initiatives that don’t lead to quantifiable results.
- Measuring the Implementation of Diverse and Gender Equality Programs: The importance of measuring comes from the fact that many programs to address gender inequalities are in place, but since their implementation and results are not measured, they are not as effective as they should be. Companies cannot simply launch programs and expect results. Instead, they need a strong focus on implementation, just as they would for any other business priority. Specifically, the success of each of these initiatives requires leadership commitment, a tailored approach that is based on the unique needs of the organization, and metrics for gauging progress.
- Measurement Expansion: Measurement needs to go beyond the usual indicator of women on boards, and encompass executive positions, share of promotions and workforce inclusion, the advancement of women in technical roles, and the gender pay gap. Companies need to make sure they also have metrics in place to measuring pay, recruitment, retention, advancement, and representation, as these will also help organizations assess where they are today and where they need to change. Governments could also support such efforts by incentivizing companies that measure and progress these indicators, supporting them to accelerate the advancement of women as business leaders in the private sector.
I encourage all companies, starting from today, to make measurement a true business priority. While many have made notable progress, we have yet to see material gains in momentum. Companies need to proactively own their diversity agenda and manage it like a true business priority. They need to relentlessly measure both hard and soft metrics and set clear and ambitious targets, design interventions to achieve those goals, and build on their successes to generate greater momentum.