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Diversity: how to reroute the gender bias

We consider the advances in leadership diversity and the journey ahead.

According to the World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Gender Gap Report it will take 132 years to achieve pay parity between men and women. This figure was established in 2020, a year which represented the largest ever increase in the pay gap since the study began 16 years previously. None of us will be around to witness this milestone, which many still insist on ignoring. 

The gender pay gap in Portugal is 13.3% with women earning, on average, 88 cents for every euro a man makes. It isn't very comforting. The report also highlights the gender pay gap in the United States of America is 17.6%; in Luxembourg is 20.9% and in Japan is 22.5% whereas Poland, Sweden and Denmark have a much narrower gap at 8.6%, 7% and 5% respectively.

Despite this, the value of diversity is undeniable; companies in the top quartile of diversity are 25% more likely to have above average financial results.

What’s more, a new generation in the workforce is looking for greater purpose and action on this issue. 84% of millennials say they seek a company that treats diversity and inclusion seriously, consistently and coherently throughout the organization. Importantly, they want organizations to practice what they preach, not just describe their values on a website.

As a global executive search firm recruiting leaders across a plethora of organizations and countries, we believe we can positively change the narrative. We still hear clients who implicitly or explicitly tell us ‘they are thinking of a man for the job’ because a woman wouldn’t fit the organization’s industry or culture. We directly challenge these ideas, using our leadership consulting experience and data to propose alternate paths to leadership that are more diverse and inclusive.

We also use our global network to identify the pitfalls and opportunities in leadership diversity. In our Leadership Diversity Report, we identified three main barriers in the recruitment of diverse leaders: narrow job profiles which often unknowingly exclude minority candidates, the existence of unconscious biases on the part of those responsible for attracting talent and the absence of targets to increase diversity on the part of board members. In Portugal, this is an increasing priority for many companies, however, there is still a long way to go.

To overcome these challenges, we work with clients to address ingrained belief systems and cultures.

This includes outlining the steps taken in recruitment, internal progression and salary monitoring to help build more inclusive leadership acquisition practices.

Using data, we can also provide a comparison with other companies so boards and CEOs can see how they fare against those in their industry.

We also have relationships with diversity talent organizations. This broadens the talent pools from which we recruit, providing diverse candidates with more opportunities and means we have a positive impact at a grass roots level. Globally, these organizations include Change 100, Social Mobility Foundation and 10,000 Black Interns. In Portugal we work with Leading Together, an association promoted by McKinsey and INSEAD alumni, which focuses on the specific methods of overcoming workplace diversity challenges. We also have a relationship with dNovo, a non-profit association to support integration and lifelong learning for people over the age of 50.

This network of diversity organizations, combined with our research and experience in driving inclusive leadership recruitment means we can actively impact organizations across the country. In search, we invite our clients to engage with a broader spectrum of candidates so they can access a more diverse talent pool and recruit the right people for the right role.

We also advise leaders around diversity goals, how they can be monitored, measured and achieved. Part of this is an inclusivity toolkit directly linked to their development plans, which helps them address their specific diversity challenges.

A few years ago, I was in a room having a heated discussion with a CEO about the importance of gender diversity. He clearly stated: "I don't want to focus on this issue, to be part of rankings or 'best practices'. I want to ensure every woman of merit is supported at all levels of our organization. No woman will ever be denied opportunities or be less recognized, consciously, or subconsciously, simply because she is a woman.”

This is an excellent example showing how the diversity of gender representation also encompasses a ‘he for she’ movement: the awareness from male leaders that they need to be a part of proactive efforts to ensure gender diversity.

It is this mindset we try to promote in all our clients and is our way of building a better, fairer and more equitable world.

To find out more about how Odgers Berndtson can help with leadership diversity, get in touch with us here or your local Odgers Berndtson contact here.

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