By Tatenda Mujeyi
Global CEOs surveyed under the United Nations Global Compact CEO survey have relayed progress in the urge to adopt gender inclusive working environments despite the toll COVID 19 had on the gender sensitive programs government’s had adopted.
The research for 2022 by Accenture in partnership with United Nations Global Compact emphasised the challenges COVID 19 had on the inclusion expectations for marginalized groups despite the majority having inclusion and diversity programs.
“The dire and unprecedented challenges prompted us to use our annual CEO survey at the United Nations Global Compact to ask how the crisis has had an impact on those who are frequently excluded from fully participating in the workplace, like women and indigenous peoples or, those with disabilities or a sexual orientation that makes them targets of discrimination.” Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, Senior Global Advisor, Target Gender Equality Board Member, UN Global Compact said.
Furthermore “Globally, more than one-fourth (27%) of CEOs surveyed say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their company’s investment in local communities across their areas of operation. These areas include health Initiatives or housing programs operated locally that support and incentivize a representative employee base.” The report highlighted.
However, companies had continually adopted diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives to include key populations despite the brunt the pandemic had on their budgets and women led initiatives.
“Globally, 92% of companies surveyed say they have ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives, and 94% of CEOs surveyed report that initiatives across race, gender, LGBTIQ+ protection, and disabilities were not negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The report also noted that, “CEOs surveyed report that the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced their budget for sustainability initiatives, compared to 29% of their male counterparts.”
CEOs from above half of engaged firms also highlighted how they were adopting policies that embraced working parents to cater for women’s family caring roles against the work expectations.
“Over half of companies surveyed (55%) report to have policies supporting working parents, including parental leave, childcare and post parental leave support. To alleviate the pressure on working families, it is critical that companies implement holistic policies to support a sustainable coexistence of work and care responsibilities, Allowing women to advance in the workplace.” The report highlighted.
The report also noted that, “Three in four companies (72%) with more than 50,000 employees are adopting inclusive recruitment strategies to achieve greater diversity across their workforce.”
SMEs were viewed as the most adoptive to the gender equality targets as they had set greater targets, achieved more inclusivity, and near timelines for achievement of targets as compared to bigger corporates.
“Our research finds that companies with less than $25 million USD in revenue are setting some of the most ambitious gender equality targets: 80% aim to achieve greater than 30% women’s representation at the C-Suite and Executive Management levels, in comparison to 66% of companies with more than $1 billion USD in annual revenues.”
Furthermore, “In addition, business leaders from the smallest companies are aiming to achieve their representation goals sooner than larger companies: 85% of the smallest companies aim to achieve their women’s representation goal at the C-Suite and Executive Management levels by 2021 – 2025, in comparison to 67% of companies with more than $1 billion USD in annual revenue.” The research highlighted.
Female led firms have however met the most impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic in terms of meeting the sustainability targets owing to financial volatility challenges despite the broader adoption of inclusive training at all levels of employment.
“Female CEOs have reported the greatest financial constraints in progressing sustainability as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of surveyed female CEOs (59%) say that limited financial resources rank among the top three barriers preventing the implementation of their sustainability strategy, in comparison to 48% of male CEOs; and 43% of female CEOs.”
Furthermore, “More than half (59%) of companies surveyed with more than 50,000 employees say they have implemented unconscious bias trainings at all levels of employment. While bias awareness trainings are vital to fostering an inclusive culture, its ability to eliminate systemic racism remains inconclusive. Unconscious bias training at all levels by headcount (e.g. racial bias training).”
Gender Inclusivity remains a key issue for sustainable development as corporates have sought to incorporate the global expectation to meet gender equality and equity at the expense of the historic patriarchal nature of society.