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Study: Diversity Efforts Not Improving Women's Workforce Advancement

Nov. 6, 2014
A study finds that women are not advancing in their careers despite decades of organizational efforts to achieve gender equality.

A new study by the HR consulting firm Mercer reports that women are not advancing in their careers despite two decades of organizational efforts to achieve gender diversity and equality.

The study, titled "When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive," reports that if current approaches continue unchanged, a third of executive positions will be held by women in 2024, but in the "mature" economies such as the United States and Canada, just one-fourth of women will hold executive positions by that date.

Female representation in developing countries, on the other hand, is expected to grow more rapidly, according to the study.

Aniela Unguresan, co-founder of EDGE Certified Foundation, which collaborated with Mercer on the study, said gender diversity initiatives need to be greatly enhanced and accelerated to effect meaningful change in the workplace.

"It is clear that incremental change does not significantly move the needle," Unguresan said. "Disruptive change does."

Among the study's key findings:

The involvement of senior leaders in gender diversity leads to greater representation of women in executive roles than does simple accountability. Nonetheless, just 56% of organizations say their senior executives are actively involved in diversity and inclusion programs.

A dedicated team responsible for pay equity results in more women advancing to senior roles, whereas "common policies" intended to bring about equity via flexible work schedules and leave programs are associated with slower increases in the number of women progressing to leadership positions.

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