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April 5, 2023

Looking at Gender Equality through a Data Lens

4 Min. Read
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There is not a single country in the world where women have equal opportunities with men. A new World Bank report from March 2024 reveals that gender inequality is worse than previously thought. The World Economic Forum estimates that it will take at least 130 years to close the gender gap. In the workplace, it is still very difficult for women to get a job and work in safe conditions; on average, a woman earns 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. It is easy to predict that gender inequality will remain at the center of the business agenda. 

Although efforts to reduce gender inequality continue, the business world in particular needs to concentrate on this area more strongly. When it comes to ESG, gender inequality constitutes one of the biggest risks under the "S" area. Leaving women behind men has many long-term consequences such as the loss of qualified personnel and lack of innovation in the workplace. A comprehensive risk management study needs to be carried out on the issue, taking into account different metrics ranging from access to safe childcare for female workers working in factories to the number of female members on the board of directors. 

As in all areas of risk management, it is essential to first understand the situation in depth. What is the current situation, what is the pay equality between men and women in this workplace, is there diversity in different departments and positions, are hiring and dismissal processes fair for both genders? The list of questions to ask can easily change depending on the employer's sensitivities, sector or geography. As with other sustainability-related issues, the first and perhaps the most critical step is for companies to set their own priorities. Being data-driven both in setting priorities and in managing the next steps will make everyone's job easier in the long run. 

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) identifies five main areas for data collection: pay equity, recruitment rate, retention rate, promotion opportunities and representation. 

  • Pay equity: It is not enough for women and men to have equal entry salaries or hourly wages, employers also need to measure whether there is equality in additional payments such as bonuses.
  • Recruitment: It is useful to try to keep the ratio of women to men equal at every step of the hiring process. It would be valuable to see not only the genders of the people hired, but also the gender distribution from the first interview to the last interview.
  • Retention rate: The proportion of women who stay in the job is as important as the proportion of women who are hired. The healthiest measure is to regularly monitor this rate at all levels and in all departments in order to uncover invisible glass ceilings or hidden discrimination in the long term. 
  • Promotion opportunities: Even if the employer is doing a great job and keeping women in the workplace, they may not be providing the necessary development and promotion mechanisms. It is as important to collect data on the percentage of women who are promoted each year as it is to collect data on how women who are not promoted feel about it. Sometimes women who start the promotion process with a male colleague may realize that they face challenges in the process that men do not. 
  • Representation: In the past, even when women have been promoted, they have found themselves restricted to administrative jobs. While women were given the management of departments such as human resources, male dominance continued in roles such as CEO and CFO. For this reason, making sure that there are women leaders in all areas of the business and measuring this with data over the years are among the most important issues.

The Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI) can serve as a compass for the sub-headings to be determined under these main headings. The index, which includes many detailed metrics such as the ratio of women in managerial roles, the ratio of women in senior management roles, paid parental leave, flexible working policies, anti-discrimination trainings in the workplace, aims to help companies in the processes of measuring and reporting ESG performance. It also compares companies' performance on gender equality and ensures that companies that perform above a certain threshold are included in the index.

The European Union and the United Kingdom have begun to increase their auditing in this area, as in all areas of ESG. Until now, many companies have been able to measure gender equality by reducing it to numerical calculations in their ESG reports (e.g. the UK's pay equity reporting requirement for companies with more than 250 employees). The most common metrics were the proportion of women in total employment and the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work. However, the EU institutions are signaling that they expect more detailed analysis that goes beyond these numbers in the near future. To prepare for this, the importance of keeping detailed data now needs to be underlined.