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6th May 2020

The long road to gender parity

The global gender gap will close in 99.5 years. That is the conclusion of a recent report from the World Economic Forum. And, according to a study by McKinsey & Company, diverse teams are also more profitable than those that are not.
100 years is quite long to acheive that isn't it? So what are the possibilities to close this gap faster?
Using excerpts from PWC’s report “Time to talk” as a starting point for discussion, Senior Associate Juliet Hibbert shares her thoughts on the gender parity issue in the legal sector.
'I am proud to work in a firm where the leadership team are proactively seeking to understand and address this issue. So what are we doing?
…women expect their hard work to be recognised as a symbol of their promotion aspirations and for their employer to approach them'
Only 17% of female employees would put themselves forward even if they felt they didn’t meet all the criteria according to the report.
That’s a staggering 83% who wouldn’t – the influence this has on women’s progression is likely to be significant.
Women need to be prepared to speak up and make their case – but to get anywhere near gender parity in a foreseeable future proactive help will be needed.
The questions to ask ourselves are:
  • Are you making opportunities and challenges open and visible to women in your team?
  • Are you giving women in the team access to the projects and clients that are going to challenge, develop and allow them to excel?
  • What are you doing to help women in your team develop client relationships?
Are you engaging with the women you manage to see what they want? What are the criteria they think they are not meeting and discuss with them to what extent they matter…women can’t count on success and fulfilment unless men help themThis doesn’t in any way mean women lack ability – just that to get anywhere near gender parity far quicker than 100 years they’re going to need some help from those in more senior positions.
But beware of “tokenism” and “imposter syndrome”– it can be a difficult path to tread: to involve a woman but not to make it just feel like a token gesture.
Ask yourself:
  • How can I support a woman to develop her talent?
  • How can I endorse and support a woman to put herself forward when opportunities arise?
  • How can I become a mentor or establish a mentorship programme in my organisation?

…48% of mothers returning to work felt overlooked for promotions and special projects.

In the UK we can consider ourselves lucky; often employees can benefit from agile working, shared parental leave policies and/or arrangements such as part-time job-share options. At Kilburn & Strode we have seen these opportunities being taken up by both men and women.
However, if, and when, to have children can influence a woman’s progress in an organisation.

As can the “See it to be it” factor – if there isn’t a woman in a senior role then there is little doubt that this will influence the women in a team or organisation.
Role models are important and so is talking about them. People are not always aware of the history in the organisation or of an individual. So talk about them. If there has been a senior woman in the team bring this to their attention. Let them know that your organisation has promoted women to senior roles at various stages of life (eg when pregnant, or when working fewer than 5 days a week).
Challenge yourself:
  • Talk about the success of women in your organisation and how your organisation is open to all sorts of work-life balance.
  • Sanity check that you are not making assumptions about a women’s ambitions. What she wants to do might not be what you are thinking. Just ask her. And not just when it’s annual appraisal time.

2020’s International Women’s Day celebrated #EachForEqual. Here’s to changing behaviours and speeding up gender parity – let’s not wait for another century for it to happen