"It's time to stop talking. It's time to take action. We need to start today!" These are the words of Becky Puckett-Wood, managing director at Experis. While women make up more then 50 percent of the global workforce, less than 25 percent of these women hold senior management roles. These percentages are not going to fix themselves. Puckett-Wood says organizations need to take deliberate action and have a plan to achieve our goal of conscious inclusion.
In August 2015, ManpowerGroup, a company that creates innovative workforce solutions, commissioned a global study of 222 established and emerging male and female leaders to study how people feel about the conscious inclusion of women in senior leadership roles. Of the survey participants, 72 were members of the ManpowerGroup. Emerging and established leaders from the baby boom, Generation X and millennial populations participated in this study. The results were sobering, as summarized from the study's findings.
The study defines conscious inclusion as "building the desire, insight and capacity of people to make decisions, do business and think and act with the conscious intent of including women in leadership." The study's established and emerging leaders believe it will take an average of 17 years to level the playing field.
Puckett-Wood points out that we have been talking about this gender gap for decades; that we still have another 17 years before we reach a balance is alarming. That said, some leaders think the gap has already been closed. The fact that 95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are men may in part account for this belief.
Millennials are confident that they will be the generation to achieve gender parity, but they don't see this happening in the near future. Rather, they believe it will be 22 years before this balance is created. Puckett-Wood points to the need for mentoring and work flexibility when working toward this goal.
The study highlighted the need for CEOs, particularly male CEOs, to demonstrate a commitment to moving women into leadership roles. An established female leader in the area of construction said, "The CEO and managers must take the initiative and make it happen. There is no specific department responsible for it." Sadly, one-third of millennial females said they are not receiving support in pursuit of leadership roles.
When asked what type of support will help propel them into the leadership echelon, millennial women said "flexibility." They want control over how and when they get their work done. Gen X and baby boomer females are frustrated by the need for "presenteeism," defined by one leader as "butts in chairs!" Both male and female millennials are optimistic that workplace flexibility is the wave of the future.
Interestingly, the definition of what it takes to advance at work varies based on an employee's age. Female boomers and Gen x employees say performance is the primary route to career advancement; conversely, millennials says relationship and network building is key. All male leaders, regardless of age, say the best way to advance is to display leadership skills, self-promote, and be open to risks, challenges and stretch opportunities.
ManpowerGroup's Path to Conscious Inclusion
One-third of ManpowerGroup's top executives are female, as are one-half of the company's emerging leaders. Puckett-Wood explains that this did not happen by accident. The leadership team took deliberate steps to achieve this result.
In 1999, Manpower's then CEO Jeff Joerres committed to making women a part of the company's all-male board of directors. This goal of inclusion has continued under the direction of the company's current CEO, Jonas Prising. An established male leader within ManpowerGroup said, "the message has to be clear—we're an equal opportunity organization, male or female, regardless of age, gender or race. To me, that's really, really important. It has to come from the top and has to be prevalent throughout the organization; otherwise it's just lip service."
Change starts at the top, but there is no quick fix. We are all part of this change; we all play a role in this paradigm shift. We must all act—today. Click here to review the study in its entirety.
Written by Lisa Stickler, staff writer for West Michigan Woman magazine.