Work is a funny thing these days. For some, it is less of a priority than it was before the pandemic. For many, it’s a battle between return-to-work types and those who prefer to stay remote, or at least have the option. But for most, it’s a place that needs to provide much more than a salary and basic benefits for people to continue to dedicate such a significant part of their lives to it.
As such, companies looking to maintain a successful and satisfied workforce are finding new ways to serve those who work for them, particularly when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.
And some are doing better than others.
In Parity.org’s recently released 2022 list of the “Best Companies for Women to Advance,” only 43 companies made the list, and of fashion, only Ralph Lauren Corp. was counted among them.
The so-called ParityLIST, a non-profit organization effort focused on closing the gender and race gap in corporate leadership, launched in 2020 to recognize organizations whose policies and benefits promote opportunities for women in the workplace rather than presenting barriers, as long is the case.
“Parity in leadership is crucial, but we know that representation alone is not enough – we must create conditions intentionally designed to support women’s ambitions, well-being and freedoms,” Roseann Lynch, People Director at Ralph Lauren and head of the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, said in a statement.
In 2020, Ralph Lauren announced that it had already achieved its 2023 goal of equal gender representation between men and women at its Vice President level and above, confirming that women hold 50% of these positions at the company – a fact that it has striven for. to keep .
While more broadly, women make up 48% of the total workforce, according to Parity, still, the average executive team is 67% white men.
According to Parity, 88% of companies on the 2022 list regularly measure and report gender equality metrics, 86% report their gender equality values to employees, 98% offer flexible working hours, and 95% encourage men to take full parental leave.
Only 31% of companies, however, have at least 50% women on their executive team – although that number is higher than the 21% of companies on ParityLIST last year. The efforts appear to be heading in the right direction, with 91% of companies requiring recruiters to include at least one qualified candidate for open executive positions.
Airbnb, Best Buy, Nasdaq and The Clorox Company were among others named to the list of best companies for women to move forward.
Benefits were a big part of the ranking.
“There have been so many exceptional benefits from the companies that created our ParityLIST, but a few in particular stand out in my mind,” Cathrin Stickney, founder and executive director of Parity.org, told WWD. “One company has made parental leave mandatory for everyone who gives birth to or adopts a child, and most employees receive their full wages during this time. This means that men will receive no pay and promotional perks over women who in the past took their full parental leave out of necessity just so that their male counterparts who became fathers would take just a few days off. ”
And, she added, “one company has established what they call Core Working Hours. All employees are expected to work certain hours (based on their time zone), but can complete the remaining hours whenever it is best for them. This allows flexibility, particularly for women, to attend medical appointments, drop off their children at school or meet other care responsibilities.”
While there have been advances in the way the modern workforce works for women, there is still a long way to go to achieve parity, particularly as men are still hired and promoted to top positions at much higher rates than women. .
“It is really frustrating that the wage parity needle has not moved as fast as it should have until now. The average woman still earns about 20% less than the average man — and has been for about 15 years,” Stickney said, citing Pew Research. Since Parity.org launched in 2017, the amount a woman earns for every dollar a man earns has increased by 0.5% each year, reaching 84 cents on a man’s dollar today, she added.
And none of this has been helped by the pandemic’s impact on women in the workforce.
The National Women’s Law Center said in a March this year report: “Although men have returned to pre-pandemic workforce size, more than 1.1 million women are in the workforce today than in February 2020. As a result, many women – particularly women of color, Latinas and other women of color – are still struggling to make ends meet.”
So what should companies with a long way to go on gender parity be doing now and in the next?
Stickney says it’s two things (the same two things many companies have been forced to realize they should do when it comes to racial representation): making public commitments and measuring their progress.
“More companies need to publicly commit to interviewing qualified women for every open leadership position,” she said. “Companies have been making private commitments for decades with few results. A public engagement is different. Not only does this give employees visibility into the importance the company places on diversity and equity, but it allows the company’s leaders and managers to hold the organization accountable for proactively working towards parity.”
From there, it’s about recognition and responsibility.
“You can’t fix what you can’t see,” Stickney said. “Companies need to measure not just representation and pay parity, but the entire employee lifecycle, from recruitment to termination, if they are to fully understand where the barriers and opportunities lie. When you start measuring, you’ll discover all sorts of previously invisible patterns. For example, are women leaving the company at higher rates than men in their first five years of employment? If the answer is ‘yes’, you have a problem.
“Or, if you’re recruiting more women than men at the entry level and more men than women at the managerial levels, you’re going to have a pipeline problem when you look for your high-potential employees to fill senior positions and only find men. ,” she added. “You won’t even know you have these problems unless you’re measuring and reporting the right things.”