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With the World Economic Forum declaring in its 2017 Global Gender Gap Report that we’re 217 years away from gender parity, it’s a stark and timely reminder that more needs to be done. If we’re going to see progressive action and accelerate gender parity we must all – men, women and businesses – pool our collective power and our shared responsibility, and press for progress.

It’s startling to think that it’s 2018 and still many businesses are not actively doing anything effective to achieve diversity or close the gender pay gap at their organisations. A recent Salesforce study found that only 25% of business professionals believe their company cares about closing the gender pay gap, while only 36% say their employers are consciously working towards greater diversity.

Gender diversity must be a business priority

 

While these numbers are disappointing, they also raise serious concerns as to the viability of organisations sticking their head in the sand over diversity. Because the reality is that if businesses want to navigate current disruption and appeal to the diversity of their customer base, they need to tap into the diversity of their workforce.

A 2017 EY report Navigating disruption without gender diversity drew together findings from various academic studies around the globe to overwhelmingly conclude that gender diversity offers enormous business benefits.

Researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon have found women to be more successful at logical analysis, coordination, planning and problem solving. While the Peterson Institute has reported that 30% female representation on boards could add up to six percentage points to an organisation’s net margin.

Diversity disconnects and disparity

 

Despite the evidence that a more gender diverse workforce is good for business, there’s a disconnect – actually there’s five of them, according to the EY report:

  • The reality disconnect – there’s an assumption among business leaders that the issue is nearly solved, despite little progress within their organisations.

  • The data disconnect – companies aren’t effectively measuring and tracking women throughout their career journey, and therefore can’t tell where and why talent falls of the leadership path.

  • The pipeline disconnect – organisations aren’t creating a pipeline of future female leaders.

  • The perception and perspective disconnect – men and women see the issue of gender parity differently. Almost half of men (43%) believe the biggest barrier to women in leadership is a shortage of female candidates – only 7% of women agree.

  • The progress disconnect – while most agree on the value of diversity, progress across industries is varied.

Practical ways to press for progress

 

As we mark another International Women’s Day, great businesses can celebrate and push onwards with practical diversity solutions that are making a positive change to society and their profitability. But those in the majority of businesses that are doing little to shift the diversity dial will do well to push their management teams for practical change.

There are excellent, practical ways that men, women and organisations can press for progress and accelerate gender parity. I particularly like these:

For women
  • Develop a career plan then lets others in your business and industry know what you want.

  • Seek mentors and sponsors, and focus on networking to build relationships beyond your usual reach.

  • Take board-readiness training early in your career (if board service is on your radar).

For men
  • Mentor and sponsor female colleagues, endorsing them via your networks.

  • Constantly analyse your team’s diversity of experience and thought.

  • Create networking and social opportunities that make everybody feel welcome.

Collectively

The International Women’s Day website also offers some very useful guidance for men and women to make an impact:

  • Identify ways to make women more visible.

  • Extend opportunities to women first.

  • Assume women want opportunities until declined.

  • Select women as spokespeople and leaders.

  • Support visible women.

  • Celebrate the achievements of women and ensure credit is given for women’s input.

Salesforce Women’s Network

 

I’m incredibly passionate about diversity, and as such play an active role as a co-executive sponsor for the Salesforce Women’s Network – an employee resource group in Australia (made up of 50% male and 50% female committee members) dedicated to building gender equality in the workplace and beyond.

One of the ways we do this is a weekly post on our internal social network focused on equality and gender diversity. This is a simple way of keeping discussion happening and gender top of mind.

We also run a quarterly speaker series, bringing in successful people for a fireside chat around career, overcoming challenges and the importance of mentoring, and we connect with our customers and employees at strategic women-focused events.

As a company we have also made some significant investments focused on equality to help drive change and impact in our organisation. These include:

  • Hiring our first Chief Equality Officer: In 2016, we hired Tony Prophet, our Chief Equality Officer, to advance Salesforce’s efforts to improve equality whether that has to do with gender, sexual identity, race, religion, or national origin.

  • Focusing on equal pay: We are committed to equal pay for equal work. We continually assess for pay equity across the entire organisation. And, we're proud that Salesforce was one of the first companies in the United States to audit its employee pay to determine if gaps still existed among our employees. Last year, Salesforce spent nearly $3 million to eliminate statistically significant differences in pay in this first-ever equal-pay assessment.

  • Launching new parental leave: In May 2017 we updated our parental leave policy to allow primary caregivers to take 26 weeks of paid time off, and secondary caregivers 12 weeks paid time off to bond with their new baby or adopted child. This policy is a recognition of the importance Salesforce places on family, in whatever form that takes.

Everyone is accountable

 

The #PressforProgress message this International Women’s Day is an extremely important one. People have to first understand the mountain we still need to climb, in order to comprehend their responsibility.

I believe one of the most powerful messages behind the #PressforProgress approach is that every single person is accountable. This is a challenge that affects us all, not just women in business. So let’s all make a commitment to do something, no matter how small. When a collective group does many small things, big impact can be achieved.

Learn more about workplace equality trends, and how a commitment to equality can drive real business impact. Download The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business report.

Di Terry is Vice President, Asia Pacific Solution Engineering at Salesforce. Read more from Di.