A gender-based pay gap exists in every country around the world and women's participation on boards has stalled at approximately 17%. Clearly unacceptable, but what can we do differently? And how can we get men to not only acknowledge this challenge, but actively engage in addressing it?
Change has to start with wanting to change, and the good news is that the value of a more diverse workforce is widely recognized, both by the corporate world in general and the financial services sector specifically. As businesses look to attract people with fresh ideas and experiences, nearly 60% of the financial services industry leaders taking part in PwC's latest Global CEO Survey say their organization now has a strategy in place to promote diversity. More than three quarters of these CEOs believe that diversity has enhanced innovation, customer satisfaction and overall business performance. It's also why they are increasingly focused on attracting, engaging, developing and retaining female millennials.
Female millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) are set to play a critical part in financial services, as stressed in a recent PwC report. Attracting more women across an organization could not only provide the answer to limited availability of key skills, but also be the catalyst for a real shift in risk attitudes and behavior. In the report we list six important measures an organization should take to be more attractive to female millennials, including incorporating more feedback and flexibility.
But I'd like to add one more, and that's to actively challenge men to help advance and empower women in the workforce — for the benefit of all. We all want the next generation to live in a world where women and men are seen as peers and equals. That's why PwC is proud to be a founding partner of UN Women's HeForShe movement. We believe that to create real and lasting change for global gender equity, we need to help men and women work together to realize everyone's full potential.
What's In It for Me?
Of course, acknowledging the competitive financial services work environment, we need to reassure skeptics who view gender equity as a threat. I recently held a HeForShe Twitter chat. While the conversation was overwhelmingly positive, we surfaced an obvious concern: Why should men help promote women to positions they're aiming at themselves?
It's vital to show that we're not promoting people at the expense of others, that gender equity is win-win, not zero-sum. At PwC, we're addressing this by hosting conversations in which we bring men and women together to collaboratively and respectfully discuss gender equity. We work with them to challenge double standards and acknowledge potential blind spots.
Being a member of a majority can give you the deceptive luxury not to seem to have to think about certain things. Our research for the report on female millennials shows that 71% of them don't feel opportunities are equal for all. In the end, eliminating blind spots and creating a culture of inclusion requires that we value differences — our collective and individual ability to thrive in an environment where diverse people and perspectives are both appreciated and sought after.
How Can We Be More Inclusive?
I think we as men, first and foremost, need to remain humble — to have the courage to ask questions rather than make assumptions. Educating and coaching each other across gender and other types of differences makes us better professionals and contributes to thriving businesses.
Let me give a personal example about inclusiveness as a leadership capability. In order to lead people you have to learn more about them. If you understand their story, you know when to encourage them or when to be a bit more patient. Too often I've witnessed the best ideas never getting a hearing, only to be uncovered in a side conversation when the value of a discussion has passed. To counter this, I always actively encourage contributions from all participants.
To achieve gender equity, we need to transform the workplace, creating an environment that gives our people the tools to counter potential blind spots and supports both men and women to achieve their full potential. I believe we at PwC and those in the broader financial services industry have a duty — to our clients, our people, and our communities — to lead by example and be committed to supporting and advancing women at all levels.
According to research launched at the World Economic Forum, we won't reach gender equity for another 80 years. Let's not allow the goal of gender equity, and the resulting benefits, to take so long to achieve. I invite you to take a look at our HeForShe website — and join us.
Dennis Nally is the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd. He leads many of PwC's corporate responsibility efforts, including involvement with organizations such as the World Economic Forum's Global Citizenship Initiative and the United Nations Global Compact.