Only two-fifths of employers have a multi-year gender equality strategy

58% of organisations have a strategy for achieving gender balance

Although 81% of organisation say improving diversity and inclusion is high on their agenda, only around two-fifths (42%) have documented a multi-year strategy for achieving gender equality, according to research by Mercer.

The When women thrive 2020 global report, which involved 1,157 organisations, found that 64% of employers track gender representation, 72% conduct pay equity analyses, and 50% set formal quantitative goals and targets.

Among the organisations surveyed, an average of 40% of the workforce was female, up from 38% in the previous year.

Mercer reported that 66% of senior executives and 52% of boards are actively engaged in diversity initiatives. However, only one in four (25%) employers track gender-specific health needs, and 30% of organisations use technology to track and address diversity challenges. A third (33%) have a chief diversity or inclusion officer in place.

The research also found that, although 79% of organisations stated that women have access to roles that will advance them to leadership, only 52% reported that women were equally represented in managerial roles.

Around three-quarters (72%) of organisations have teams committed to pay analysis, while more than half (56%) use a statistical approach to conduct their pay research.

In the US, although 42% of organisations have made public commitments to racial or ethnic equality, only 13% actively offer programmes targeted at women of colour.

One third (32%) of organisations globally stated that individual leaders had been given formal quantitative goals or targets tied to diversity and inclusion initiatives; however, 53% of middle managers and 46% of front-line managers were reported to be directly involved in diversity and inclusion activities.

Martine Ferland, president and chief executive officer at Mercer, said: “Gender equality has evolved into a global imperative, and organisations are taking actions to make a difference; however, as women continue to face challenges of unequal senior-level representation and limited opportunities for career development and advancement across industries and geographies, there is still much work to do to achieve gender balance.”

Michelle Sequeira, diversity and inclusion expert at Mercer, added: “For the first time since the launch of our When women thrive study six years ago, we’re starting to see significant progress around female representation in business. However, unless the pace of change accelerates it will take us over 30 years to achieve full gender representation in the workplace.

“To enact real change, businesses need to focus on inclusion as a whole and turn commitments to sustainable action. This includes prioritising initiatives that build an end-to-end employee experience which is adaptable for all, fostering a culture of caring for diverse health and financial needs, and underpinning with policies and practices that embrace flexibility and a personalised work environment.”