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Closing the Gap: Assessing the State of Gender Equity and Women at Work

As we celebrate International Women's Day, it's a time for both reflection and action. We've made progress, but let's be real – the numbers still tell a story of inequality. Only 5.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Less than a third of executive committee members at major companies are female. And the equal pay? Well, currently women around the world earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

But amidst these hard truths, there are glimmers of hope shining through. ManpowerGroup's new “World of Work Outlook for Women in 2024“ report shows that some industries are stepping up and making real strides towards gender equity. Consumer Goods & Services, Financials & Real Estate, Communications Services, Health Care & Life Sciences, and Information Technology are leading the charge and showing us what's possible.

As Becky Frankiewicz, ManpowerGroup's President, North America Region and Chief Commercial Officer, puts it, “In a world of talent shortages, we need everyone contributing to employment in a meaningful way. Bringing women into the workforce with an equal playing field is an economic imperative, not a nice-to-have. Knowing what women expect and need is the foundation for building equity. Actively upskilling, empowering allyship, leveraging technology to enable flexibility – this is how we unlock potential and growth, both for women and organizations.”

The Business Case for Equity
Momentum towards gender equity isn't just a feel-good movement. It's backed by powerful economic forces. Research shows that achieving gender equity could inject a staggering $12 trillion into the global economy over the next decade. And studies prove that when leadership teams are diverse, innovation soars, driving up profits and resilience.

So, organizations have a choice to make – do they want to be at the forefront of this evolution, realizing the full potential of women? Or do they want to risk becoming irrelevant as their competitors reshape around inclusive talent strategies?

Tech as a Catalyst
The new report highlights some promising changes on the horizon. Over a third of employers confirm that flexible working policies are the most effective way to retain and attract diverse talent. And that's not all - leadership development, inclusive culture, coaching and mentoring, and academic partnerships are also top initiatives.

And let's talk about technology – it's playing a huge role in advancing gender equality. 65% of employers say new tech has helped them be more flexible, 62% report it's diversifying their IT talent pipelines, and 52% say AI-based tools are helping them recruit the best candidates, regardless of gender.

Systemic Barriers Remain
But let's be real - there are still significant disparities deeply embedded in our systems. Just over half of the companies surveyed report that their pay equity initiatives are on track, while the rest are lagging behind or have no initiatives at all. And when it comes to expanding the number of women candidates, it varies by role – administrative and operational positions are leading the way, but Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and top-level management? There's still a long way to go.

Steps To Progress
So, how do we unlock the full potential of women in the workforce? The report lays out some key opportunities:

  • Empower Women’s Allyship – Guide young women’s career journeys early on. Facilitate mentorship and sponsorship programs for women led by senior executive female allies.

  • Leverage An Internal Talent Marketplace – Implement AI-based talent marketplaces matching women’s skills and aspirations to projects, gigs, and leadership opportunities enabling professional growth.

  • Focus On Upskilling and Reskilling – Offer AI-enabled and virtual upskilling and reskilling to suggest personalized courses. Host tech academies to ensure women develop high-demand digital fluencies.

  • Keep Flexible Benefits – Survey staff to shape policies supporting work-life harmony. With growing return-to-office plans, maintain caregiving benefits and hybrid remote options to retain women.

  • Support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) – Embed DEIB goals into operations with executive support, clear KPIs, tools, and training that build capabilities across all levels. 

The Road Ahead
This International Women's Day, as we celebrate the progress made, let's also confront the hard truths head-on. The road to true equity remains long and winding, with stubborn barriers and biases continuing to block women's paths.

But here's the good news...we know what works. ManpowerGroup's “World of Work Outlook for Women in 2024“ offers a comprehensive blueprint for unlocking women's full potential in the workforce. By implementing the report's key recommendations – from progressive policies and allyship programs to skills-based hiring and diversity-driven technologies – organizations can take concrete steps towards creating cultures where women thrive.

So the question becomes, what role will each of us play?

The insights are clear, the tools are within reach, and the time for action is now. Change won't happen overnight - we know that. But every small step we take brings us closer to a future where women can thrive at work without barriers or bias.