What will the World Economic Forum 2021 Gender Gap Report tell us this year?

advancing women diversity and inclusion working parents Feb 19, 2021

...and how can enabling Caring and Career accelerate progress?

At Davos 2021 in January, there was much focus on the projects and initiatives of the World Economic Forum: Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work and Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators. 

Last year in the 2020 Gender Gap Report, the progress towards gender parity in terms of ‘Economic Participation and Opportunity’ (one of the four dimensions contributing to the index) registered a retraction, with only 58.8% of the gap having been closed. 

The fact that women are persistently less present in the labour market than men contributes to the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap. As we all know too well, gender gaps tend to widen together with seniority level. Globally, 36% of senior private sector’s managers and public sector’s officials are women. In comparison, the presence of women on corporate boards or as top business leaders is even more limited: only 18.2% of firms globally are led by a woman, and on average, 22.3% of board members in OECD countries are women with an even lower representation in emerging economies.

At Davos, the session “Placing gender parity at the heart of the recovery” highlighted how the COVID pandemic further threatens the progress of gender parity. The significant risk for 2021 is that the progress towards gender parity in terms of ‘Economic Participation and Opportunity’ will register a further retraction, due to the impact of COVID-19. 

Globally, as more people are at home than ever, due to pandemic-related measures and lockdowns, the need for household chores and care has multiplied. A new report by UN Women has found clear evidence that, although both genders have seen their unpaid workloads increase, women are bearing more of the burden than men:

“This pandemic has drilled home that the world’s economies and our daily lives simply cannot function without the unpaid care and domestic work that is predominantly borne by women and girls….Governments should also: adopt policies that support access to childcare services and recognize these as essential

  • extend paid family and sick leave
  • introduce flexible working arrangements and “cash-for-care” programmes that compensate parents during school or day-care closures; and 
  • tailor economic support packages to affected women.”

The UN report stated that “It’s time for governments to show how much they care about women’s unpaid care and domestic work.”

Looking closer to home and the government, Switzerland kicked off 2021 with several laws coming into effect, all of which are designed to accelerate gender equality: Two weeks mandatory minimum paternity leave and increased support for carers

Given the index rankings today (Switzerland 34th, France 65th, UK 58th, Germany 48th), we need to do more, and it needs to be a multi-stakeholder approach.

So, what is the role of Industry Leaders and Corporations?

In Switzerland, 2020 saw regular communications from organisations extending paternity leave greater than the pending legal 2-week requirement. What started as a competitive advantage for some companies as an effective strategy to be an employer of choice, has been diluted as others caught up. That said, several companies are still leading the way with equal parental leave of more than 16 weeks, and the data shows that this is proven to attract more talent.

Given this topic of gender parity and its fragility linked to the pandemic, the question here is:

How do you provide an ecosystem which convinces employees that it is possible to integrate their caring responsibilities AND further advance their career into leadership?

There is a danger that companies believe parental leave policy change is enough to enable #caringandcareer, and yet, it is often only the beginning. Caring and career as an effective strategy to advance women, at all levels of leadership, only works when organisations adopt most of these best practices. 

Just as a multi-stakeholder approach is needed to drive gender parity, a multifarious approach is needed to empower professionals to integrate their career aspirations with caring responsibilities. 

CEOs and Senior Leadership teams are often unaware of this multifarious approach with its integrated solutions, and understandably become frustrated when they miss gender targets. As we edge closer to International Women’s Day (IWD), questions will be asked, data sought, analysed and hopefully we will have full transparency of who achieved what and how - the reality is that it won't be enough.

The more sharing we do on best practices, failures, successes and hurdles; the quicker we can have an impact, as “Collectively, we can create an inclusive and more gender-equal world.” #ChooseToChallenge IWD 2021. 

At Thriving Talent, we will continue to #ChooseToChallenge ways of working today in alignment with our company vision: Accelerate change that humanises the workplace and empowers individual choice.

We have already been beating the drum on the importance of organisations nurturing cultures where employees truly believe that there are multiple entry points to career advancement. Choosing to care at different stages in one’s life does not mean one is less committed to one’s career. 

Through our work at Thriving Talent, we provide the holistic approach required to drive inclusion and tackle the visible and invisible attrition of women at periods in their lives when 70% of women become carers, by addressing the receivers of bias and the perpetrators of bias.

If you read this and are struck by the fact that you are at risk of only scratching the surface on enabling #caringandcareer, please contact [email protected] so we can put our teams together to accelerate your progress.

“From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.” IWD 2021

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