The World Economic Forum has communicated that, based on the current pace of change, the gender gap will not fully close until the year 2186. This annual gender gap report is the most comprehensive research in this area. It is alarming to learn that the gender gap is actually growing based on the widening disparity in economic participation, while women’s health, education and political participation are making some progress.
One of the underlying facts is that female workforce participation is not making progress or slowing down in some countries; another is that the pay gap is widening. Women who work in lower-level jobs, spend more time with family and children and work more part-time than men advance more slowly than men.
The disappointing news is that the speed of change is insufficient. It comes at a snail’s pace. The simple truth is that there is not enough commitment and action for change out there, despite research-backed consensus that gender parity is crucial for the advancement of our societies, economies and businesses.
What do I learn from this? We owe it to ourselves and our children to create a better future, and we can only succeed if we take action. In this case, bold action. Bold action starts with being courageous and speaking up for change. Speaking up against those who still propagate the view that women have to adapt to current work environments and leadership styles. Against those who vote for an evolution, not a revolution. Who focus on explaining why it is women’s own “fault” or decision to opt out, negating the complexities of those decisions.
Taking bold action means celebrating female role models, finding and promoting their own style of leadership, balancing family life and careers, throwing their hat into the ring, asking for a raise, negotiating tough, and sponsoring and mentoring other women.
Bold actions require the courage to challenge the status quo and make progress measurable. I’m a huge believer in targets. If you cannot measure it, it won’t happen. That is my mantra in business. Why should it be different when it comes to gender parity? There’s no incentive to build up better talent pipelines if it’s OK for managers to go the easier way: continue as is. No budgets will be allocated to the attraction and retention of female talent if progress won’t be measured and incentivized. A big automotive company has moved the needle substantially by paying bonuses to managers who increase the net number of women on their leadership teams, and eliminating bonuses if they don’t. Would any manager appoint low performers or underqualified talent just to receive a bonus? The answer is no, as they still need to meet their business targets.
Each of us can take action every day: praising a female colleague, encouraging her to speak up and participate, taking an extra effort to recruit a female engineer, speaking at universities, offering flexible working models, engaging in women networking groups. And for women, we can take action ourselves by opting in, making our case and celebrating our own achievements.
So how do you take bold action for change?
Cornelia Kunze is vice chair, global client management and global chair of Edelman GWEN.