I will not throw all the data at you. There are enormous amounts of data about women and how they don't achieve their rightful place in our economic landscape. You only need to take a quick glance at the Millenium Goals progress data , or at the Catalyst website, or spend a few fascinating hours reading the best and most authoritative book on the subject Why Women Mean Business, by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland, or visit Aviva's website, to get the general picture.
This is not to say that Companies are not doing their part to advance women. Take a look at the United Nations Global Compact website to see a toolkit of resources including a document full of all the great things that Companies around the world are doing to advance women. This is truly wonderful. However, as I am known to repeat certain mantras from time to time, I will do so again. Doing things is great, but only if they result in tangible outcomes. We can all keep busy doing wonderful things to advance women, but if women are not advancing, then apparently what we are doing is not all that wonderful.
Another element in the efforts to improve actions and accountability in this area is the transparent reporting of gender equality data in Sustainability Reports. In fact, a few months ago the GRI issued a whole supplement to the G3 Reporting Framework called Embedding Gender in Sustainability Reporting which provides very precise guidelines about what Companies should disclose related to gender equality. The guide refers to gender issues in governance, workplace, supply chain, community and in investment decisions. This is very comprehensive and requires disclosure of how much both genders are paid, trained, developed, whether they take maternity or paternity leave, use child-care arangements and more. All things which theoretically apply to both genders but actually apply primarily to women. However, there is one big gap in this transparency disclosure requirement:
Companies are not asked to report:
- Does the Company employ a MALE gender equality officer?
- How many MEN have been trained in gender equality?
- How many MEN have actively recruited and promoted women?
- How many MEN have demanded that their teams are gender equal?
We did a study of 100 (randomly selected) Sustainability Reports to see what Companies are doing and what result this is having. Here is some of what we found:
Less than 30% of the total workforce in the Companies analysed are women and less than 10% are Board Members or senior Executives. The research shows that there are 305 separate initiatives in 82 out of the total 100 Companies to advance women, yet in those Companies where there are greater initiatives, there does not appear to be a significantly greater or higher quality representation of women.
There is no noticeable difference in the research findings relative to Company size or country of operation. We do see, however, a very slight increase in women Board members and Executives where Companies have a higher level of focused initiatives to advance women and gender equality. However, this is still minimal and the data is not strong enough to support a clear conclusion in this respect.
Automotive, Construction, Energy and Mining sectors employ the lowest percentages of women and promote women least. No specific sector stands out as employing and promoting a high percentage of women across all organizational levels.
Finally, the level of disclosure is positive as regards absolute numbers of women in the business. 99 out of 100 Companies disclose total workforce numbers, and 84 disclose percentage of women in the workforce, 96 disclose percentage of women on the Board, and 91 disclose percentage of women at Executive level. However, what constitutes Executive level may not be comparable across Companies. The actual data is this:
28% of total employees are women
(992, 234 women out of 3,541,930 total employees in 84 Companies that disclosed numbers)
9.8% of total Board Members are women
(113 women out of 1,151 total employees in 96 Companies that disclosed numbers)
8.9% of top Executives are women
(87 women out of 981 total employees in 91 Companies that disclosed numbers)
The main ways of promoting equality are making an equality or non-discrimination policy declaration, managing diversity against specific targets, diversity training and flexible working hours.
The Company in our sample with the highest level of total female employees is a Swedish plastics Company called Nolato, employing over 4,500 people, with 70% of the workforce who are women. This figure is influenced by the high level of employees in their operations in China. In Europe, 35% of the total workforce are women. Nolato has only 20% female representation at Board level and ZERO representation at Executive level. Nolato does not report any focused gender equality initiatives beyond a declaration of non-discrimination. There are just 4 sentences on diversity and equality in Nolato's 84 page report, one of which states with regard to the principles of non-discrimination and equality " There is nothing to suggest that we breached these principles in 2008". All the non-female executives in this Company probably do believe that to be true.
The second Company with the highest level of total female employees is Cathay Pacific Airlines with 60% of women on their workforce, 6% of women on the Board and 12.5% women executives. Cathay has over 27,000 employees worldwide. As with Nolato, Cathay does not report any measures to advance women in business. And, they don't advance.
Finally, one more example, BASF. BASF employs over 96,000 people, they have 22% of women in the workforce, zero on the Board and 5.7% female executives. They have in place 5 intiatives to support gender equality, and women specifically. This includes project teams promoting diversity, and a range of initiatives under the work-life balance banner, including child care, and provisions for employees returning from parenthood! BASF say "We are committed to the equal treatment of both men and women". I suppose some are more equal than others when it comes to handing out promotions.
You can download the Executive Summary of our research findings, or request a free copy of the FULL 33 page REPORT including a list of all the Companies we analysed, on our website. Thanks to our analyst Carmel Kaminer for doing all the legwork for this research.
Finally, I think it is about time that Companies stopped womenwashing in their reporting and stopped playing around with childcare programs as a demonstration that they are advancing women. Sure, it help to have this sort of support, but it is not enough to make the difference. As Avivah Wittenberg-Cox says: It is time for CEO's to get serious about sex.
elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm. Visit our website at: www.b-yond.biz/en