Alumni Board Member Elke Jorens (Talent Acquisition Director Europe Microsoft) joined a panel to discuss the state of gender equality during Accenture’s International Women’s Day celebration in Brussels hosted by our Inclusion & Diversity team. Is gender equality a women’s issue only? Why does a gender pay gap persist in Europe? What role can pioneering companies such as Accenture and others play in tackling this gap? These were just some of the topics discussed during the event, which also included a strong call to action by Accenture COO, Jo Deblaere.
Figures released in March on the OECD Gender Data Portal on the gender wage gap per OECD country, indicate that Belgium has the smallest gender pay gap of all OECD countries (3,3%), followed in third place by Luxembourg (4,1%). Although this may be applauded, the average gender pay gap in the EU remains 16%, as one of the guest panelists, Emilie Jarrett (Policy Officer at DG Justice, Gender Equality Unit, European Commission) highlighted.
Meanwhile, Accenture has published new research based on surveys of more than 28,000 women and men, including undergraduates in 29 countries. Getting to Equal 2017 addresses the persistent gender pay gap and builds on the strong momentum of Accenture’s 2016 research to identify three powerful ways to help close this gap:
- Digital fluency: the extent to which individuals use digital technologies to connect, learn and work.
- A career strategy that encourages women to aim high, make informed choices and manage their careers proactively.
- Tech immersion through acquiring the stronger technology and digital skills necessary to advance as quickly as men.
Challenge the status quo
Equal pay for equal work is one of the founding principles of the European Union and discrimination on the grounds of gender is prohibited in EU legislation. The persisting gender pay gap seems to be intertwined with other gender related workplace issues.
As the personal testimonials of the panel members illustrated, micro-examples of being treated differently because of gender are still numerous. From leadership levels down, people must be made more aware of the unconscious discrimination mechanisms and stereotyping that persist within recruiting, the talent management process and on the work floor, impacting both women and men.
Citing his own career journey, the dvice of Erwin Ollivier (CEO Athlon & winner of Wo_Men@work award 2016) was don’t adapt to the status quo. Start by changing the attitudes of those around you, and as you move up in an organization, you will take those values with you and have greater impact.
Preferring the term ‘gender authenticity’ – creating an environment that values and recognizes differences – and offering the example of Athlon as a test case, Erwin demonstrated that gender equality is great for growth, for attracting the best talent, the bottom line and increased organizational resilience. Changing the gender dynamic at the top (Athlon has 50/50 gender balance also on its board of directors) radiates throughout the company, while introducing pragmatic and practical measures that make a real difference, will benefit both women and men (i.e. when they become parents).
While there was broad consensus on the business and social benefits of gender diverse teams, our Brussels panel offered different perspectives on how to achieve this, ranging from quotas, increased paternity leave, pioneering new ways of working that embrace the ‘new employee’ (both women and men looking for more balanced, flexible careers), changes in leadership attitudes and communication styles, and measures women should take themselves.
Companies must push the gender equality needle
In his closing address to the Brussels audience, Accenture COO Jo Deblaere drew their attention to the business case for diversity, stating that there is a direct correlation between being very successful as a business and being a diverse company.
Companies must learn to look at talent differently, understand how female employees communicate compared to the male majority, and to support female employees to take, not turn away from, the hurdles. As of three women on any board of directors, a company becomes more successful and having more women leaders automatically speeds up the journey towards becoming a diverse company.
Moving the needle on gender equality is not just about internal targets; external commitment is also needed to reach these targets. Making diversity results public, as Accenture does, makes companies strive even harder.
As a member of Paradigm for Parity, Accenture has joined a movement of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members, and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in corporate leadership: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity. The movement’s five-point roadmap calls on business leaders to:
- Address unconscious bias in recruiting
- Increase the number of women in senior roles
- Measure and communicate targets
- Base career progress on performance and results and not on presence
- Identify high performing women and support them
Summing up, Jo Deblaere underlined that for Accenture, gender equality is a business-mandatory objective. “It is part of rotating to the New and leading with innovation. Gender equality is part of Accenture’s state of the business.”
Alumni have the opportunity to meet Jo on May 24 at an exclusive lunch at De Kamers in Antwerp. For further questions, please contact Magali Maesschalck