Companies that invest in the growth of their employees ensure that each individual has the tools they need to be successful. This begins by charting clear pathways for advancement, creating sponsorship and mentorship opportunities, and fostering education initiatives.

Parity isn’t just about pay; it’s also about representation. This remains a blind spot for many organizations, and women continue to be notably absent in the corporate pipeline. Female employees, for example, comprise just 1 in 5 C-suite leadership positions, and the ratio drops to 1 in 30 for women of color. Kristy Wallace, the CEO of Ellevate, notes: “We won’t truly see equality until the distribution of income within a company is 50% men and 50% women. It’s about the wage gap, but leadership and authority also need to be equally distributed among the sexes.” A 2017 McKinsey study found that blind spots—the inability to see or understand workplace inequities—accounts for much of the lack of progress in leadership parity, and that entry-level women are 18% less likely to get promoted than their male counterparts.

But many companies are creating a pathway for women to advance in the workplace. By investing in mentorship, sponsorship, and education programs, organizations are establishing a formal pathway for female employees to succeed as leaders. The efforts pay off, too; a study conducted by Peterson Institute for International Economics found that “a move from no female leaders to 30% representation is associated with a 15% increase in the net revenue margin.” By creating a workplace that values women at the helm, organizations create a stronger community – and stronger profit margins to match.

Aspects of advancement

  • Mentorship: Every rising star should have a role model. This partnership is mutually beneficial; mentees receive valuable career advice, while mentors invest in the strength of their organization. Formal mentorship programs should use professional and personal aspirations as criteria to match employees with mentors.
  • Sponsorship: Sponsorships forge cross-divisional relationships between leaders and entry-level employees. Sponsors use their clout to advocate for the advancement of their protege — they help them access opportunities and further career ambitions. Sponsorships invest in the individual growth of employees and strengthen organizations by building on existing talent.
  • Education: Organizations should have a shared understanding of why equality is a business imperative. Through formal education programs, employees at every level can identify opportunities for development and optimize talent to maximize performance. Employees learn from one another and create a more cohesive organization in the process.

At a glance

Forty-two percent of women feel nervous about the impact children might have on their careers.

SOURCE: PwC: Time to Talk: What Has to Change for Women at Work (2018).

Among 763 roles surveyed, only 17% of senior executive positions were held by women.

SOURCE: Heirdrick & Struggles: Want to get more women to the top of European finance? Sponsor them (2018).

Fortune 500 firms that aggressively promote women realize 34% higher profits than those who do not.

SOURCE: Blue Wolf Capital: Inclusion Value Gallery Walk (2018).

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