Work is a funny thing these days. For some, it is less of a priority than it was pre-pandemic. For many, it’s a battle between the types who return to work and those who prefer to stay away, or at least have the option. But for most, it’s a place that needs to provide much more than a paycheck and basic benefits for people to continue dedicating such a significant part of their lives to it.
As such, companies looking to maintain a successful and engaged workforce are finding new ways to serve those who work for them, especially when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.
And some are better off than others.
In Parity.org’s recently released 2022 list of “Best Companies for Women to Advance,” only 43 companies made the list, and from fashion, only Ralph Lauren Corp. who were numbered among them.
The so-called ParityLIST, an effort by the nonprofit organization focused on closing the gender and racial gap in corporate leadership, was launched in 2020 to recognize organizations whose policies and benefits promote opportunities for women in the workplace rather than present barriers, which have long been the case.
“Parity in leadership is critical, but we know that representation alone is not enough – we must create relationships with purpose designed to support women’s aspirations, well-being and freedoms,” Roseann Lynch, Chief People Officer at Ralph Lauren and Head of Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, said in a statement.
In 2020, Ralph Lauren announced that it had already reached its 2023 goal of equal gender representation between men and women at the vice president level and above, confirming that women hold 50 percent of these positions in the company—a fact it has tried to maintain.
While more generally women make up 48 percent of the total workforce, according to Parity, the average executive team is still 67 percent white men.
According to Parity, 88 percent of the companies on the 2022 list measure and report regularly on gender equality surveys, 86 percent report their gender equality values to employees, 98 percent offer flexible working hours and 95 percent encourage men to take full parental leave.
However, only 31 per cent of the companies have at least 50 per cent women in the management team – although this figure is up from 21 per cent of the companies on last year’s ParityLIST. The effort is apparently moving somewhat in the right direction, with 91 percent of companies requiring recruiters to include at least one qualified female candidate for open leadership roles.
Airbnb, Best Buy, Nasdaq and The Clorox Company, among others, were named to the list of best companies for women to advance.
Benefits were a big part of the ranking.
“There were so many exceptional benefits to the companies that made our ParityLIST, but a few in particular stand out in my mind,” Cathrin Stickney, founder and CEO of Parity.org, told WWD. – One company has made parental leave mandatory for anyone who gives birth or adopts a child, and most employees receive full pay during that time. This means that men will not receive pay and promotional benefits over women who previously took full parental leave out of necessity, only to have their male colleagues who become fathers take just a few days off.”
And, she added, “One company has established what they call Core Working Hours. All employees are expected to work certain hours (based on their time zone), but can complete the remaining hours when it suits them best. This provides flexibility, especially for women, to attend doctor’s appointments, drop the children off at school or take care of other caring tasks.”
While there have been advances in how the modern workforce works for the women in it, there is still a long way to go to achieve equality, especially because men are still hired and promoted to top jobs at much higher rates than women.
“It’s really frustrating that the wage parity needle hasn’t moved nearly as fast as it should have by now. The average woman still earns about 20 percent less than what the average man earns — and it’s been that way for about 15 years,” Stickney said, citing Pew Research. Since Parity.org launched in 2017, the amount a woman earns for every dollar a man earns has risen by a tiny half percent each year, and today comes in at 84 cents on a man’s dollar. she added.
And none of this has been helped by the pandemic’s impact on women in the workforce.
The National Women’s Law Center said in a report from March of this year, “While men have returned to their pre-pandemic workforce, more than 1.1 million fewer women are in the workforce today than in February 2020. As a result, many women—especially black women, Latinos, and other women of color—still struggle to make ends meet.”
So what should the companies that have a long way to go on gender equality do now and next time?
Stickney says there are two things (the same two things many companies have been forced to realize they should do when it comes to racial representation): make public commitments and measure their progress.
“More companies need to publicly commit to interviewing qualified women for every open leadership position,” she said. “Companies have made private commitments for decades with few results. A public commitment is different. This not only gives employees insight into the importance the company places on diversity and equity, but enables business leaders and managers to hold the organization accountable for proactively working against equality.”
From there, it’s all about recognition and accountability.
“You can’t fix what you can’t see,” Stickney said. “Companies must measure not only representation and pay parity, but the entire life cycle of employees, from recruitment to departure, if they are to understand where the barriers and opportunities lie. When they start measuring, they will discover all kinds of previously invisible patterns. For example, do women leave the company at a higher rate than men in the first five years of employment? If the answer is “yes”, you have a problem.
“Or, if you recruit more women than men at the entry level and more men than women at the executive level, you will have a problem with the pipeline when you look at the employees with high potential to fill senior jobs and can only find men”, she added . “You won’t know you even have these problems unless you measure and report on the right things.”