Risk Management Best Practice

Mind the Gap: Addressing Gender Imbalances in Leadership (and a Case for Paternity Leave)

Author: Sheila Judd, Executive-in-Residence, Global Risk Institute.

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This paper includes an examination of the risks associated with continuation of the workplace gender gap, and the rewards for firms that achieve gender diversity. It makes a case for dedicating a portion of parental leave exclusively for men, on the basis that gender equality at home is a prerequisite for gender equality at work. Other recommended actions to foster gender equality are also included.

Recognizing that personal choices also play a factor, the goal is not necessarily for women and men to have identical representation in the workforce; rather it is to enable women who want or need to participate in the workforce to do so on an equal footing with men.

Overview

At the firm level, leaders who do not address the gender gap risk being outperformed: studies[1] show that firms with more senior women perform better financially; firms that proactively hire and develop women will be better positioned to manage the future labour force impacts of our ageing population; and they will also build a reputation as leaders, an advantage when recruiting and retaining talent.

Closing the gender gap is more than a societal “nice to have”. It is imperative for the future success of our economy given our ageing population and declining productivity: more than ever, we need a strong, engaged work force with talented leadership in order to prosper. We cannot afford to ignore an untapped resource pool.

“The world is facing an acute misuse of talent by not acting faster to tackle gender inequality,
which could put 
economic growth at risk and deprive economies of the opportunity to develop.”[2]

Important steps are being taken to address the gender gap at work, with policies and programs being implemented to facilitate women’s participation in the labour force. While there is still more that needs to be done, change on the home front is equally necessary to facilitate closing the gender gap at work. Without equal sharing of family care and domestic responsibilities, we risk continuation of gender biases that will impede progress towards gender equality at work. Further, continuation of the double burden of work and home will hold some women back.

Implementation of dedicated parental leave benefits for men is an essential part of the solution. Through paternity leave, men will develop an enhanced sense of responsibility for being active co-parents, and they would learn to co-manage the household. They will also better appreciate that responsibilities need to be shared equally when both parents are working. At work, if both men and women take parental leave and share in responsibilities for the family and household, women and men will be on equal ground.

The rewards for increasing women’s labour force participation are clear: improved financial performance at the firm level and economic prosperity more broadly. At home, equal sharing of responsibilities will lead to better relationships, better outcomes for children and enhanced career options for both men and women.

“The 30% Club welcomes the Global Risk Institute’s spotlight on the risks for organisations of not addressing the gender gap and the recommendations put forward to close it. Achieving gender balance is a business issue, not a social one and leaders need to be made accountable for this like any other business objective. This paper’s focus on the uneven burden of caring responsibility and its negative impact on the career prospects of women is a critical piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed if we are to change societal norms and make meaningful, sustainable progress within the workplace. It’s not enough to change the rules, systems and processes to ensure equal opportunity for women - societal and organisational cultures and attitudes have to evolve alongside that too”.
Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair, 30% Club


Endnotes

[1] Studies include The CS 3000: Women in Senior Management, Credit Suisse Research Institute, September 2014, and The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards, Catalyst, 17 October 2007.

[2] The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, World Economic Forum.