What a five months this has been! 3Plus International was set up on December 15th 2010 by Anne Perschel, Lise Moen and myself. What started out as a tweet, has slowly evolved into something excitingly more concrete. At the same time, talk about gender quotas hit the press.
Global Gender Gaps
Interestingly the World Economic Forum Gender Report came out only 2 days later which is a useful benchmark. Here is an extract telling us again what we already know! “The Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report has found that although more women are in employment than ever before, major corporations are still not capitalizing on their talents. Pay equality is not there either. So why are women still not equally represented in major multinational companies and, when they are, why aren’t they being paid equally? The report shows much progress still being made but a lot of ground still to make up. Its co-author Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University, says countries have to adjust for the fact that marriage and motherhood are not at odds with women’s advancement in the workplace.”
However, shortly afterwards on January 5th 2011 another think tank report came from The World Economic Forum report on 5th January 2011, Global Talent Risk analysing projected talent shortages in 25 countries, 13 industries and 9 occupational clusters between 2020 -2030. This also tells repeats that all too familiar story and recognises that women are “in many countries and within many companies, they are an underused and under appreciated resource. ….. Various studies show a significant correlation between corporate financial performance and gender diversity. For companies with current or predicted skill shortages, women form a large, relatively untapped pool of talent”.
As I write, many areas of Northern Africa and the Middle East are in social and political turmoil. In some countries many have died to bring about the changes they want to see in the world. Some of the leading lights in these struggles are women, who bravely stepped forward, defying their cultural customs and traditions, to publicly campaign for a better and more just life for themselves and their families. Eman al Obaidi, a Libyan woman had the courage to tell the world of her rape and torture at the hands of 4 men connected to the regime of Col. Moamar Ghadafi and was physically abused in front of international journalists as she aired her plight.
Elsewhere in the world, off the streets, there is much talk as usual of quotas vs voluntary measures so that female talent can be maximised in our organisations. The World Economic Forum itself imposed a quota of 20% at their annual shindig in Davos. One in five delegates had to be women! Wow! Steps have been take to redress the balance in many countries including Spain, Belgium, France, Norway, Finland. In the UK a recent study stopped short of imposing quotas, unless voluntary measures fail. The target number is 25% of women on boards by 2015. According to CMI chief executive Ruth Spellman: “The news that companies will not be forced to promote female workers to the boardroom by quota will be widely welcomed by nervous businesses.”
Businesses are nervous! Change is not easy for the powers-that-be whether in organisational board rooms or the streets of Northern Africa. So although there is indeed progress, it does seem to be at a snail’s pace and we are being asked to settle for less than we should.
Are you ready?
But change will be inevitable however it comes about. As women we have to make sure that we are prepared. I am generally not in favour of quotas but feel regrettably that change will not come about without them, otherwise more women would already be in post at senior levels and businesses would not be nervous. The first wave of appointees will have a tough time probably, carrying with them the label of “positive discrimination”. They will have to be better than any male candidates in every respect.
They will need strong resumés, a back catalogue of success stories, powerful presentations, forward thinking vision and a supportive and extended network, including mentors and sponsors.
The more women who are prepared and ready for that challenge the better. Are you ready?