Worldwide bias against women in the workplace is increasing, despite efforts to increase diversity and inclusion

On the day after the UN Development Programme published a study showing that almost 90% of people are biased against women, a new study reveals that more than 50% of organisations didn’t assess a single female candidate when looking for their next CEO.

An illustration showing male colleagues in positions of power and one female colleague

UN gender norm study: pervasive worldwide bias against women on all levels

The first Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI), published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), analysed data from 75 counties, collectively home to more than 80% of the global population. According to the index, about half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders, and over 40% feel that men make better business executives and that men have more right to a job when jobs are scarce.“We have come a long way in recent decades to ensure that women have the same access to life’s basic needs as men. We have reached parity in primary school enrollment and reduced maternal mortality by 45% since the year 1990. But gender gaps are still all too obvious in other areas, particularly those that challenge power relations and are most influential in actually achieving true equality. Today. the fight about gender equality is a story of bias and prejudices,” said Pedro Conceição, head of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office.

Worldwide workplace: consistent bias against hiring female CEOs

The Executive Leadership Outlook 2020: Five Actions for Building a Stronger Executive Bench study showed that more than 50% of organisations didn’t assess a single female candidate when looking for their next CEO.The study published by global leadership consulting firm DDI used data from more than 55,000 executive assessments, including 1,100 CEO candidates over a decade.When only one woman was in the CEO pool, she was never selected for the role. Furthermore, female candidates comprised only 25% of executive candidates and 19% of C-level candidates.
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Stephanie Neal, director of DDI’s Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER), said, “The lack of diversity revealed in the Executive Leadership Outlook 2020 presents missed opportunities to identify and develop talent from new backgrounds and areas.“Organisations that want to unleash new capabilities and future talent need to seek out leaders who think and operate differently. They’re going to need stronger, more inclusive pipelines to find these fresh perspectives and wisdom.”Along with diversity and inclusion shortcomings, the study revealed executives and C-level candidates are often unprepared to step into higher positions, lacking development in critical capabilities.Other key findings in the Executive Leadership Outlook 2020 include:
  • Executives and most CEO candidates are best equipped for present challenges but are less prepared for strategic challenges, such as building and entering new markets.
  • Less than 15% of executives exhibit strength in money skills, suggesting growth occurs after transitioning into an executive role.
  • Executives struggle most with influence, hindering their ability to fuel transformation and change initiatives.
  • New leaders often come into their roles unprepared, causing higher levels of scrutiny and an exponentially increased risk of failure.
  • Many organizations show questionable readiness to adopt and take advantage of a team concept for leaders.
  • Well-aligned senior teams handle change better and are 22% more likely to be able to effectively fill critical leadership roles.
“The Executive Leadership Outlook 2020 provides an inside look at who organizations consider for senior roles, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie,” Neal said. “This data helps companies better understand where they need to focus to prepare leaders for their most important – and highest risk – roles.”

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