Spotlight on: Gender Diversity

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Forty percent of today’s global workforce are female yet just five percent of global CEO positions are held by women. Yet when women do reach executive positions they, and the companies they work for, tend to flourish. How can organisations close this gap?

Empowering women to power business

Forty percent of today’s global workforce are female yet just five percent of global CEO positions are held by women. Beyond this, only 14.2% of the top five leadership positions in S&P 500 companies are represented by females, according to a recent CNNMoney analysis. Is it any wonder then that, although International Women’s Day 2016 celebrates female achievements all over the world, there is a growing sense of frustration around achieving greater gender parity throughout business?

The need to address the gender imbalance becomes even clearer when you dig deeper into the data. Take the findings from PwC’s Next Generation Survey 2016: The Female Perspective where one in five women working in family businesses say they still don’t feel they have the same chances of succeeding as men. 

The barriers to professional growth aren’t just restricted to family concerns. In PwC’s The female millennial: A new era of talent study where nearly 10,000 female millennials across all industries were surveyed, 43% indicated an ongoing employer bias favouring men when it comes to promotions and 30% identified a bias favouring men around career development.  The majority (71%) also agreed that while organisations talk about diversity, they do not feel opportunities are equal for all; this is up 17% since we last asked this question in 2011.  In financial services specifically, PwC’s Making diversity a reality reveals just 35% of female millennials believe they can rise to senior levels within their current organisation and nearly 30% don’t believe there are senior female role models they can look up to in their organisation.

Furthermore, our new Modern mobility: Moving women with purpose report finds that while 60% of multinational organisations use global mobility to develop their future pipeline of leaders, only 16% said women were proportionately represented in their mobility programmes, and just 22% are actively trying to increase their level of female mobility.

Yet when women do reach executive positions they, and the companies they work for, tend to flourish. A recent analysis of 300 US start-up investments backed by venture capitalists found that those companies with a female founder performed 63% better than those with all-male founding teams. This is in line with findings from PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey where 85% of CEOs whose companies had a formal diversity and inclusion strategy said it had improved their bottom line, while also enhancing innovation, collaboration, customer satisfaction and talent attraction.

A study on Women on boards and firm financial performance: A meta-analysis at Lehigh University tells a similar story. It looked at more than 90,000 companies in 35 countries and found a clear link between the level of female board representation and market performance, though this is most marked where women have a strong presence across all levels of leadership.

So how can business help promote gender parity? For PwC it’s an important and very relevant issue – 47% of our global workforce are female. It starts with strong leadership support and action, followed by proactive engagement and dialogue across all levels of an organisation among both men and women. As articulated by PwC’s chairman Dennis Nally: “…to create a more equal world, everyone has a role to play.”

At PwC, one of the ways we support our ongoing commitment to gender diversity through our firm-wide engagement in the UN Women’s HeforShe Campaign as one of three founding corporate sponsors of the 10x10x10 impact initiative. In a recent blog post on The Unfinished Business of Gender Parity, PwC’s chairman Dennis Nally confirmed more than 40,000 male and female PwC pledges to date for HeForShe. We also publicly released our gender diversity workforce figures in UN Women’s inaugural HeforShe Parity Report

At the same time, as part of our ongoing efforts to empower women in the workforce and provoke thoughtful dialogue around important diversity issues, we hosted our third Aspire to Lead: The PwC Women’s Leadership Series global webcast. The webcast discussion included perspectives from Academy Award winning actor Geena Davis; Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences; and Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Academy Award nominee and director of Kung-Fu Panda 2. At a time when the issue of diversity in Hollywood has never been more prominent, Davis pointed out the leadership role the entertainment industry can play in promoting gender parity through casting strong female characters for film and TV, because, as she put it: “…what we see is what we can be.”

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Art Kleiner
Global Editor in Chief, PwC US

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