How AI can help close the gender pay gap and eliminate bias (Work2030, April 2019)
202 years. That’s how long it will take to close the gender gap unless we speed up the process, says a recent report by the World Economic Forum.
And looking at the statistics, this makes sense. A recent study by Pew Research found that the gender pay gap has narrowed but stayed relatively stable since… the 80s.
Somehow, we’ve learned how to build self-driving cars and smartphones with more computing power than the first computers used in space travel, but we still haven’t figured out how to pay men and women equally.
Luckily, social and government-led pressure is mounting. Movements like the Women’s March and #metoo are bringing discrimination into the spotlight, while many countries including Denmark, the UK, France, and Germany are now requiring companies to report on their gender pay gap every year.
It’s not just society and governments. With so much evidence of the bottom line benefits, diversity can bring to a company, more and more are looking to close their pay gap in order to attract more diverse talent.
With so much will and incentive to finally close the gap, why are we still not making gains? The emergence of new technologies may be able to give us the answer.
Why we’re not making progressIn a strange turn of events, Google recently reported it found a pay discrepancy which would actually have resulted in male engineers being paid less in 2019. Rather than it being a difference in salary, the discrepancy resulted in a larger percentage of discretionary funds being allocated to female engineers. As a result, they corrected this mistake ahead of time by increasing the expected wages of thousands of male Googlers.
Coming from a company which is now facing a potential class-action lawsuit from current and former female engineers and an investigation by the US Department of Labor for discrimination in pay and promotion, the new report is certainly raising eyebrows (and eye-rolls in some cases).
Google’s data only compares employees within the same pay grade. According to the New York Times, one of the plaintiffs bringing a lawsuit against the company claimed she was hired in at a lower level than male engineers with the same experience. Critics argue it’s likely the discrepancy actually comes from more experienced women being hired in at lower levels and then allocated more discretionary pay to compensate for the clear mistake in leveling.
It’s examples like these which clearly show the cracks in our data when it comes to solving the gender pay gap.
One of the biggest problems companies face is seeing the symptoms of the gap but not actually having the insights to identify the causes within their unique structural makeup. At the moment, most companies have their payroll and HR data on two separate systems meaning that discrepancies resulting from issues in their hiring or promotion structures aren’t accounted for.
Because of this lack of insights, we’re seeing a lot of companies spend massive amounts of time and resources on strategies that simply aren’t working. But AI and machine learning may be able to provide a more microscopic view of what’s actually happening.
Can AI and machine learning help close the gap?Zara Nanu, CEO of Gapsquare, a software service that’s helping companies address the gender pay gap through its AI and machine learning technology, explained her view.
Oftentimes, companies will go through an almost manic push to solve their gender pay gap problems quickly. For example, some will try offering high starting salaries to attract more female applicants in the short run but, ultimately, if inequalities still exist in your leveling and later promotion and pay structures, this won’t result in a long term solution.
“Instead, we need to help companies understand how those discrepancies can be covered in a more sustainable way that doesn’t disadvantage either gender. It’s not about stealing a slice of the pie; it’s about building the pie together equally,” she explained.
Gapsquare’s technology allows companies to run their payroll and HR data through one system. Using AI and machine learning technology, they’re able to merge and analyze the data together providing expertise in three key areas:
With this information, companies can zero in on which departments or at which levels glass ceilings exist and use data-driven decisions to create real sustainable change.
“Gender equality can be a very emotional and political topic within a company. You get people engaging in debates about whether they should introduce quotas or targets or other methods with very little action actually happening in the end. Whereas, with the software, we have the numbers and a graph and an explanation of why the numbers are what they are. This makes it a lot easier for managers to start taking data-driven decisions and moving things along,” she remarked.
The irony of using AI to tackle biasIronically, the AI field itself has one of the biggest gender gaps. Currently, only 22% of the AI workforce is made up of women. According to Nanu, “the gender pay gap is three times higher in AI. This is a major problem as this technology is actually shaping our future.”
At just 17, Sara Conejo Cervantes has become a spokeswoman for AI and gender, having spoken at the UN AI for Good Summit and the AI Europe Stakeholder Summit this past year. She explained that the looming gender pay gap is already top of mind for her and other girls looking to get into the field.
“If I go into the field and I have a colleague who is being paid more just because of their gender, I would feel like I’m losing out on something. It creates a path where women feel they have to prove themselves to be able to take on that role.”
The massive gender gap in the field is already showing its effect on the AI-powered tech we’re using today. For example, voice recognition bots like Siri, Alexa, Google Home, and Cortana all feature female voices as their primary setting.
“There’s a study that shows if you speak to Alexa or Siri in a passive-aggressive or even abusive way they usually brush off what you say or respond with a flirtatious remark.”
Just like in other applications of AI, we’re starting to see this issue more and more as it enters the field of HR Tech. Amazonattempted to use AI to create a fast moving recruitment tool, only to find it learned to penalize female applicants by allocating lower scores to resumes with the word “women’s” as in “women’s chess club captain” or those who attended women’s only colleges.
The problem is that AI and machine learning technology uses historical data to learn and make decisions. Ultimately, if your past data is biased, the outcomes will be too. As Conejo explained,
“Right now is when we’re starting to spot these patterns in algorithms, in particular in AI, and if we don’t start fixing them now, it’s going to be very hard in the future as they’ll already be deeply embedded into these algorithms.”
Gapsquare’s team also faced this challenge. The interesting thing they’ve found is that, after you take away the parts of a gap which can be explained by performance, length of service, and educational level, you’ll then still have about 60 percent unexplained which can be directly attributed to bias and societal norms impacting women’s career progression.
Their team is now working with experts from Harvard and the University of Exeter to introduce different parameters which take bias into account, essentially filtering out past discrimination. This will take time but:
“The way we see our work is that, yes, we’re now using AI to see how we can specifically unpick bias in recruitment and career progression but, at the same time, we want to make sure that what we develop is then applicable to other spheres where we will start to be more aware and conscious about bias and the need to control for it,” Nanu shared.
Using data to finally close the pay gapIf the WEF’s prediction is true, it means that young promising engineers like Conejo still won’t see the gender pay gap close within their lifetime. As Conejo explained,
“It’s not really in our control and that’s why, when I speak at conferences and other events, I really try to bring this up. If someone is doing the same job, they should be paid equally. But I tend to see that the people who are there don’t really have much interest in what I’m saying, both because I’m very young and also a female.”
Perhaps, with more women leveraging AI and machine learning to filter bias out of our data, we’ll have the insights we need to finally start narrowing the gap.
“If I walk into a board room and see there’s one woman standing in a crowd of 20 men it’s obvious there isn’t diversity and we need to encourage it. I think having the data can really reinforce that,” Conejo concluded.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw says gender equality "starts with hiring women" (CBS News, April 2019)
Muffet McGraw, the Notre Dame women's basketball coach whose comments on gender inequality made headlines earlier this month, says not having enough women in power "has a huge effect on our daughters."
"When we look at the next generation of women, who are they looking up to to say, 'This is what I want to be?' when you have less than 5 percent of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women. If you look in the Senate, in the House, we're just so far behind," McGraw said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."
"If girls aren't growing up … seeing [movies] that are directed by women, about women, with leading women, getting paid the same as men, they come out and what do they learn? They learn that men are going to be the lead, and men are going to be in charge," she added.
McGraw led the Notre Dame women's basketball team to NCAA Final Four this season for the ninth time. The Fighting Irish ultimately lost to Baylor by just one point. But McGraw, a basketball Hall of Famer, has a 77.7 percent winning record in her 32 years at Notre Dame.
During her news conference at the Final Four, McGraw made an impassioned plea: "Men run the world. Men have the power. Men make the decisions. It's always the men that is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to to tell them that that's not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than in sports?"
To begin addressing the inequity, McGraw said "first it starts with hiring women."
"I think people hire people who look like them, and you have a lot of white men in athletics, especially as the athletic director. And they're going to hire a lot of men because they're comfortable with that. They're going to look at guys on the men's side and say, 'Hey, why don't you come over and coach on the women's side?' We never do the reverse, and I think it's just so important. And the way women go for jobs – we need to be more aggressive," McGraw said.
While McGraw said she does hire men, she's had an all-female staff for the past eight years or so.
"I think it's important for the women that we're coaching to look up to that staff and see that. And it's just been – we've been so successful, we have great chemistry, I think it's just a great situation," McGraw said. "I wish when my former players come out looking for jobs, I wish more women were able to get those jobs. But they're just not out there."
McGraw was also asked about her city's mayor, Pete Buttigieg, who announced his 2020 campaign for the Democratic nomination on Sunday.
"I think he's awesome," McGraw said, adding she was at the South Bend rally. "He's somebody that is a great voice, and he's got a different perspective than we've had. He's young, he knows this generation, and I think he's the future."
USNWT gets $718, 750 from LUNA BAR to make World Cup roster bonuses equal to men (Alyssa Roengik - ESPNW, April 2019)
The U.S. women's national soccer team got a helping hand in its pursuit to close the pay gap with the men's program thanks to a donation of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars from LUNA Bar.
The company publicly announced its donation Tuesday in conjunction with Equal Pay Day -- but Clif Bar & Company owners and co-CEOs Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, and Ritu Mathur, senior director of marketing for LUNA Bar, flew to Tampa to present the gift to the team at a Players Association meeting on Feb. 19. U.S. Soccer was informed of the donation Monday night.
"Gary started speaking and we were all like, 'What's the catch?'" USWNT forward Alex Morgan told espnW last week during a media day in Los Angeles organized by LUNA Bar. "But there isn't one. They want to close the gap. They want to be on the forefront of this movement."
The idea for the donation began with a conversation between LUNA Bar representatives and Becca Roux, executive director of the USWNT Players Association. "Just before the New Year, I got an email asking how LUNA Bar could support the women in their quest for equal pay," Roux said. "After that, it all went extremely fast."
Roux and her staff identified several wage gaps between the men's and women's national team programs, including the World Cup qualifying and roster bonuses, before settling on the World Cup the roster bonuses as "a clean, clear way to show a disparity," Roux said. U.S. Soccer pays members of the women's World Cup a roster bonus that is $31,250 per player less than it pays members of the men's team. To close that gap, LUNA Bar made a $718,750 donation to the Players Association with the stipulation that the money would be used to pay each of the 23 members of the 2019 World Cup team $31,250 to make up the difference. The women are also eligible for Olympic qualifying and roster bonuses (the men's tournament is restricted to players under 23), which also narrows the bonus gap if the team qualifies and competes in the three-week quadrennial tournament.
The team, which was asked to keep the donation a secret until the public announcement, joined in a federal class-action lawsuit filed March 11 against U.S. Soccer alleging institutionalized gender discrimination and seeking equitable pay and treatment.
"They did this for the whole Players Association, which is a huge statement," USWNT midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. "It forces other brands to look in the mirror, whether they want to or not. It forces our federation and other companies to ask, 'What is our responsibility and what can we do in this fight?'"
"What's cool about this donation is that so much of the fight for equal pay is exactly that -- a fight," USWNT striker Christen Press said. "We've taken a lot of pride and put a lot of energy toward that fight, and it's something that we want to be part of our legacy. It was handed to us and we will pass it to the future generation.
"In a moment like this, when LUNA comes from the outside and steps up, it shows that this fight is so much bigger than us. It celebrates how we can uplift each other. That's a slightly different message that goes beyond sport and this team and says, 'Let's all help each other. Let's swim in the same direction and we'll get so much further.'"
All three players said the reason they took the time to fly to Los Angeles for a day of media one week before kicking off a busy slate of friendlies was because they were uplifted by the opportunity to discuss pay disparity in a positive manner.
"We're so often in this position of fighting, so our voice gets boxed in," Rapinoe said. "It seems like every time we speak to the media, it's something negative, but it doesn't have to be that way. Contrary to what the federation thinks, we actually prefer to give shine and be positive. We don't see this as a zero-sum game."
Press, who was one of the chief architects of team's current collective bargaining agreement (ratified in April 2017), said she would also like to see the narrative around the USWNT's fight for equal pay shift to place less focus on comparing the women with the men's team. "I would like to see our team celebrated for who we are and not fight over who's been more successful and who deserves to be paid more," she said. "The idea of equal pay is to give both teams equal opportunity to be their most successful selves."
In addition to making the donation, LUNA Bar enlisted Press and former USWNT captain and ESPN broadcaster Julie Foudy to provide advice for women on negotiation tactics in the workplace, which will be available starting Tuesday on lunabar.com. "We negotiated this collective bargaining agreement and it was a huge process, but the same principles apply for any negotiation," Press said. "Every woman should feel empowered to ask for her worth and when you do, here are steps to take to put yourself in the best position. The only way to achieve equality is to hit it from all angles."
On March 9, Adidas said it would pay its sponsored athletes on the Women's World Cup-winning team the same performance bonus granted to their male counterparts. But Roux said LUNA's donation is the first of its kind that the USWNT Players Association has received. She hopes it's not the last.
"There are so many brands doing campaigns around equality. It's very trendy," Roux said. "The Nike commercial that aired during the Grammys was beautiful and tugged at your heartstrings. But this is way cooler. I would love if this starts a new trend in how brands activate around women athletes. I would love to see other brands in other countries step up for their national teams and support them in the same way. That would be a dream."
Investing in gender equality boosts company culture (November 2018 - Sarah Jones, Luxury Daily)
NEW YORK – Beyond giving a brand an image boost, achieving greater gender parity among employees and leadership can have an impact on a company’s bottom line.
At Haven Hill’s Symposium on Equality on Oct. 31, speakers conferred about the data behind the need for more gender parity, as well as the ways in which companies can take equality initiatives beyond hollow campaigns. While many organizations recognize the business benefits of gaining more gender diversity in their workforce, truly achieving change revolves around tackling tough topics and shifting culture.
"Millennials want companies that have values, and values are also about diversity," said Yann Borgstedt, founder and president of The Womanity Foundation. "If you want to keep your employees motivated or in your companies, you need to find ways to have more equality and diversity.
"You want to do what is right, but also we want to do what is good for the economy, and if it’s good for the economy, it’s good for kids and it’s good for everyone," he said. "So I just don’t understand why in so many places men feel threatened by giving the same rights and opportunities to women."
Mr. Borgstedt pointed out that while women represent about half of the population, they only hold 21 percent of senior roles and only 3 percent of CEOs are women. Women at the head of startups are also far less apt to get funding than men, despite the fact that female-led ventures tend to see better returns.
The data also shows that having more gender diversity at a company will help employers attract value-based millennials, while also boosting retention.
According to media organization Politico’s CEO Patrick Steel, his biggest challenge is recruitment, particularly because most Washington residents are already employed. Increasing the number of women in leadership positions at the publication has allowed the company to attract more female staff on both the editorial and sales sides.
Women who work for a female manager are 30 percent more apt to feel as though there is someone who is helping them advance. Politico also offers three months of maternity and paternity leave, opening the door to women to feel comfortable and secure about starting families.
There is a discrepancy between genders on beliefs regarding equality in the fashion workplace, with 100 percent of women thinking this to be an issue, while less than half of men do.
Attributed to the fact that there are many women designers in the fashion and accessories world, many men believe that there is no issue with inequality in fashion. According to a report from McKinsey, Glamour and the CFDA, women start careers in fashion with higher expectations than men (see story).
While there is a lack of gender diversity in everything from politics to corporations, one business that has seen little progress in parity is financial services. Today about 3 percent of women work in wealth management.
Alli McCartney, managing director with UBS Private Wealth Management, said that part of the reason her field is still male-dominated is because it is commission-based, making the potential for losing out while on maternity leave a challenge.
Despite this lack of women in the workforce in financial services, it is becoming increasingly more important for banks and institutions to cater to female clientele. About two-thirds of women say they lead their household, and one-third earn more than their spouse.
Additionally, women are set to inherit money through wealth transfer, and many who have been in the workforce are establishing their own assets. Divorces and deaths of spouses are also requiring women to be more independent about their finances.
Yet with this growing need for advice, women often do not seek out financial services. Three-quarters of women under the age of 40 have no wealth advisor.
Part of this lack of financial assistance may be tied to women’s dissatisfaction with services offered by banks. Whereas men desire results such as power, opportunity and returns from their wealth management, women report wanting aspects such as community and creating an impact and legacy.
Therefore, Ms. McCartney says soft skills will be imperative for wealth advisors of both genders. Managers can also win female clients’ business by offering flexible hours and building trust.
While recognizing the need for more gender equality is one thing, putting it into practice is another.
Progress in gender diversity has stalled in the last few years, according to Jeanne Zaino, senior advisor at AppliedTechonomics. Additionally, 20 percent of employees say that their company’s efforts around gender diversity are merely lip service to the issue.
Citing examples throughout history, Ms. Zaino said that those at the top need to make a commitment to change, but diversity initiatives need buy-ins from stakeholders to have a lasting effect.
Getting executive leadership on-board often boils down to speaking their language and showing the risks and rewards of making a change.
In addressing gender diversity, companies also have to look at issues on the local level, as challenges often differ depending on location.
Angela Lee, chief innovation officer and associate dean at Columbia Business School, spoke about overcoming biases and being unafraid to tackle tough conversations.
One thing companies can do is try to remove triggers for bias from their hiring process. For instance, orchestras began doing blind auditions, which resulted in more female musicians being hired.
In the corporate world, third-party services will take demographic indicators out of resumes to do merit-based matching for a position.
Companies may also want to think about how they are wording their job postings, removing language that appeals to certain types of individuals.
Ms. Lee also suggested opening up the door for healthy conflict by having meeting attendees fill out anonymous ideas of pros and cons to a particular plan. Companies can also spur innovation by pushing employees from different areas of the organization together, allowing them to gain new perspective and connections.
For women looking to move up the corporate ladder, Robert Reiss, founder and CEO of The CEO Forum Group, suggests taking on C-level language. Addressing plans as they relate to the organization’s mission and values can help an employee get on the top brass’ radar.
Owning a P&L is another path to leadership, as is identifying a personal brand and strengths and finding a way to show them off.
Lastly, establishing and training a successor opens the door for women to take on new opportunities, ensuring there is someone to take their place.
With only 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, Mr. Reiss sees reaching 50 as a goal. At this point, women will reach a critical mass where they can mentor each other and help others rise to the top position.
For women in luxury, the world can sometimes be a hostile place, which is why it is important for them to learn to work together and support each other, according to two entrepreneurs who have done so for 20 years.
At the Women in Luxury 2018 conference, Carrie Ellen Phillips and Vanessa Weiner von Bismarck, two women who have been working together for decades, spoke at length about their experiences as women and entrepreneurs as well as how to build a lasting partnership. One of the things they said elevated them to their current position was their joint work ethic (see story).
“You’ve got to make the investment if you’re going to make these changes,” Ms. Zaino said. “You cannot make a one-time change and then walk away from it.
“You have to continue to assess and reassess what has been the outcome of that reform,” she said. “Because reforms have unintended consequences, no matter if they’re positive or negative.”
ASHLEY BERNHARD: FOUNDER @ HAVEN HILL
I stay motivated by… the responsibility to make the world a better place.
Three adjectives that describe me are… organized, loyal, positive
If I could have dinner with one person it would be… Ruth Bader Ginsbergbecause she looks at women’s equality with a broad perspective and knows and promotes that in order to move the needle, men have to be part of the solution.
The most exciting innovation to me is… FaceTime! I love connecting with people, and this has been a game-changer for me.
I am a social impact consultant focused on women's leadership, equality and empowerment initiatives. I consider myself to be an “equalist” specializing in working with both men and women to promote gender equality inspiring the next generation of leaders.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
I served as the Deputy Chairman of the Professional Squash Association, and while I was in that position, I devoted a lot of time and energy to advocate for and support the women’s division. In 4 short years we were able to roll out equal prize money at our top level tournaments. One thing led to another, and I moved on to start consulting in the equality/leadership/empowerment space.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
Before launching Haven Hill, I was on a long break from the working world to raise our three children. If you ever need a course in being an entrepreneur, raising kids is the way to go ~ every day is different and no one is sitting you down for a review or giving you a regular paycheck!
Who is the one super successful person you look up to? Why them? Can you share their quote/ideology that inspires you the most?
Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi. She leads with strength and grace and did not sacrifice her femininity when in the #1 seat.
"At the end of the day, don't forget that you're a person, don't forget you're a mother, don't forget you're a wife, don't forget you're a daughter.”
"To be a CEO is a calling," she said in 2007. "You should not do it because it is a job. It is a calling and you have got to be involved in it with your head, heart and hands. Your heart has got to be in the job, you have got to love what you do, it consumes you.” In this quote you could easily interchange CEO with Entrepreneur!
What is your biggest dream? Why?
Describe your biggest vision for your business. My biggest dream is to help move the needle on equality. The World Economic Forum’s research predicts that the world will not see equality for women (education, healthcare, pay etc) for 100 years. That shocks me and is the first thing I think of when I wake up each morning. I want to help the corporate world see that investing in women is not just the right thing to do but the SMART thing to do. The data all points in the same direction - when businesses invest in women, everything goes up: revenue, customer satisfaction, employee retention creativity etc. On a very basic data-driven level, it is a no-brainer to invest in, support and retain women in your group/division/company.
CEOs: It's Time to Step Up and Lead on Gender Equality (Sarah Atler, Huffington Post, July 2018)
You’ve seen them throughout corporate America ― maybe even in your own company.
The road to gender equality is littered with failed standalone efforts that check “the gender equality box” — workplace initiatives like diversity workshops or employee resource groups filled only with women. While these efforts may raise awareness of the career barriers women face, they rarely move the needle on gender parity or generate lasting change.
At the Network of Executive Women, we believe in a “top down, bottom up” approach that emphasizes leadership development and opportunity for women, and — perhaps more important — the commitment of C-suite leaders who will drive policies, programs and a corporate culture that support women’s leadership.
CEOs and other senior leaders who want to change their organizations and achieve gender equality need to arm themselves with insights and action plans that will transform a gender-biased company into a business that leverages all of its talent in a workplace where all can succeed. Potent when applied together, these strategies will fall short if cherry-picked.
Make gender equality a business goal.
CEOs need to commit their full-fledged support to women’s leadership and mandate company policies that advance gender equality and pay equity. Unless gender equality and inclusion are placed high on the corporate agenda and included as routine topics of C-suite conversation, initiatives will stall. Establish companywide goals and targets by function and business, and tie them to business plans and executive incentives.
Create an open, inclusive culture.
To close gaps between policy intent and actual practice, C-suite leaders must walk the talk and practice conscious inclusion. Modeling gender-inclusive behavior — such as mentoring and sponsoring high-potential women — is a start, but modeling inclusion each day and inviting both men and women into “the room where it happens” has a powerful, lasting effect. Rather than focusing solely on negative, unconscious bias, actively reinforce and value inclusive behavior.
And, it still needs to be said: It’s time for zero tolerance for hostile workplaces. Equality can’t exist in a space where sexual harassment or innuendo is allowed.
Uphold gender-neutral policies that are fair and flexible.
CEOs must direct and foster family-friendly policies that enable gender-equal career paths. Do your development and promotion policies impact men and women differently or hinder your gender-parity goals?
Nearly 30 percent of full-time working parents in the United States surveyed by Ernst & Young said managing work and personal responsibilities is getting more difficult. Do your workplace practices provide flexibility that men and women need for family and other responsibilities?
At the same time, millennials place greater importance on work/life balance than their parents did. Among the top reasons millennials quit their jobs: excessive overtime hours (71 percent of those E&Y surveyed) and a boss that doesn’t allow them to work flexibly (69 percent).
Push for equal pay inside your company and influence your business partners.
Start with an equal pay analysis by job title and make adjustments. Does your merit pay program support equal pay? Do your maternity or disability leave policies inhibit hourly wage or salary increases? Is gender pay equality a consideration in the companies you do business with?
Ensure open access to all jobs.
One huge career hurdle for women is the lack of work experience that would position them for advancement to leadership roles. What percentage of your P&L roles are filled by women? One way to build more opportunities for P&L experience is to create channel- or project-based P&Ls.
Does your talent management system support a diverse slate of candidates for gender-neutral roles? How strong are your on-ramping and off-ramping programs?
Women should have the same opportunities for stretch assignments, career development programs, mentoring and sponsorship presented to men. Relocation is more difficult for women executives, who are more likely to be primary caregivers or in dual-career households. Offering women a global project, rather than a global position, is one way to make career-advancing positions more accessible.
In short, do women at your company have clear career paths? Bring men into the gender equality conversation and root out career barriers for women.
Be transparent and share talent data.
Share company policies and plans for promoting gender equality with the public. Remember, what gets measured gets attention — and resources. Establish benchmarks that quantify the inclusion of women at all levels — such as percent of women versus men in hiring, total employees, promotions and attrition — and share your progress internally and externally.
Top executives’ strong, vocal and consistent commitment to gender equality will help talented women achieve their best ― and help your company achieve the bottom-line results closely tied to women’s leadership.
How can women’s sports become mainstream?
While it’s never been a better time to be a female athlete, and participation in sport from women of all ages is on the rise, the one key area where we’re seriously lacking in is corporate investment. The most recent estimate of global corporate investment currently stands at 0.4% for women’s sports, with the majority of the rest of that figure going to the men.
This needs to change, and to achieve this we - that includes government, the media, people in business and you, dear reader - have to be pulling in the right direction. We have to educate potential investors and tell the story of the benefits of women sport better. Here’s my topline take on how.
1. We need to identify and empower female athletes - for the right reasons
The #WhatIf campaign by Women in Football, which launched last month, is a great start when it comes to empowering women’s sports for the right reasons. In a nutshell, businesses such as Betfair, Sky Sports and Barclays have pledged to invest in boosting the profile of women, working in the football industry.
#WhatIf also highlights how we need initiatives like this across the whole gamut of women’s sports, and for reasons that go beyond mere tokenism. These businesses have invested in the Women in Football initiative based on individual achievements and performance, not just their gender.
We need to start championing more sportswomen from a host of different sports because they excel at their game - like kickboxer Ruqsana Bequm and footballers like Sydney Leroux. Female sport stars can generate loyal and avid fanbases, so if we can boost their exposure, we can create a compelling desirable option for businesses to spend sponsorship money with them based on both the quality of their performance and their ability to generate engaged fans, beyond a token gesture.
2. We need to look beyond reach to attract more corporate investment
Sponsorship plays a big part in funding grassroots engagement in sports, and without it, most sports will struggle.
That 0.4% statistic is shocking to say the least, and it highlights the disparity between the growing interest surrounding sportswomen, and the lack of investment in championing them.
The key issue is that businesses look at men’s and women’s sports in the same way. It’s about how many eyeballs - in stadia and on TV’s - they can reach with their sponsorship money. This is disingenuous - while the popularity of women’s sports is on the increase, it’s never going to match the same number of viewers as its male counterparts.
This might be a bitter pill to swallow, but it shouldn’t matter that women’s sports attract fewer viewers. The point is that backing female sports goes beyond how many people see your logo on TV; it’s much more about who’s watching and engaging with the game and how they subsequently feel about the backing a particular business gives to that sport. Brands such as SSE, Vitality and Kia, who are already engaged with women’s games, have spoken about how they’re viewed in a positive light from audiences at games, which has turned into increased brand-love and affinity.
3. We need to sell women’s sport on the basis of engagement and participation
One of the main reasons for the groundswell of interest around women’s sports lies in the fact that they’re viewed as being more inclusive. Men’s football and rugby games are a pleasure to watch. But fans can be too loud and/or rude for families, who don’t appreciate their kids learning a lexicon of swear words to tell the ref he’s made a bad decision.
That’s partly why we’re seeing more families attend female sporting events. They’re slowly becoming the natural home for family audiences, and they may even succeed in bringing on board people who wouldn’t naturally watch sport.
But not only do these games attract a different audience, and therefore, different brands backing them, female athletes have also been shown to appeal to fans in different ways. They’re seen as more likeable and appealing - for example, during this year’s Winter Olympics, a study found that Team USA’s sportswomen drove more social media engagements per athlete than the sportsmen.
So while it’s never been a better time to be a female athlete, the commercial future can be much brighter. Women’s sports deserves to be in the mainstream. But it’s only through continued investment - which we can achieve if we market female sports in the right way, by focusing on the above three points - that we’ll keep growing the female game, and continue to raise the bar.
Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings (World Bank, May 2018)
Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings is the first in a series of reports that aim to measure the global economic costs of gender inequality. This first report measures these losses in lifetime earnings.
In many countries, girls’ average educational attainment remains lower than boys and adult women are less literate than men. Apart from these gender gaps in educational attainment, discrimination and social norms shape the terms of female labor force participation. Women are less likely than men to join the labor force and to work for pay. When they do, they are more likely to work part-time, in the informal sector, or in occupations that have lower pay. These disadvantages translate into substantial gender gaps in earnings, which in turn decrease women’s bargaining power and voice.
In addition, many girls are married or have children before the age of 18, before they may be physically and emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. Women and girls also face higher risks of gender-based violence in their homes, at work, and in public spaces. Their voice and agency is often lower than that of males, whether this is within the household, at work, or in national institutions. This also affects their children. For example, children of young and poorly educated mothers often face higher risks of dying by age five, being malnourished, and doing poorly in school. Fundamentally, gender inequality disempowers women and girls in ways that deprive them of their basic human rights.
This lack of opportunities for girls and women entails large economic costs not only for them, but also for their households and countries. Achieving gender equality would have dramatic benefits for women and girls’ welfare and agency. This, in turn, would greatly benefit their households and communities, and help countries reach their full development potential. It would reduce fertility in countries with high population growth, as well as reduce under-five mortality and stunting, thereby contributing to ushering the demographic transition and the associated benefits from the demographic dividend.
Some key findings:
The Power of Parity: Advancing women's equality in Asia Pacific (McKinsey Global Institute, April 2018)
Advancing women’s equality in the countries of Asia Pacific could add $4.5 trillion to their collective annual GDP in 2025, a 12 percent increase over the business-as-usual trajectory.
Asia Pacific is today arguably the most dynamic region in the world, a global engine of growth driven by productivity, investment, technology, and innovation. Women can help—and are helping—to power this engine, making vital contributions to sustaining and enhancing Asia’s growth and lifting more people out of poverty. Yet gaps remain large in many countries in the region on gender equality both in work and in society. From an economic perspective, trying to grow without enabling the full potential of women is like fighting with one hand tied behind one’s back.
Five potential areas to prioritize to improve gender parity in Asia Pacific
There has been progress towards gender parity Asia Pacific overall. But there is still much more to do. Now is the time to redouble efforts.
Advancing women’s equality in the countries of Asia Pacific could add $4.5 trillion to their collective GDP annually in 2025, a 12 percent increase over a business-as-usual GDP trajectory. This additional GDP would be equivalent to adding an economy the combined size of Germany and Austria each year.
All countries in Asia Pacific could boost growth by advancing women’s equality All countries in Asia Pacific could boost growth by advancing women’s equalityAll countries Asia Pacific would benefit from advancing women’s equality. In a best-in-region scenario in which each country matches the rate of progress of the fastest-improving country in its region, the largest absolute GDP opportunity is in China, at $2.6 trillion, a 13 percent increase over business-as-usual GDP. The largest relative GDP opportunity is in India, which could achieve an 18 percent increase over business-as-usual GDP, or $770 billion (Exhibit 1).
To achieve this significant boost to growth will require the region to tackle three economic levers: increase women’s labor-force participation rate, increase the number of paid hours women work (part-time versus full-time mix of jobs), and raise women’s productivity relative to men’s by adding more women to higher-productivity sectors. Of the total $4.5 trillion GDP opportunity, 58 percent would come from raising the female-to-male labor-force participation ratio, in line with the global average contribution. A further 17 percent of the GDP opportunity would come from increasing the number of paid hours women work, and the remaining 25 percent from more women working in higher-productivity sectors.
McKinsey Global Institute’s calculation is a supply-side estimate of the size of the additional GDP available from closing the gender gap in employment. We acknowledge that the supply-side approach needs to be accompanied by demand-side policies that could influence the ability to create jobs to absorb additional female workers and require investment. In addition, education and vocational training systems will need to keep pace with rapid technological changes that are altering the nature of work and creating new types of jobs.
There is no one Asia Pacific journey toward gender equality
In its 2015 original “power of parity” report, MGI established a strong link between gender equality in work and in society—the former is not achievable without the latter. MGI’s Gender Parity Score (GPS) uses 15 indicators of gender equality in work and society to measure the distance each country has traveled toward parity, which is set at 1.00. Overall, Asia Pacific has a GPS of 0.56, slightly below the global average of 0.61—both high levels of gender inequality (Exhibit 2).
The research examines Asia Pacific as a whole with a particular focus on seven countries: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore. On gender equality in work, the Philippines stands out for its progress, followed by New Zealand and Singapore. The six countries furthest from gender parity in work are Bangladesh, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Korea. China does well on female labor-force participation but can improve its share of women in leadership—as can most countries in Asia. Gender inequality also remains high across the region in the sharing of unpaid care work.
On gender equality in society, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore are ahead of most in the region on essential services such as education, maternal and reproductive health, financial and digital inclusion, and legal protection and political voice; countries like Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan still have a considerable distance to travel. Achieving gender parity in digital and financial inclusion is a large opportunity in many South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Physical security and autonomy remains a concern in many parts of the region—and globally.
Asia Pacific nations have made progress in the past decade, driven by a combination of economic development, government measures, technological change, market forces, and activism. Maternal mortality and gender gaps in education have declined in countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Nepal. Many countries have increased women’s labor-force participation, but participation has fallen in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, a trend that may be linked to rising household income.
Women are heavily underrepresented in leadership positions
Women’s relatively low representation in leadership positions—measured using the female-to-male ratio—is a global issue. Worldwide, slightly less than four women hold leadership positions for every ten men in business and politics. In Asia Pacific, there is only one woman in leadership positions for every four men. In some countries in East Asia, there are only 12 to 20 women leaders for every 100 men. This is a waste of talent that the region can ill afford, especially when many economies are aging, labor pools are eroding, and skills shortages are on the rise (Exhibit 3).
Most countries in Asia Pacific have female-to-male ratios of less than 0.5. Even in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, three of the region’s more advanced economies, the gender imbalance is notable. The Philippines, a traditionally matriarchal society whose government has been proactive in narrowing gender gaps, is the country in the world nearest to gender parity. However, even there, only 15 percent of board members are women.
There has been progress in recent years. On average in the region, women’s representation on boards increased from 6 percent in 2011 to 13 percent in 2016 (Exhibit 4). This appears partly to reflect regulations and corporate policies instituted during this period. For instance, India has made it mandatory for companies to have at least one female director, and the Australian Securities Exchange Corporate Governance Council tracks gender diversity in its constituent companies. However, women’s representation on boards in Asia Pacific is still low compared with the average share in advanced economies of 28 percent.
The smaller share of women in company leadership isn’t all about the glass ceiling. The relative lack of women in the top positions in business has its roots far earlier in the talent pipeline that runs from enrollment in tertiary education to entry-level positions, middle management, and the boardroom. In the seven countries we highlight in this research, the share of women erodes the further they are along this pipeline, with different patterns and bottlenecks among countries.
A McKinsey survey found that by far the largest barrier to women moving into senior roles cited by executives—45 percent—was the “anytime, anywhere” performance model. The second biggest—cited by 32 percent of respondents—was the “double burden” of women holding down a job while looking after their families, particularly in societies where women are still expected to take sole responsibility for family and household duties. Third was an absence of female role models, followed by a lack of pro-family public policies and support, including childcare; 30 percent of respondents cited the latter factor.
Policy makers, companies, and nongovernmental organizations can consider prioritizing measures in five key areas
Mapping the road ahead, policy makers, companies, and nongovernmental organizations could consider prioritizing action in five areas. Each of them applies across the region to differing degrees. Some aspects, namely female labor-market participation, are crucial for securing the potential economic benefits identified in most countries. Others, including the role that digital technologies can play, offer an opportunity to raise economic participation and earning while potentially improving gender equality in society. The imperative to shift societal attitudes toward women’s role in society and work appears in virtually all countries and can enable—or hold back—progress on all other aspects of gender inequality. Some approaches are more suitable for the formal economy, others for the informal economy. Broadly, measures need to be tailored to the cultural and economic context of each country, based on decision makers’ judgment—and experience—of what will be most effective. In the research, MGI has explored specific priorities for each of the seven countries highlighted. The following five key areas for action have relevance to all countries in the region:
WASHINGTON — Tuesday is “Equal Pay Day.”
It’s not a day of celebration, but more like a finish line for women. In 2018 women had to work, on average, until April 10 in order to earn as much money as men did by the last day of 2017.
Each year, women hope that the distance to our finish line will be shorter and that the gap between what men and women are paid will close a bit more.
Equal Pay Day reminds us of how far we’ve come, how far we have to go and the actions still needed to increase the earning power of our nation’s working women.
When looking at median annual salaries for each group, U.S. women are paid about 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. And the pay gap is even worse for women of color.
For significant change to occur, we believe more women need to assume leadership roles, especially by serving on corporate boards.
There’s proof that having more women in board positions yields benefits for an organization’s performance, and for society as a whole.
Statistics show there is plenty of potential for women to step into more board seats:
Boards of directors make decisions that can impact you, your community and the country.
These boards choose CEOs who then make decisions about compensation and other ways to spend profits, including how to support various social causes. That’s why we think there should be more female voices representing our viewpoints and interests.
In addition to societal advantages, research has shown that organizations themselves benefit from increasing diversity on their boards.
First, gender diversity in a company’s leadership tends to attract and motivate talented employees who want leadership that reflects the diversity of today’s talent pool.
Women are increasingly influencing spending decisions for their family’s wealth, so having women on a board provides more insight into the opinions and priorities of all consumers, not just males.
Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger, suggested to his board that having a more diverse group of leaders “helps you avoid blind spots” when making important corporate decisions.
For suggestions on how to improve your long-term financial security in the face of a pay gap, listen to Dawn’s WTOP 2017 Equal Pay Day interview.
What are strategies women can use to achieve a corporate board seat?
One of the reasons given for lower female representation in the boardroom is lack of sufficiently educated and qualified female talent. But statistics show women continue to earn advanced degrees at equal or higher rates than men.
The real issue is not education, but lack of relevant experience.
How then can women obtain the right qualifications to land a board position?
Our hope is that advocating for more representation for women on corporate boards will lead to stronger financial performance and higher pay for all employees, including women. Encouraging public companies to have a board that reflects the same diversity as their buying population is just one way everyone can make progress towards greater pay equality for all.
Dawn Doebler, CPA, CFP®, CDFA® is a senior wealth adviser at The Colony Group. She is also a co-founder of Her Wealth®.