International Women's Day 2024 #inspireinclusion

International Women's Day 2024 #inspireinclusion

As International Women’s Day approaches this month, marking over a century since it’s inception in 1911, it is disheartening to acknowledge that women’s inequality on the workplace is a prominent global occurrence.

This year the theme is #inspireinclusion. To celebrate diversity and empowerment on International Women’s Day 2024 and beyond.

But, are we making progress? Are women’s prospects within the workplace truly evolving?

The latest ‘Women in the Workplace’ study by McKinsey released in October 2023 in collaboration with ‘LeanIn’, highlights some hard-fought gains for women, with their representation in the C-suite at the highest it has ever been. However, it also reports a glaring lack in advancement in the middle rank – often refers to as the ‘the broken rung’ phenonium.

Yet amidst these challenges, there is a compelling business case for gender diversity at the executive level. McKinsey’s research reveals a notable upward trend, tracking ever greater representation of women on executive teams, with each assessment pointing towards a growing likelihood of financial outperformance in more diverse companies. There is irrefutable proof that more diverse companies are more financially successful.

However, despite these compelling statistics, the battle to #inspireinclusion persists.

A recent study by Business in the Community reveals stark realities, women are still being paid less, earning only 85 pence for every pound a man earns. They also bear disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic work, hindering their advancement in the workplace. These inequalities perpetuate a cycle where women are often trapped in low-paid, undervalued roles.

So how do employers speed up the progress for women in the workplace?

McKinsey suggests that dispelling some common workplace myths will help.

  1. Myth: Women are becoming less ambitious:

This was found to be untrue, in fact at every stage of the pipeline women are as interested and committed to their careers and in being promoted as men. Young women are especially ambitious – 9/10 women under the age of 30 want to be promoted and three in four aspire to become senior leaders. In fact  - increased flexibility gained through the pandemic has fuelled that ambition, showing them that hybrid or remote working allows them to balance their career and other commitments.

Reality: Women are more ambitious than before the pandemic – and flexibility if fuelling that ambition.

  1. Myth: The biggest barrier to women’s advancement is the ‘glass ceiling’

It is now proven (for nine years in a row) that women’s biggest hurdle is the first critical step up to manager and as a result of this ‘broken rung’ women are falling behind and cannot catch up. Whilst many companies are attempting to increase numbers of women at the top – by not addressing the lack of early promotions, men significantly outnumber women making it more and more difficult to promote women to senior managers simply due to the lack of numbers.

Reality: The ‘broken rung’ is the greatest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership.

  1. Myth: Microaggressions have a ‘micro’ impact.

These everyday discriminations – often rooted in bias, seeming to demean or dismiss a person based on their gender, race or other aspects of their identity, highlight disrespect, cause stress and can negatively impact women’s careers.

Years of data show that women experience microaggressions far more often than men. Simple actions such as a woman being misidentified as someone more junior all cause harm overtime and  limit a woman’s progression in the workplace – sometimes even resulting in women leaving the workforce all together.

Fact: Microaggressions have a large and lasting impact on women.
  1. Myth: It is mostly women who want – and benefit from – flexible work

Studies consistently show that all employees, male and female, view flexible working as one of their top, most important benefits. They believe that it allows them to be more productive, gives them a better work-life balance and reduces burn out and fatigue.

Fact: Men and women see flexibility as a ‘top 3’ employee benefit and critical to their company’s success

So – how do we #inspireinclusion and help to support and advance women in the workplace?

McKinsey recommends focusing on five core areas:

1. Track outcomes for women’s representation

2. Empower managers to be effective people leaders

3. Address microaggressions head-on

4. Unlock the full potential of flexible work

5. Fix the broken rung, once and for all

As we mark International Women’s Day in 2024, we should celebrate progress but also commit to tangible actions that will accelerate women’s equality in the workplace and beyond.

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