PLuS Alliance initiative releases action report on gender barriers to top jobs.
In October 2020 the PLuS Alliance, a collaboration of Arizona State University, King’s College London and UNSW Sydney, launched the Transforming Women’s Leadership Pathways initiative (TWLP) to address gender equity in leadership.
Launched by the former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard and supported by over 100 experts from around the world, this TWLP digital event held over four weeks examined the critical factors that limit women’s pathways to senior leadership, in order to develop action plans that articulate the practical actions government, universities and industry must take to close the leadership gender gap in key professions and disciplines.
Women have fared worse than men during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of the TWLP initiative which recently released the What will it take: equality in leadership by 2030 Action Plan.
The action plan details the lack of women in leadership, clarifying the barriers to advancement and laying out recommendations to universities, industry and government to achieve equity across 10 areas (the arts, corporate, engineering, entrepreneurship and innovation, higher education, media and communication, medicine and life sciences, policy and politics, science, and technology and IT).
“Employers’ commitment to equality is being tested and found wanting,” said Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Equity Diversity & Inclusion, who noted that women’s representation in political, scientific and corporate leadership was between 15% and 25% and had barely moved over the past decade. She pointed out that women account for 39% of global employment, yet constitute 54% of overall job losses in the pandemic. “Globally, gender equity is understood as a primary goal to ensure that we build back better and more sustainably, after the pandemic.”
The higher education team found that just 39 of the top 200 universities are led by women.
The action plan is divided into 10 areas, each with its own working group drawn from the three universities. Dr Antoinette Farmer-Thompson, Deputy Vice President for Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU, was one of the leads for the corporate working group and “found that there were consistencies across all working groups,” she said. “There’s great interest in every single industry for women to participate at higher levels of leadership.”
Dr Farmer-Thompson said that COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities in the corporate world. “You’ve all heard that approximately 2.2 million women left the (US) workforce between February and October of 2020. We are the people carrying the diversity conversation, bringing to bear the need for diversity on a daily basis. The pandemic could set us back another 10 years.”
The action plan found huge disparities in leadership:
- Women made up 36% of elected local government officials worldwide in 2020.
- Around the world, women hold 24% of senior corporate leadership positions, a decrease from 25% in 2017.
- Women make up 20% of engineering graduates and it is estimated that 40% of women who earn an engineering degree either leave or never enter the profession.
- About 56% of women in technology leave their employers mid-career, and of the women who leave, 24% leave the profession altogether.
The most common recommendations in the action plan were to establish stronger networks, improve pathways for women, and require transparency and reporting of equity efforts. Other suggestions include:
- Establish on-site child-care facilities.
- Tie executive compensation bonuses to gender diversity efforts.
- Publish data on salaries, promotions, hiring and even assignments.
- Train people to be more effective at running meetings to ensure that everyone is heard and women are not cut off.
- Embed a culture of “speaking out” and eliminating aggressive and undermining behaviour by training people to recognise and deal with those behaviours.
During the event that unveiled the report, Dr Sarah Jones, Director of Global Strategic Partnerships for Arizona State University, said that there have already been strategic design sessions to determine the next steps. Those discussions led to the idea for an international initiative: GAEL.
“The Global Alliance for Equity in Leadership, or GAEL, would be an international coalition to bring partners from universities, industry and government with a focus on using evidence-based practices,” she said. “We want to be the go-to place, by bringing together the best research and knowledge from our partner universities, so a corporation will look to GAEL to change its culture. We want to be a trusted source of information and proven solutions. “
GAEL is now developing its strategic plan, focused on connecting with industry and other higher education institutions around the world to implement the action plans for each of the 10 sectors, to close the gender leadership gap by 2030.
You can also stay updated on the work of the PLuS Alliance by following them on LinkedIn.