Never in a Hundred Years : International Parity at Work Day 2023

January 18, 2023 Share this article:

International Parity At Work day 2023

International Parity at Work Day slipped quietly by on 11 January - but gender parity is still a huge issue in 2023. Here are eight key takeaways:

1. It’s gone backwards. The economic and geopolitical shocks in the wake of Covid, climate change and large-scale global conflict conspired to stall progress on gender parity in 2022. This is according to the World Economic Forum’s 16th Global Gender Gap Report, which benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions, namely Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment in 146 countries. The authors conclude that the events of the past two years “risk creating permanent scarring in the labour market” with respect to opportunities for women and girls. At the current rate, it will take 132 years to reach global parity across these four key areas, up from 99.5 years pre-Covid.

2. Workplace parity took the biggest hit. Gender parity in the labour force currently stands at 62.9%, the lowest level registered since the index was first published in 2006. Among workers who remained in the labour force, unemployment rates increased and have remained consistently higher for women. This bodes ill for the economic participation and opportunity gap, which is expected to take 151 years to close at the current rate of progress.

3. If you’re serious about gender parity at work, you’ll champion family-friendly benefits. Based on an analysis of 2019 data from 33 countries, representing 54% of the global working-age population, men’s share of time spent in unpaid work as a proportion of time spent in total work was 19%, while for women this was 55%. The rising cost of childcare means that this asymmetric demand to provide unpaid care work will continue to be imposed on women long after the pandemic. Companies that want to retain and attract women need to factor in their care responsibilities. Those that make it the easiest for women to play this dual role, by strengthening care infrastructure and encouraging flexible care-friendly hours, will attract the best and the brightest.

4. Strengthening female leadership in industries where women are underrepresented will help close the gender parity gap. The WEF reports that while there has been a steady increase, from 33.3% in 2016 to 36.9% in 2022 of women in leadership roles, parity in leadership is clustered around specific sectors such as Non-Governmental and Membership Organisations (47%), Education (46%), and Personal Services and Wellbeing (45%). At the other end of the range are Energy (20%), Manufacturing (19%) and Infrastructure (16%). It also speaks to the need for policymakers to take a more proactive approach to preparing the ground for gender parity in the growing industries of the future.

5. You can’t fix it by focusing on pay alone. Gender pay equity is only one part (albeit a crucial part) of the larger talent management narrative. If organisations want to compete effectively for the best talent, they will need to step up their efforts to recruit more women to executive positions.

6. Upskilling and re-skilling are crucial tools for closing the gender parity gap. Online training provides the biggest opportunity for women to skill, upskill and reskill, with the WEF reporting that gender gaps are substantially smaller in online enrolment than in traditional education, especially with respect to ICT.

7. Want to really move the dial on parity? Make a public commitment to key stakeholders. So says Parity.Org, an organisation that has devised a simple, cost-effective Parity Model to help organisations successfully navigate their DE&I journey. Making a public commitment heads the list of critical enablers, followed by holding senior leaders and department heads accountable for results by tying their annual performance review and bonus, in part, to gender and racial representation; measuring progress through key performance indicators; offering family-friendly benefits to all employees; ensuring representativity is reflected in leadership roles; using [employee resource groups (ERG)]9 as sounding boards for ideas and new benefits to check the value of programme offerings before implementing them; and devising an internal and external communication plan to support your intentions.

8. Parity is the DE&I sweet spot. Parity represents the intersection between Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Gender parity programmes tend to benefit all under-represented populations by virtue of their focus on inclusion and equity and the impact that has on corporate values, including the emphasis on equal representation at governance and executive leadership level and equality in pay, hiring protocols, mentoring and benefits. Parity.Org also counts the elimination of microaggressions, discrimination and harassment as being key to successful inclusion in the workplace.