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Care@Work / Care@Work Blog / Bigger Than Benefits:, Mercer Talk Gender Equality in Davos 

Bigger Than Benefits:, Mercer Talk Gender Equality in Davos 

Patrick Ball on January 25, 2018 04:29 PM

217 years.

That’s how long it will take to close the global economic gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, which benchmarks the progress of 144 countries toward gender parity.

More than two centuries is much too long to wait, said global leaders like Mercer President and CEO Julio Portalain and Founder, Chairwoman and CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo, at a When Women Thrive breakfast hosted by Mercer at WEF’s annual meeting this month in Davos.

Here, we'll share a number of videos and quotes that capture highlights from the event. 

“We’re kind of backsliding a bit on this issue, and it’s quite disturbing,” said Portalain, pointing to the latest statistics. “Digest that for a moment. 217 years for women to get economic parity with men. That is up two years in a row. We’re not making inroads – we’re losing ground. And quite frankly, I’ll say it as boldly as I can, it’s incredibly unacceptable. It’s pretty outrageous.”

Believing deeply that a strong care infrastructure is key to gender parity and economic growth, Marcelo traveled to Davos to create a future-focused agenda that will drive the change needed for women, businesses and societies to thrive. One of the events where Marcelo spoke was Mercer’s When Women Thrive breakfast, the fourth such event the company has hosted.

On Technology

In his introduction, Portalain noted Mercer’s research shows less than one-third of organizations routinely review performance ratings by gender, or evaluate for pay equality. “This is not rocket science work, this is pay attention work,” he said.

We’re living in a time when organizations have access to unprecedented tech and data, which can allow us to know a lot more about why gaps exist in the workforce, Portalain said, citing advanced analytics as just one example of where tech can and should be used to “tear down barriers to gender parity.”

On Leadership, Benefits and Men   

A recurring theme introduced by Portalain and emphasized by Marcelo was that men matter in the push for gender parity.

According to Portalain, Mercer’s research found just 38 percent of organizations reported male employees engage in gender diversity efforts, and only 39 percent of managers engaged in “a big way” in managing diversity. When 80 percent of executive decision making is made by men, Portalain said, it’s clear that men must play a role in pushing for gender equality.

“This is not a conversation about listening to those who are thinking about getting engaged -- they must get engaged,” Portalain said. “We must be together on this. It’s not a men or a women issue, it’s a men and women issue – and it’s important that we craft it that way. Why does it matter? Because the conversation needs to be elevated and people need to be held accountable.”

Building on the points of men making most business decisions, Marcelo said that words matter and money talks. When initiatives that support gender parity – like paid leave, care assistance or flexibility – are viewed narrowly as benefits, they’re easier to dismiss than when viewed as business imperatives. This is a view harmful to the business, considering the abundance of data that shows gender diversity leads to better business results.

“We often describe care and benefits as a soft issue not an economic driver,” Marcelo said. “Women don’t just hold up half the sky, they drive the overall economy. It’s estimated that if men and women worked equally, that’s $28 trillion. Why wait 217 years for $28 trillion?”

Spotlight on Mercer Research

Pat Milligan, who heads up When Women Thrive, introduced several key themes from Mercer’s research, which can be tied to rising retention and improved gender equality. Those themes included:

  • No substitute for bold leadership – from CEO who sets expectations down to middle managers who challenge assumptions, bold leadership is crucial to successful gender equality initiatives.
  • Leadership must be accountable personally and professionally – this, too, must run from senior leadership through middle management
  • Men matter – A hugely important advancement from when the When Women Thrive event launched four years ago and just 10 percent of the room was men. This year, 40 percent of registrants were men.
  • Investor Buy in – There is huge potential for investors to put pressure on companies to invest in gender equality initiatives. Armed with the knowledge that gender diverse organizations generate greater returns, it should be a win-win.

Watch video of the entire When Women Thrive panelfor more from Marcelo, Milligan and other leaders.

There is no one silver bullet that will crack the code on gender equality. But we do believe investing in a care infrastructure is an important step on the path to parity and prosperity.

“We invest in roads and bridges to drive jobs,” says Sheila Marcelo.  “But why is it that we’re not actually investing in care to allow women to work?”

Head over to Mercer's site for their full coverage from Davos

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