International Women’s Day 2024: inspiring inclusion

Ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March 2024 – the annual global event celebrating the achievements of women and a call to action to accelerate women's equality – we look at this this year’s key themes as we continue to ‘inspire inclusion’ and work towards a more equitable and inclusive workplace.

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Over the past 12 months, the Think Global People community’s ‘Think Women’ hub has been championing 40 Outstanding Global Women in a range of international roles. Their stories are invaluable to anyone wanting to pursue their purpose, succeed and make an impact in their chosen field.Initiatives like this to inspire inclusion and highlight women’s achievements are vital. They spotlight the intersectionality of inequality, including race and disability for example. They also help to change longstanding assumptions and leadership stereotypes; show others routes to success; and inform men as allies to the challenges we all have a role in addressing.International Women’s Day 2024 is a great opportunity to strengthen these connections and take stock of where we are today – and where we are headed.
Join us this 8 March for our Think Global Women: Inspire Inclusion event in celebration of International Women's Day.

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The importance of allyship

Snapshots of female representation at board level, like Russell Reynolds Associates’ The Next CEO: Global CEO turnover index, show the continuing scale of the challenge to bring equity fully into the workplace. It and numerous others note that while there was progress on gender parity in 2023, there was not enough.The consultancy’s analysis of leadership tenure in the world’s leading stock market indices shows 2023 and 2022 had the highest recorded proportion of women CEOs appointed to the world’s largest companies. However, this figure was a meagre 12%. Of the people appointed to lead global companies, only 22 were women compared to 156 men. These figures underline the importance of allyship and pertinence of our event’s keynote this year.As it stands, Russell Reynolds Associates calculates that balanced gender representation will only happen in FTSE250 companies in the year 2198, S&P/TSX Composite in 2174 and FTSE100 companies in 2141. Far more encouragingly, Singapore’s booming economy’s STI is set to be gender balanced as soon as 2034.For consultant and equity specialist, Joy Burnford, keynote speaker at our Think Global People International Women’s Day celebration at the IoD, this underscores the importance of allyship. “In companies where men play an active role in gender equality, 96% reported progress compared to 30% where they did not,” she says “Unless we get people who are in power to take a stand and think about what they can do to support the women within their organisations, nothing will happen.”

Barriers to progress

Academic and author Patrizia Kokot-Blamey has researched extensively on the organisational and social structures holding women back from the very highest senior leadership roles in professional services firms.She also joins us as a panellist, together with CIPD fellow Amira Kohler, an international HR and change consultant, at our Think Global People event at the Institute of Directors on Friday 8 March.“If we want more women in top leadership positions, then we need to make it less costly for women to get there,” says Patrizia Kokot-Blamey. “Current performance management systems in the UK are designed to reward a worker who has no other responsibilities.”“In order to build networks and trust and familiarity there needs to be certain amount of scaffolding put in place in organisations to support women,” says Amira Kohler. “Some of it is about deliberately creating opportunities for people to come together and share stories and build trust, such as through female empowerment networks or events like this on the 8 March,” she says.There are also critical links to workforce wellbeing, as explored in the CIPD’s annual conference and exhibition last year and with the appointment of Adecco Group’s Helen Tomlinson as the UK’s workforce menopause champion.Recognising that the track to the most senior leadership positions often coincides with life stages like menopause, she told delegates, “I absolutely believe that going through perimenopause and menopause is no time to either step down, step back or step out of the workplace because if employers can support you well throughout that time, women can arguably go on to have the best ten, 15, 20 years of their career post-menopause.”Currently, women are facing a ‘glass cliff’ as well as a glass ceiling at senior levels. Women leaders’ turnover is higher than men’s. Russell Reynolds Associates also found that women are more likely to retire for personal reasons, with 16% of women citing this factor versus 5% of men in 2023. Women are also more likely to be fired than men (34% versus 25%).“My view is that women CEOs are penalised more severely than men in the media for two things: underperformance (women CEOs get fired more quickly for this) – or for any perceived hubris or limelight seeking,” says Laura Sanderson, UK lead and EMEA co-lead, Russell Reynolds Associates.“Today’s CEOs are expected to be more of a public figure than ever before, and the relative scarcity of female CEOs automatically gives them a higher degree of prominence. If you’re a woman, you are under more pressure to visibly outperform, and woe betide you if you’re seen to be enjoying the profile of the CEO role too much.”

Driving pay equity

While there are many examples of positive change, including in Relocate and Think Global People award-winning organisations like Blick Rothenberg, these and other statistics show there is still a way to go.Among the most telling are brand-new findings from the CIPD’s Pay, Performance and Transparency 2024 report, supported by ADP, a human capital management (HCM) solutions provider. This shows “an alarming number of employers are not conducting their gender pay gap reporting in line with government requirements”.  This as the median pay for all employees (full and part-time) was 14.3% less for women than for men in April 2023.With the 4 April 2024 gender pay gap reporting deadline fast approaching, and with it the legal requirement to file key gender pay data for large firms, almost a fifth (17%) of large employers (250+ employees) in the CIPD’s survey said they “haven’t carried out gender pay gap reporting” and 18% said they “didn’t even know whether their organisations had conducted reporting”.Charles Cotton, the CIPD’s senior reward adviser, commented: “Pay gap reporting is an important part of ensuring a fair workplace, as well as having clear business benefits, such as attracting and retaining talent by showing a commitment to good practice. Pay gap reporting, along with having an effective narrative and action plan, can identify and help tackle the causes of gender inequality.” Sirsha Haldar, general manager of the UK, Ireland & South Africa at ADP added: “Without such tools, and a committed budget for workplace equality, this injustice may endure, fostering diminishing employee morale and loyalty. Pay disparities can drive away valuable female talent and tarnish a company's reputation, especially among younger generations increasingly concerned about equality in pay.”

Linking performance management and pay equity

Dr Duncan Brown, an independent rewards and equality adviser and researcher, with Amira Kohler, Dr Jenny Robinson and Dr Phil Renshaw, will explore the links between performance management, talent management, leadership and reward in the Turbocharging Performance Masterclass at Henley Business School on 18-19 April 2024.He agreed that reporting pay gaps by gender – and also for example by ethnicity and disability, which are all currently on the agenda for potential future introduction – are crucial to fairer pay and representation for all, citing the latest research and innovative practice in this arena.“All employers should disclose their gender pay gaps, if not their race pay gaps too,” Dr Duncan Brown told Relocate Global and Think Global People. “Some states in the US that were the first to implement either or both of those have seen significant reductions in pay gaps. We also need to consider legislation banning salary history discussions during recruitment and around publishing pay bands.“The evidence we have from the US so far is really positive on the effect pay gap reporting is having. If they are not already reporting pay gaps voluntarily, employers need to ask themselves ‘why not’?”Turbocharging-performance-event-banner

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