Gender equality has been gaining a steady stream of traction in the last few years, addressing the disparity between female and male employees in the workplace. A recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company pointed out that, while women represent more than 50% of the population worldwide and account for over 50% of the world’s higher education graduates, only 25% occupy management positions. 

According to Catalyst research (2017), the distribution of women in S&P 500 companies is as follows: 5.2% are CEOs, 11% are top earners, 21.2% sit on boards, 26.5% hold executive/senior-level or manager positions, 36.9% are first- or mid-level managers, and 44.7% are employees. This research begs the question, “If women represent 50% of the highly educated workforce, why are there so few women in leadership positions?” Shouldn’t women also represent 50% of the leadership positions currently available?

Historically, women do not advance in their careers as fast as their male counterparts, and they also tend to be paid much less. Without question, the gender gap is still a global issue in the workplace. The “Getting to Equal 2017” research conducted by Accenture reveals that women earn an average of $100 for every $140 a man earns. The same research indicates that the pay gap could be closed in developed markets by 2044. While it’s staggering to realize that salary parity is still nearly 30 years away, this study reveals that the year 2044 represents a date that is 36 years earlier than previously estimated. 

It is important to remember that if women represent 50% of the working population, then they are also active consumers. They are savvy, smart, aware, and vital to the ever-changing market dynamic. Diverse teams – equal part male and female – increase your chances of succeeding, as they have a better understanding of the target market differences, niches, and customer needs. 

In the aforementioned study, McKinsey & Company presents the macroeconomic case to show the advantage of closing the gender gap. Closing or narrowing the global gender gap in the workplace could have a significant economic impact. Approximately $12 trillion could be added to the annual global GDP in 2025. That represents an additional $2.1 trillion to Western Europe’s GDP in 2025, $3.1 trillion in North America and Oceania, and $2.5 trillion in China. Surprisingly, the highest potential boost to the 2025 GDP is in India and Latin America. 

Many developed countries have labor laws that support equality in the workplace. Many, if not all, Fortune 500 companies have diversity and inclusion committees and initiatives. Yet, research still estimates that we will have to wait 26 more years to close the gender gap. Why should a qualified female employee that works equally hard and well as any of her male peers have less opportunities to get promoted or to be fairly compensated? 

While there is no unilateral panacea, I believe the solution to this problem is very simple for private and public organizations: Put the right leaders in place, strive for fair and transparent human resources practices, and “walk the talk.”

This article originally appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Perspectives.

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