PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022, one of the largest workforce surveys conducted, draws insights from the views and experiences of more than 52,000 workers across 44 countries. To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, we delve deeper into this research, sharing fresh gender-focused perspectives from the almost 22,000 working women across the world who responded to our survey. Learn more about the survey and the women who took part here.
As part of this research, we wanted to know whether people felt empowered—or disempowered—at work. To do this, we examined four dimensions of empowerment: autonomy; impact; meaning and belonging; and confidence/competence. By surveying workers on these dimensions – through a set of 12 carefully-crafted questions – and then calculating the degree to which the dimensions were both important to people and present in their working lives, we constructed a simple Empowerment Index.
The index found a significant gender gap, with men being more empowered than women in the workplace.
On the importance of the 12 factors in our index, the overall findings from men and women are broadly similar—typically within a few percentage points of each other. So far, so good. These findings debunk some of the outdated ideas that men and women have different expectations of their employers and careers. This should be reassuring to companies that are seeking to create the right employee value proposition for their workforce.
However, when asked about whether these factors were actually present in their current working environment, the views of men and women diverged sharply. In every one of the 12 empowerment metrics we looked at, men were more likely than women to say that they benefited from those factors. So the gap between importance and reality is wider for women on every metric.
The biggest points of difference between what is important to working women and what they are experiencing in reality are:
More than 52,000 employees ranked dimensions of empowerment at work in two ways: whether it was important to them and whether their current job provides it. Similar shares of women and men consider each factor important, but across the board, men were more likely to report getting it. Shown here are six factors where some of those gender differences were widest.
While this research highlights that there is a significant gender empowerment gap at work, when we delve into the empowerment scores to identify the most empowered women (the top quartile) - empowerment really matters and is a critical lever to improving gender equity and driving women’s advancement in the workplace. These women are significantly more likely to ask for a raise (55%), and significantly more likely to ask for a promotion (52%). This compares with scores of 31% (24 point gap) and 26% (26 point gap) respectively for women in our survey overall.
The most empowered women are also more likely to recommend their employer as a place to work (67%), a significant 32 percentage points higher than women respondents overall. They are also significantly more likely to say they are very satisfied with their job (54%), compared with 25% of women overall (29 point gap).
A workplace where women feel fairly rewarded, can experience autonomy, meaning, belonging and have impact is a workplace where women can thrive.
While our Empowerment Index highlights a significant gender empowerment gap at work, the most empowered women are significantly more likely to lean into their careers. Empowerment at work is good for women’s advancement. Shown here is the number of women who said they are extremely or very likely to take the following actions.
According to our empowerment scores, the most empowered women workers are working in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications sector, driven specifically by the technology industry for which women are slightly more empowered than men. Women working in the Financial Services and Energy, Utilities and Resources sectors are the second and third most empowered, but men are significantly more empowered than women in Financial Services.
Unsurprisingly, the more senior the position the women in our survey hold, the higher their level of empowerment at work – a message that should be amplified to highlight the benefits of career advancement to women. Fear over rising work demands can often be a factor holding women back, when in fact the more senior they rise the more control and autonomy they are likely to have.
Fifty-one percent of women overall said their job could be done remotely/from home, with this rising to 74% for the most empowered women. As new ways of working become more entrenched for the long term, our research shows that women who have a hybrid work pattern (50% remote and 50% in person) have the highest empowerment scores, followed by women who work remotely full-time. Those who work full-time in person have the lowest empowerment scores. This trend follows suit for men – suggesting that autonomy over how, where and when people work fuels empowerment across the workforce. Demand for flexibility is a talent-wide proposition, and one that can’t be ignored by employers as they seek to enhance diversity, fuel engagement and innovation, and position themselves as an employer of choice.
The research also showed that Millennials had the highest empowerment scores, followed by Gen Z.
Globally, women workers identify the four most important workplace empowerment factors as being fairly compensated financially at work (72%), job fulfilment (69%), a workplace where they can truly be themselves (67%), and having a team that cares about their wellbeing (61%).
They are also the top four considerations for women deciding to make a change in their career.
Our Empowerment Index finds that there is huge similarity between what is important to women and men, with fair reward, job fulfillment, and belonging coming in as the top three factors for both.
Explore the global findings of our Empowerment Index using our interactive data explorer tool below. This tool also provides you an opportunity to compare the global findings with country or regional results.
The data is unequivocal. Women still face challenges in the workplace – and they are less empowered as a result. The good news is that empowerment at work is a catalyst for women’s advancement. And there’s no mystery about how to improve the empowerment of women employees: it’s simply a matter of focusing on what women say is important, combined with a strategic approach to Inclusion & Diversity. Scroll through the tabs to explore each theme.
Employers looking to solve the problem of female representation, empowerment and advancement should take a data-driven approach. Employers can measure the gender proportionality of hires, performance ratings, promotions, key talent populations, and leavers, and use predictive analytics to understand which measures will have the biggest impact in addressing any potential gaps. In addition to gathering this data, employers can use surveys and other listening tools proactively to identify and assess the biggest issues, the biggest unmet needs, and the biggest potential areas of improvement for employees. The data can be segmented by geographical location and business unit or function. Assessments can be conducted regularly over time, to establish a baseline for comparison and identify progress goals.
For employers, getting to the data can be an important step towards understanding where they want to focus and where they can have the greatest impact. Our survey findings show that only 35% of women globally (compared with 44% of men) have a clear plan to advance their career with their current employer, while 52% said this was important to them (17 point gap). A more active focus on career development, combined with a real-time understanding of who is being promoted or identified as key talent, is just one of the ways in which data, process and real-time interventions can be blended together to drive progress on gender diversity.
Women are less likely than men to have a clear plan to advance their careers with their current employer. This is one area where employers can work harder to fuel women's empowerment at work.
PwC UK’s Women in Work Index shows a slight rebound this year following the COVID-19 pandemic, with female workforce participation across The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries increasing. However, progress towards gender equality remains slow. If we continue at the current rate, it will take more than 50 years to close the OECD gender pay gap – and this research confirms that women in the workplace are feeling the effects. Tellingly, there is a gap of 34 percentage points between the proportion of women respondents who say being fairly rewarded financially for their work is important to them and the proportion who actually experience it, making it the biggest gap for women in our survey.
The key words relating to financial compensation are ‘objective’ and ‘fair’. This suggests that a focus on creating reward and pay schemes that are fair, focused on merit and prevent the impact of any potential unconscious bias will be a critical factor in #EmpoweringWomen. Reward is another table-stakes data point on diversity that should be measured consistently. This is not a one-off exercise: there’s a need to apply ongoing measurement and correction, paying particular attention at points where important activities arise that can influence pay fairness patterns across the workforce – such as acquisitions, headcount reductions, or efforts to attract talent with in-demand skills.
Women rank being able to truly be themselves as their third most important workplace empowerment factor (67%) – yet there is a 17-point gap between women who say this is important to them (67%), and those that experience it (50%). Fifty-eight percent of women say it’s important their manager considers their viewpoint when making decisions, yet only 39% actually experience this (19 point gap). The world is continuing to shift at a rapid rate and the impact of technological disruption, shifting demographics, polarisation, and the transition to a post-pandemic world are affecting how people work every single day. Workers are contending with higher levels of difference than ever before. Building the human skills and culture that will enable workers to thrive while working, managing or leading through all this difference is critical. Upskilling strategies must extend beyond digital, to include the human skills required by the trusted leaders needed for a shifting world.
The right training can help leaders learn and understand how unconscious biases can distort their decision-making on people and business issues, particularly when it comes to gender stereotypes and unconscious biases that hold women back. Beyond understanding the implications of potential biases, inclusive leadership means showing empathy, appreciation, and respect for every individual’s unique lived experience, while fostering an environment of psychological safety in which everyone feels empowered to speak up. Inclusive leaders are equipped to harness the power of diversity, practice allyship, and bring out the best in diverse teams to deliver innovation and impact.
Our survey findings indicate that only 30% of workers said their employers had provided them with support and resources to improve diversity and inclusion within their teams or on working effectively with people who share different views. Employers should recognise the importance of inclusive leadership and foster it across their workforce to support inclusion, belonging, and progress towards gender equity.
Inclusive leadership and a sense of belonging are pertinent factors to women’s empowerment at work. Yet, we are seeing big gaps between what is important to women and what they are actually experiencing at work. Employers can do a lot more, with only three in ten workers saying they have received support in these areas.
My employer has provided resources and support to help with the following*
30% Improving diversity and inclusion within my team
30% Working effectively with people who share different views
Our research shows that women currently have less autonomy and control than men over how, when and where they work. Expectations and mindsets around these factors have shifted, enabled by technology and accelerated by the pandemic. As the world continues to change, workers can thrive when their daily experience matches what they value.
The importance of flexible work to inclusivity was a key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past few years, the rise of hybrid and remote working means employees have been better able to balance work, personal and family responsibilities. Our survey shows that the demand for and importance of autonomy are ranked almost equally by both men and women, but that men have higher levels of autonomy than women. Employers should recognise that autonomy and flexibility boost inclusion, and that there is demand for them across the workforce.
Forty-eight percent of the women in our study can’t do their job remotely, but of the 11,285 women who can, 29% are working remotely full-time, and 56% were availing of some level of hybrid work pattern. The women in our index who are most empowered also have greater opportunity to work remotely (74%).
As organisations consider bringing people back to the office full-time, they must understand the full ramifications of such a move. In some cases they risk reverting to outdated ways of thinking, under which career progression and rises in compensation are focused primarily on in-person workers. Meanwhile, organisations that embrace virtual and hybrid work will need to make sure that the new ways of working do not amplify any potential barriers to gender equality that have historically faced women in in-person environments. Our survey shows that 23% of hybrid workers and 33% of full-time remote workers across genders are concerned about being overlooked for development opportunities, such as career advancement, based on their work pattern.
In light of such findings, we believe employers, where they can, should explore ways to give workers greater say over their schedules, and empower them to make more decisions about how, where and when they work. Companies should also look to debunk the myths that fuel gender stereotypes around flexible working – and apply a data-driven approach to understand how varying work patterns are affecting advancement and opportunity for women, and their inclusion and diversity strategies as a whole.
The UN Women theme chosen for this year’s International Women’s Day is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. It’s an apt choice, given that we’re in a world where 259 million fewer women than men have access to the internet, and 75% of jobs will relate to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas by 2050.1
The gender representation gap in the tech workforce is a constraint on innovation, growth and the future wellbeing of humanity – all at a critical time for business, society and economies, when more tech workers are urgently needed.
The good news is that our Empowerment Index finds that the tech industry is the industry with the most empowered women workers. It is also the only industry where women are slightly more empowered than men. On all 12 of our empowerment metrics there is a much closer equilibrium between the respondent scores of men and women working in tech than the global average across industries. While there’s still a gap between what’s important to women working in the tech industry and what’s currently present in their work, the variance compared to their male counterparts is smaller than in other industries.
Our Empowerment Index found that the technology industry was the industry in which women were the most empowered. Women in tech were much more likely to be experiencing in reality all 12 dimensions of our index.
Unsurprisingly, women working in the tech industry also feel they have more autonomy over how, when, and where they work compared to our global respondent base. However, autonomy is also much more important to them – so the gap between desiring and having remains.
The tech industry also stands apart in other ways. Compared to women respondents across all industries, women working in tech are 16% more likely to ask for a promotion. Of most interest in this regard, is that women working in tech are one percentage point more likely to ask for a promotion compared to their male peers. This compares with a negative gap of eight percentage points when compared to the average scores for women and men in the survey overall.
Women working in tech are also 18% more likely to have an established plan to advance their career with their employer and nine percentage points more likely to find their job fulfilling. What’s more, despite working in a male-dominated industry, women in tech are ten percentage points more likely to feel that they can truly be themselves at work.
The tech industry has invested in some of the world’s most extensive and ambitious Inclusion & Diversity programmes, and our findings suggest these are having an impact. However, the effects of a slowing global economy and aggressive hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic have created major challenges for the industry, with many tech firms currently instituting cost-cutting, hiring freezes and headcount reductions. To avoid slipping backwards during this difficult period, it’s vital that they keep diversity and gender equity at the heart of their business and workforce strategies and continue to embody workplace cultures where women feel empowered; and as a result can thrive.
The three most important empowerment factors for women working in the tech industry are consistent with those for women across all sectors, but each factor scores higher for women in tech. These are also the top three considerations when women in tech are deciding to make a change in their work environment.
Forty-eight percent of women working in technology said they were extremely or very likely to recommend their employer as a place of work, 13 percentage points higher than the global average for women (35%).
A key challenge for the tech industry is attracting girls and women to pursue STEM academic disciplines and work in the industry. While it is a challenging time for the industry, these research findings do provide insights that can help to amplify the advantages for girls and women working in the technology or digitally-focused roles.
1.https://www.un.org/en/observances/womens-day [accessed 28 February 2023]
While the top three important factors are the same for women overall and women working in tech, women in tech rank each as more important.
The three most important empowerment factors for women:
At PwC we are human-led and tech-powered, working together as a community of solvers, to build trust and deliver sustained outcomes. That’s why we’re committed to a culture of care and belonging - fostering a place for people to build their futures and a place that provides everyday support to learn and grow.
One of these ways is through gender diversity. Diverse teams lead to smarter and more innovative solutions, and we are focused on cultivating a more inclusive technology workforce. From diverse teams to disruptive technology, we are bringing together the people necessary to deliver sustained outcomes for both society and business alike. While there is so much more we want to do, we’re proud of the role women at PwC play in pushing the technology sector towards a progressive and exciting future that modernises and re-thinks solutions.
Learn more about what it’s like to work and lead in technology from our PwC women in tech role models profiles, and the programmes we’ve put in place to support balanced gender representation in our digital and technology practices.
The eleventh edition of PwC UK’s Women in Work (WiW) Index shows that progress towards gender equality at work across the OECD has been exceedingly slow over the past ten years. Even today, a significant gender pay gap persists across the OECD and at current rates of progress it will it will take more than 50 years to close it. Recent improvements in the WiW Index are a result of economic recovery post-pandemic instead of genuine progress towards gender equality. While women’s labour force participation across the OECD has experienced a bounce back, there remains a $5.8 trillion potential gain to GDP by increasing the employment rate for women across the OECD.
Read more about the WiW Index results and use our interactive data tool to see how OECD countries compare for key employment outcomes for women.
Partner, Sustainability Leader, South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore
Tel: +65 9660 5011