While I cringe at the thought of a monolithic voice expressing the needs of all women, I will boldly speak from my own experiences encompassing many years of responsibility for diversity and inclusion initiatives. Having said that, data seems to support my belief that the majority of women simply want what is good for all of us.
As I mentioned in my March 19 Journal Record column, women acting in leadership roles can greatly enhance a company’s bottom line. Further, “gender equality could result in $13 trillion of incremental GDP by 2030.”
With so many advantages of women’s achievements aligned with corporate success, why aren’t women getting what they want?
Fortune 500 companies are finally starting to understand. This year, a record number of women are on the CEO list. Hats off to those running CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Dick’s Sporting Goods, UPS and Clorox. And, a special mention for Citigroup’s Jane Fraser, who has the distinction of being the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank.
While we are celebrating their success, let’s also remember that the 41 women on the Fortune 500 list represent only 8.1% of the total, compared to women representing about half of the total workforce. More female role models and mentors are needed. Unless significant strides are made in accessing career ladders to the top, this is bound to worsen – especially since the pandemic pushed millions more women out of the workforce than men.
Pre-pandemic studies showed that, besides equal pay and job opportunities, women want flexible work hours and the ability to telecommute as needed. That’s not a big stretch.
Discarding traditional leave policies could result in a win-win scenario for everyone. For instance, according to an excellent report by Boston Consulting Group (BSG), companies like Unilever encourage “both men and women to celebrate time off for family in order to overcome the motherhood penalty that confronts many working women.” By doing so, they’ve reduced the stigma of accommodation as a career-limiting, female-oriented need and evened the playing field.
What do women want? Same as always – fair opportunities and a chance to succeed. And when women do better, our businesses and economies do better. It’s that simple.
Shannon Warren is a former HR executive, ethics professor and nonprofit CEO. She now serves as president of the Women’s Diversity Initiative of Oklahoma (https://womensdiversityinitiative.com/).
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