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The State of Gender Parity in 2019: Clear Progress and a Need for Continued Diligence

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

Words by Laurie Cooke

The groundswell of energy around gender parity—in healthcare and in the larger world—is palpable. As Melinda Gates noted recently when announcing her $1 billion donation to support gender equality, it feels as though a window of opportunity has opened.

The 2019 Women in the Workplace study from and McKinsey & Company reflects this energy. The study, now in its 5th year, shows that more companies than ever are embracing best practices, deepening commitments, and holding senior leaders accountable for progress. And the numbers are moving—with women’s C-suite representation rising from 17% in 2015 to 21% in 2019.

But the numbers also reveal that the goal of parity is still far from certain—and that our work toward this goal requires continued diligence.

In particular, we must focus on three key areas:

The ‘broken rung’ at the start of the corporate management ladder. The Women in the Workplace report shows that just 72 women for every 100 men are hired and promoted to the first level of management. This threatens parity at each subsequent level—and must be fixed to create a strong female talent pipeline for the future. In healthcare specifically, we must also work on movement at the top which continues to be a sticking point.

Progress for all women. The fact is that progress has not been equally shared. For example, while 1 in 5 C-suite leaders is female, just 1 in 25 is a woman of colour. Black women and Latina women, in particular, are more likely to be held back by the broken rung and to fare worse in their experiences overall. We must delve deeper into how to effectively broaden inclusivity.

Rigorously prioritising initiatives based on contextual data. For example, data from a 2019 HBA and Aon survey of 36 European countries shows that the gender pay gap is widest in R&D positions and in smaller organisations, with the largest disparity seen in the proportion of bonuses given. In addition, the Women in the Workplace study shows that while the length of paternity leave has increased from 4 to 7 weeks over the past 3 years, the length of maternity leave has remained stagnant at 10 weeks. We must continue sharing data to reveal areas of concern—and then adjust our priorities and policies in response.

How can we keep up our energy for the work still to come?

A combination of agility and collaboration can help organisations remain focussed, passionate, and effective for the long haul. By regularly measuring outcomes, reassessing priorities, and testing new approaches, we can let go of what’s not working, celebrate what is, and refine along the way—preventing stagnation and encouraging creativity. When we join forces together, we can more quickly identify and understand emerging trends, share best practices for addressing issues, and hold each other accountable for real progress. We encourage companies to work together to capitalise on this window of opportunity—so we can finally achieve parity for all.

For more information on the 2019 Women in the Workplace survey, or the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, visit the gender parity website.

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