A Push for Parity: Put Recruiting, Mentoring and Promoting Women On Your Agenda

Establishing leadership growth plans is key to ensuring a pipeline of qualified candidates.

Despite an additional quarter of a billion women entering the global workforce since 2006, wage inequality persists, with women only now earning what men did a decade ago, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2015.

That report also found that the global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has closed by only 4 per cent in the past 10 years, with the economic gap closing by just 3 per cent. This suggests it will take another 118 years to close that gap completely.

There are many reasons often put forward for the wage gap - most notable is that many women leave the workforce to have children and that if they do re-enter the workforce they never catch up on the salary scale. But that isn't the only explanation for failing to reach pay parity. Often, women simply are not receiving equal career opportunities, including pay negotiations and promotions. If half of the world is populated by women they deserve equal access to health, education, earning power and political representation.

Encouraging equality starts by reaching out to the community. In Hong Kong, Accenture employees volunteer as teachers at Girls Go Tech, a multifaceted programme co-organised with The Women's Foundation that aims to inspire female students in Hong Kong to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and pursue technology related careers.

If you want more women in your workforce right now - make a commitment and be public about it: Accenture is aiming for 40 per cent of its new hires to be women by next year. Then encourage promotion of women by enabling staff to grow with continuous education and training. Establishing leadership growth plans is key to ensuring a pipeline of qualified candidates.

In short, do not just think the job is done once a new hire is recruited; for many firms the critical part is developing female middle management in order to help build a senior management pipeline. It's also important to be inclusive across the board and encourage men to get involved: most senior executives say they've benefited from a diverse group of mentors. Many of Hong Kong's banks and insurance companies offer informal and/or formal mentorship programmes that anecdotal evidence suggests have helped prepare a new generation of executives.

And take heart - there is reason to believe that the forecasts that the playing field will take more than 100 years to level out may not prove to be true. Accenture surveyed nearly 5,000 women and men in 31 countries to gauge their familiarity with digital technologies.

According to Accenture's Digital Fluency Model, while men outscore women in digital fluency across almost all of the 31 countries studied, that gap is narrowing and digital fluency acts as an accelerant in every stage of a person's career - a powerful one in education and in the workplace, and an increasingly important one as they advance into the ranks of leadership.

Women who embrace digital may well be poised to climb the ladder and earn more in the future. Managers who encourage this help rebalance and reshape the workforce of the future.

May Knight is the insurance consulting lead for Asia-Pacific at Accenture, a member of Accenture's financial services leadership team for the region, and has two daughters and a son.

This content originally appeared in the South China Morning Post on March 11, 2016. View the original article here.