Paradigm of Gender Parity– More Women in Leadership: World is Shifting from Brawn-Power to Brain-Power…

A diverse group of current and former CEOs and business leaders announced the launch of the Paradigm for ParitySM coalition, an organization committed to achieving gender parity across all levels of corporate leadership… According to Ellen Kullman; we are thrilled to announce the beginning of a movement focused on achieving a new norm in corporate leadership positions: One in which women and men have equal power, status and opportunity…

According to Ms. Kullman; while many organizations support gender equality and call for enhanced diversity in the workplace, the ‘Paradigm for ParitySM coalition is unique– it outlines specific set of concurrent actions an organization can take to achieve gender parity… According to Jewelle Bickford; we have spent the last 18 months developing the Paradigm for ParitySM 5-Point Action Plan, a comprehensive road-map for increasing number of women in leadership positions, and through their implementation it will catalyze change and enable substantial progress toward gender parity by 2030. The five steps are:

  • Eliminating or minimizing unconscious bias in the workplace…
  • Significantly increasing number of women in senior operating roles, with near-term goal of at least 30% representation in all leadership groups…
  • Measuring targets and maintaining accountability by providing regular progress reports…
  • Basing career progress on business results and performance, rather than physical presence in the office…
  • Providing sponsors, not just mentors, to women so as to be well positioned for long-term success…

OK, this sounds great: But what is ‘gender parity’ exactly? According to pundits; gender parity is a numerical concept related to gender equality… Gender parity concerns the relative equality in terms of numbers and proportions of women and men, and is often calculated as the ratio of female-to-male values for a given indicator… In the context of gender equality, gender parity refers to the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public…

In the article Gender Parity: A Realistic Goal? by Caroline Turner  writes: I am more frequently seeing terms like ‘gender equity’, ‘gender parity’, ‘gender balance… For example, the report ‘Women in the Workplace 2015′, looked at the (great) economic value of ‘gender parity’… The report concluded; if the current (slow) rate of progress, continues, it will take 25 years to reach ‘gender parity’ at the senior VP level… and more than 100 years to reach parity in the C-suite…

So, is ‘parity’ (meaning equal number of men and women) the right goal? Leadership gurus tell us that the goals that inspire people the most are measurable, time-bound, attainable… And, they must be currently out of reach, but also realistic over the long-term… In the 2010 census, women were 50.8% of the U.S. population. But then is it realistic to think that, even within the next century, women will represent 50% of every level of business, including the C-suite? Is this an ‘attainable’ goal?

According to study ‘Power of Parity’ by McKinsey Global Institute; gender parity may not be the right goal: The study shows three scenarios – (a) ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, which assumes only the historical growth, (b) ‘best-in-region’ scenario, assuming that each county matches the gender parity results of the best performer in its region, (c) ‘full-potential scenario’…

The executive summary of the report explains why a less ambitious scenario, scenario (b), is considered as most likely; because it notes that (c) ‘full-potential scenario’ is ‘unlikely to materialize within a decade’ for two reasons. First, ‘barriers hindering women’ are unlikely to be fully addressed within that (relatively short) time frame… Second, ‘participation is ultimately a matter of personal choice’…

In the article CEOs of 27 Firms Pledge to Have 50% Women in Top Roles by 2030 by Laura Colby writes: The heads of Bank of America Corp., American Electric Power Co., Coca-Cola Co. and 24 other large global companies have pledged to boost the number of women in their top ranks to parity with men by 2030… It will be tough climb: Women currently compose 14% of the top five executive positions at each of the S&P 500 companies, and about 4% of CEO jobs… And, at current rates it could take more than a century to reach parity…

According to Bickford; what’s frustrating is that, to date, there has been so little progress… Many organizations support women, but there’s a disconnect between what companies say and actually do, in placing women in top positions… Hence, nothing will change unless there is definitive and actionable road-map, e.g.; mandating specific goal with timeline, e.g.; 30% women in management within the next five years…

In the article Disappearing Act: Gender Parity on Corporate Ladder by Von Julie Coffman, Orit Gadiesh, Wendy Miller writes: Ambition, competence, determination and resourcefulness do not come with gender labels. Indeed, as world economies increasingly shifts from brawn-power to brain-power, more women are joining ranks of the employed in greater numbers. Women now constitute nearly 50%  of the U.S. workforce…

But then something happens to women as they climb the rungs-up-the-corporate ladder; they disappear. Women don’t rise to leadership levels at the same rate and pace as male counterparts. Women enter workforce in large numbers, but over time steadily they ‘vaporize’ from higher echelons of an organization hierarchy… According to estimates; there are only 27 women CEO out of 500 (or 5.4%) in U.S.‘s largest publicly traded companies– these are S&P 500 companies… 

Clearly, as the ‘war for talent’ increases, business leaders must do the gender math… They must recruit and develop the best talent (without regard to gender– gender neutral) or fail… It’s not about parity;  it’s about getting the best talent in highly competitive global market place… But some pundit say; parity or equality don’t exist… they say; it’s illusionary… they say; it’s a modern notion held-up as Utopian ideal…

On a functional level, if you believe that any one person or a group of persons can on any day be– stronger, smarter, faster, funnier, or more creative than another, then you don’t really believe in equality. If you believe anyone can ‘earn’ anything based on work or merit or the like, then you don’t really believe in equality… This modern notion of ‘equality’ is a social construct in truest sense. This quality of inherent ‘sameness’ does not exist in nature–‘no two snowflakes are alike’…

There are always going to be those who have ‘more’ of some trait, capability or resource than another. The attempt to build a society based on this notion is a kin to building a castle on sand. It seems odd that often the words ‘diversity’ and ‘equality’ are used in conjunction with one another when the two concepts are not really compatible, e.g.;  as to be ‘diverse’ means to have variation… and to be ‘equal’ is to be without variation…

While we all belong to groups and ‘tribes’, but we all still choose in our own minds whether we will be masters of our destiny or victims of our circumstance. We all choose if we are going to conduct ourselves from a place of empowerment or from a place of weakness…