10 companies prioritize gender equality in the workforce

10 companies prioritize gender equality in the workforce
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Senator Scott Wiener kicked off The 2017 Gender Equality Challenge Forum this past Friday at the Gap Inc HQ in San Francisco. The Department on the Status of Women celebrated 10 private companies for their diversity initiatives to create equal opportunity for all genders and income levels. Gap executive David Hayer welcomed the attendees, and shared their own founding story.

Husband and wife Dawn and Doris Fisher started the first Gap store in 1969 on the principle of equal investment and equal earnings. They each invested $1,500 to open the first store on Ocean Avenue in San Fracisco, and stayed equal partners as they scaled their business to operating 5 brands and over 3,000 stores around the world. Four of these five brands, namely Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta and Intermix, are lead by women, and Gap became the first of the Fortune 500 companies to announce equal pay for equal work, in 2014. Last year, their commitment to diversity was acknowledged by the prestigious Catalyst award.

"Three of four working women are in the private sector. It is necessary for us to partner with private companies to truly create gender equality in the workplace", noted Emily Murase, who heads the Department on the Status of Women, and organized the conference along with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and the City & County of San Francisco.

Dawn Lyon, VP of Corporate Affairs at Glassdoor, Inc.

Glassdoor conducted their first Annual Employee Pay Analysis in 2016, and pledged to transparently keep doing so to prevent unintended bias in its compensations programs. "Women are 11% less likely to negotiate their salaries when starting a job than men, and when they do, the outcomes are more favorable for men. Three of five employees don't want to work at companies where they don't get paid their worth. We are helping companies to do their internal pay analyses.", announced Dawn Lyon, VP Corporate Affairs at Glassdoor.

For the last 30 years, American colleges have graduated more women than men. Roughly half of the entering workforce has consisted of women for the last three decades, yet only 4.4% of CEO's in the US are women. To give you a frame of reference, 44% of CEO's in Iceland are women.

Prologis, Bank of America, Target and and Moss Adams focused their initiatives on mentoring female employees to give them access to sponsorship and leadership positions that qualified women have been long denied due to conscious as well unconscious biases in the workplace. Target's CEO Brian Cornell has, in fact, partnered with PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi to form a Future Fund to achieve 50/50 gender parity in the retail industry at all seniority levels.

Micah Weinberg, President of Bay Area Council Economic Institute, shared that "I have to affirmatively remember to mentor the women on my team. It is very easy and comfortable to bring under my wing someone who is a dude with brown hair and beard like myself." Only 30% of male mentors are mentoring women, whereas 73% of female mentors are providing support to develop women. Mr Weinberg works with 300 largest employers in Bay Area, and he added that "85% of millennial women care about their employer's diversity and inclusion initiatives, and only 71% of them believe that opportunities are not offered to all equally."

Weinberg emphasized the need for extending paid parental leave to enable Americans to work as well as raise a family regardless of their income brackets.. "Only 12% of private sector employees in the US are offered paid parental leave by their employer. 43% of highly qualified women leave their jobs permanently or for extended periods of time to raise their children."

Morgan Stanley's Return to Work program earned the spotlight at the forum on Friday. The 12 week long internship program is in its third year, and has already resulted in 10 full-time hires. "90% of the women who leave the workforce want to return. Only 40% of them are able to successfully do so. It was a no-brainer business case for us, and I am very proud of this program for creating meaningful opportunities for this untapped talent pool", Susan Reid, Morgan Stanley's Managing Director and Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, shared with us.

Similarly, PWC empowers their employees to take a leave of absence of 16 consecutive weeks for parental or other reasons, and the transition back without affecting their performance ratings and career advancement within PWC.

The forum brought together about a hundred diversity leaders from across the country to share their actionable and measurable programs to create gender equality in the workplace. The highlights were the need for mentoring women at scale and monitoring the measurable outcomes of diversity initiatives.

"If you can't count it, then it doesn't count. It's important to monitor your data over time and transparently share it with your employees to create shared accountability. Our Forum|W initiative for our female employees has measured our KPI's for the last 7 years, and it's only through monitoring our data over time that we can understand our employee goals and trends to recruit, develop and retain our women, " added Jen Wyne, Head of Human Resources at the leading accounting firm Moss Adams.

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