Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Why gender inclusion is an imperative for future-ready workplaces

Two women sitting across from each other at a table: Inclusion and equal opportunities at work can help businesses face global challenges.

Inclusion and equal opportunities at work can help businesses face global challenges. Image: woc internet chat

Bob Moritz
Global Chair, PwC
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  • The PwC Workplace Inclusion Indicator Index reveals a persistent gender inclusion gap, which impacts women’s ability to seek promotions and develop new skills.
  • Inclusion is essential for organizational agility; empowering women to embrace new technology and future-proof their careers aids business competitiveness in the face of global trends.
  • The journey towards a fully inclusive workplace requires ongoing effort, leadership accountability and a collective commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion at all levels.

This International Women’s Day, I have been reflecting on how fortunate I am to work with so many incredible women within PwC and beyond. I see it daily on the personal side with my wife, daughter, step-daughters, daughters-in-law and many nieces, as well as the many talented women at PwC and from the broader stakeholder groups we interact with.

But today is also a timely reminder of how much more must be done to create equitable workplaces worldwide where women and men have equal opportunities to advance their careers. It is an issue of inequity, not talent.

New insights from our Workplace Inclusion Indicator Index – which draws on findings from PwC’s annual survey of close to 54,000 workers across 46 countries and territories – show there remains a gender inclusion gap in the workplace that is holding women back.

The index measures the extent to which workers feel they are experiencing belonging, fairness and inclusive decision-making in their current work environment, and it finds that men experience higher levels of inclusion than women.

Closing this gap is critical to advancing gender equity in the workplace. Women with inclusion scores in the top quartile were 1.5 times more likely to ask for a promotion and 1.7 times more likely to seek opportunities to learn and develop new skills than those with lower inclusion scores.

The inclusion impact.
The inclusion impact. Image: PwC

Inclusion is particularly important in today’s rapidly changing environment, where technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are reshaping the world of work and businesses are having to transform their organization to remain viable.

Inclusion in a transforming world

People need to understand the changes and prepare for what’s to come. The findings point to some further concerning gender gaps but also suggest that inclusion supports women’s greater readiness to try to future-proof their careers.

Women with higher inclusion scores foresee greater benefits to their jobs from AI (+6 points), have a clearer sense of how the skills their jobs require will change in the next five years (+14 points) and are, on average, 21% more confident their employers will support them with upskilling on key skills such as digital, leadership, critical thinking, and green skills.

It’s up to all of us as leaders and citizens of the world to do all we can to build inclusive workplaces where everyone has equal opportunities to develop the skills they need and reach their full potential – now and in the future.

This levelling of the playing field isn’t just good for people and society but also for business. Those transforming their organization to respond to pressures such as technology, climate change and other megatrends will need the engagement and support of their entire workforce to succeed.

Focusing on inclusion can also help businesses plug talent gaps – those existing today and those we see on the horizon. Our research found that women who report higher levels of inclusion are 2.2 times more likely to recommend their employer as a good place to work and are 1.2 times less likely to change employers than women with lower inclusion scores.

So what should employers be doing now to build a more inclusive workplace?

Building an inclusive workplace culture

Based on what we learned from our own experience at PwC, here are four key areas to hone in on.

  • Use data to understand where you need to focus and make sure there is leadership commitment to and accountability for inclusion and diversity.
  • Help leaders understand and counter how unconscious biases can distort their decision-making, including those bedded in gender stereotypes and perceptions that often hold women back.
  • Encourage empathy, appreciation and respect for every individual’s unique lived experience and foster an environment of psychological safety in which everyone feels empowered to speak up.
  • Establish critical inclusion and diversity interventions throughout the talent lifecycle. Without tackling the systemic challenges that arise at all stages of the talent process, organizations will continue to face the same diversity gaps in the succession pipeline at the top.

At PwC, we are taking action in these areas as part of our ongoing journey to foster a culture of belonging and equity across our network. But we should also be humble and acknowledge there is always room to improve.

Have you read?

Cultivating the right culture

We pride ourselves on having a community of solvers – our diverse teams of specialists who work together to bring their unique capabilities and perspectives to meet client challenges. For that community to deliver its best, we must make sure all our people experience a sense of belonging and equity at work.

To help build this culture, we are using data to shape our approach and drive leadership accountability, and key performance indicators to deliver results in the moments that matter, such as hiring, promotion and succession planning. We’ve made inclusive leadership a key focus of our global upskilling efforts.

We are helping our people at all levels develop inclusive leadership skills through programmes such as our Inclusive Mindset knowledge badge, which has engaged close to 150,000 PwC people across 140 countries. We are also making allyship and similar practices a formal part of the framework that sets out the conduct expected from all of us at PwC.

While we are proud of our progress, we recognize that we still have a long way to go. We are committed to listening to all of our people and continuing to take the actions needed to foster a truly inclusive workplace across our network, learning lessons along the way and using inclusion as a key enabler for gender equity and, indeed, equity for all underrepresented groups.

As global megatrends like technology continue to change the world of work, it has never been more important to focus on creating equitable and inclusive workplaces worldwide. Let’s all work towards that goal—on International Women’s Day and every day.

You can learn more about our new Inclusion Matters research available here.

To find out more about our inclusion efforts, take a look at this piece by my colleagues Marc Borggreven, Aoife Flood, Kathy Kavanagh and Lynn Rossouw.

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