International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the strides women have made in their fight for equal rights — in society and in the workplace. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, “Balance for Better,” is a call-to-arms that a more gender-balanced world is a better world — and the Paradigm for Parity® coalition could not agree more.
Historically, there has been progress towards gender balance in the U.S. Women now make up just over half (50.8 percent) of the U.S. population. They are entering colleges in droves, and earn more than 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees, and 59 percent of master’s degrees.
And although women account for almost 52 percent of all management and professional-level jobs, according to the Center for American Progress, they are still woefully underrepresented in corporate leadership. According to Catalyst, women account for just 26.5 percent of executive/senior-level officials and managers and occupy only 21.2 percent of board seats. And sadly, women make up less than 5 percent of CEOs at S&P 500 companies.
There is balance at the entry level and to some extent in mid-level roles — but it is time to focus on the senior ranks of the corporate world. The good news is achieving balance in leadership is possible.
Linkage, a Paradigm for Parity® coalition member company, found in a recent study that women employees get promoted, perform better and stay at their companies longer if companies focus on four key areas: establishing an inclusive corporate culture, developing a talent management system that fosters equality, providing professional development opportunities for women and having executives who are committed to advancing women. That’s because the work of gender balance — like all important work — can’t be accomplished by one individual or one company alone. It takes women and men at all levels working together.
We started the Paradigm for Parity® coalition with one simple goal — to help companies big and small achieve gender parity in their corporate leadership — because we believe in a world in which all women are afforded the same opportunities as men. We developed our 5-Point Action Plan to provide companies with a blueprint of the steps they can take internally to close the gender gap in their corporate leadership. From eliminating unconscious bias to creating a sponsorship program — when these five steps are enacted simultaneously it can spark a culture change that results in gender balance.
On this International Women’s Day, we applaud the corporate leaders who every day have an eye toward creating balanced leadership teams. They are making the significant culture changes that are necessary to close the leadership gap within their own companies, serving as trailblazers for the rest of the corporate world. The Paradigm for Parity® coalition encourages all companies to strive to achieve gender balance in their corporate leadership — and we are committed to be part of the solution to help companies “balance for better.”