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How A Group Of CEOs Plans To Solve Gender Inequality At Their Companies

Source | FastCompany : By LYDIA DISHMAN

Technology may be pushing the rate of change ever faster, but so far, no app or bot has been able to accelerate the pace of parity for women in leadership.

According to the most recent report by and McKinsey, women account for only 20% of staff at the senior vice president level and 20% of line roles that lead to the C-suite. This is based on the report’s survey of 132 companies that employ more than 4.6 million people. This is a problem because line roles are often a direct pipeline to the C-suite. In 2015, 90% of new CEOs in the S&P 500 were promoted or hired from line roles. Overall, this has translated to having only 27 female CEOs at the helm of major public companies, according to the latest S&P Capital IQ. No wonder Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lamented, “If NASA launched a person into space today, she could soar past Mars, travel all the way to Pluto, and return to Earth 10 times before women occupy half of C-suite offices.”

Frustrated by the incremental gains, a group of female business leaders got together in June 2015 to see if they could find a way to speed up women’s progress. The result of brainstorming with a larger group of male and female CEOs, executives, board chairpersons, and academics is a newly launched coalition called Paradigm for Parity (P4P).

Their call to action is to achieve full gender parity in all businesses across all levels of corporate leadership by 2030, with a near-term goal of women holding at least 30% of senior roles. To meet the metric, the coalition came up with a five-point action plan that includes setting measurable targets for women’s representation at every level and communicating that progress regularly, providing both mentors and sponsors for high performing women, basing promotions on performance and not just presence in the office, and training employees to identify unconscious bias.

A broad range of leaders who have pledged to make this happen are the CEOs of Accenture, Bank of America, CocaCola, Huffington Post, LinkedIn, and more than 20 other organizations.


P4P doesn’t have any formal measures in place to hold participating companies accountable, but it encourages them to report on progress. As for the early goal of achieving 30% parity, P4P cochair Ellen Kullman stated that “companies are in very different places” with gender diversity. Rather than push for parity immediately, the cochairs and the other executives agreed that 30% would be a good shorter-term metric. “Showing real progress creates momentum,” Kullman says.

For instance, some companies have already made progress toward gender parity in leadership. Pierre Nanterme, chairman and CEO of Accenture, who was also on the conference call announcing the program, spoke of the company’s current progress toward its own diversity goals. In February, Accenture became the first major consulting firm to publish a detailed report card on the diversity of its workforce. In the U.S., women account for 36% of its staff, and about one-third of its executive team. Said Nanterme, “Going public is incredible incentive to exceed the goals.”

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