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Press Release

Gender diversity in leadership roles supports resilience of companies

March 2, 2021

Diversity in leadership roles, in promotions, and in high-paying and high-revenue positions makes for a more positive employee experience.

ZURICH / LAUSANNE / GENEVA, March 2, 2021 - Companies that pay attention to greater gender diversity in leadership roles and promotions and employ more women in high-paying and high-revenue positions, provide their employees with a more positive experience of their own organization, according to an analysis by Willis Towers Watson. In addition, companies with leadership structures that support diversity (e.g., with a chief diversity officer) are perceived by employees as more inclusive.

Companies that show a strong commitment to inclusion see a payoff across the organization.”

Krisztina Csedő
Head of Talents & Rewards

"Companies that show a strong commitment to inclusion see a payoff across the organization," says Krisztina Csedő, head of Talents & Rewards at Willis Towers Watson in Switzerland. "In the current challenging environment, gender diversity in leadership positions can help companies provide employees with the much-needed experience of trust, support and the ability to have a voice."

Switzerland has some catching up to do

The Willis Towers Watson study shows that Switzerland has some catching up to do in terms of gender diversity. Women are still overrepresented in business support positions. This includes, for example, administrative services, HR services or corporate communication. They are underrepresented at executive and manager level, as well as in sales and technical support. These trends are even more emphasized in the high tech or financial sectors, where women represent a smaller share of the total workforce.

"We are currently doing a lot of pay equity analysis. In addition, there is an urgent need to review HR processes to eliminate systematic biases against women," Krisztina Csedő notes. "For example, women who are hired at a lower salary than men with the same qualifications have great difficulty making up for this difference later on. Fortunately we see positive trends over the years: while it is still present, the gender pay gap in Switzerland is slowly closing. Currently we estimate it to be about 11% across all jobs and functions, in favour of men. Yet, systemic biases continue to represent a challenge».

We also see a certain variation of the gender distribution by function and by industry. Whereas administrative services, HR or communication departments employ to a large extent women in all industries, Marketing in the high tech sector, Data Science in the FS sector, or Finance positions in both high tech and FS industries have an even lower share of women than what is a typical – already low – share in other industries.

Among the key findings from the global analysis, also applicable for Switzerland:

  • Companies with more women in executive and management roles deliver more positive employee experiences in terms of overall career growth, pay fairness, skill building, confidence in leaders and managerial support. Employees in these companies also express higher engagement and greater likelihood to stay. The advantages are especially apparent when at least one-third of women are in management and one-fifth are in executive ranks. For example, companies with at least one-fifth of women among their executives score 12 percentage points higher than those with fewer women executives on a measure of career growth (73% favorable vs. 61% favorable). Likewise, companies with at least one-fifth of women in executive roles score 10 percentage points higher on measures of fair pay (62% vs. 52%) and likelihood to stay with the organization (71% vs. 61%).
  • Companies with more women among their most highly-compensated staff (top 10%) have more employees who feel they are part of an innovative, market-leading organization, and also have a voice in what they do. These companies more often provide health and wellbeing programs for women and track retention of female clients, further demonstrating the company commitment to how employees experience the organization.
  • Companies that promote more women generate more positive employee experiences of job fit, trust in leaders, and support for inclusion overall. In addition, these organizations typically provide financial education and leadership development programs for women.
  • Companies with diversity-focused executives, such as Chief Diversity Officers, and leadership action plans for women, are viewed by employees as more effective in providing an inclusive work environment that also provides employees with a greater understanding of their goals and job roles. Companies with a CDO or equivalent executive have an 11-percentage point advantage on inclusion (84% favorable vs. 73% favorable) versus companies without this role.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it increased investor interest in social factors – the 'S' in environmental, social and governance investing – like gender equality,” said Patricia Torres, Head of Sustainable Finance Solutions at Bloomberg. “And it's no surprise as research has shown that a diverse workforce drives innovation and performance, leading to stronger financial returns for investors. The data behind the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index further underscores this trend, showcasing how nurturing corporate environments can impact a firm's bottom line.”

About the study

The analysis links diversity practices with opinions from 1.3 million employees surveyed by Willis Towers Watson at 39 companies included in the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI). This is the second year that Willis Towers Watson has conducted this analysis cross-referencing GEI data. The employee attitude data are integrated with Bloomberg data on gender-related programs and practices to examine linkages between gender-diversity policies and employee opinion. The GEI, which overall includes 325 companies, tracks the financial performance of companies that are committed to advancing women in the workplace through disclosure of gender-related data specific to female leadership, pay parity, inclusive culture, sexual harassment policies and pro-women branding.

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