What you don’t measure, you don’t achieve., writes Khethiwe Nkuna, Executive: Responsible Business for Accenture Africa. It is the reality in just about every organisation. However, despite the progress in gender equality over the years, issues of gender mainstreaming in the workplace are still commonly seen as a sundry matter – and this needs to change. Organisations must move beyond simply talking about it and create a workplace environment that genuinely supports the advancement of women and promotes equality.

Everyone agrees that equality is important

Leaders and employees agree that everyone benefits and innovation grows in a workplace that values all its people. Leaders say an inclusive culture is vital to their business’s success (68%). Employees say an inclusive culture is critical to their ability to advance and thrive (77% of women and 67% of men). But is it happening?

Unfortunately, not as it should be. There is a large gap between what leaders think is happening and what their people say. Accenture surveyed more than 30,000 professionals and more than 1,700 senior executives in 28 countries and looked for areas where the leader and employee perceptions diverged.

While 68% of leaders believe that their business creates an empowering environment where employees (especially women) can be themselves, raise concerns, and innovate without fear of failure – only 36% agree.

Employees are taking an increasing interest in their workplace culture as they believe it is essential to help them thrive (as reported by 77% of women and 67% of men). But while their voices are rising loud and clear about the need for equality, and a growing number of companies recognise its importance, the statistics also show the flip side of the coin – that progress is just not occurring fast enough.

To drive change, organisations need to refocus ecosystems to support the development of women. Both women and men need to become agents of gender equality within their workplaces and spheres of influence. This realisation is the inspiration behind the 2022 Voices of Change (VoC) movement: “She, He, We, is Power”.

The theme captures a profound message – that we are undoubtedly stronger when we stand together in unity and that collective effort is required to harness the true power of diversity. On 12 August 2022, VoC will celebrate this year’s milestones by hosting a virtual event that aims to celebrate and promote equality in the workplace and the value of gender equality.

Shared learning and best practices

The VoC movement strengthens the purposes of gender equality and allows partners to share their experiences, successes and measures that can empower women – what has worked versus what hasn’t worked. It encourages those yet to start their gender equality journey to share best practices and keys to implementation. To create the kind of gender-equal workplace culture, leaders must broadly do three things:

  • Bold leadership: A diverse leadership team that openly sets, shares, and measures equality targets.
  • Comprehensive action: Policies and practices that are family-friendly, support all genders and are bias-free in attracting and retaining people.
  • Empowering environment: One that trusts employees, respect individuals and offers the freedom to be creative, train and work flexibly.

Each leader must support women’s advancement into leadership positions by recognising and promoting capable women where it is due. At the same time, women are responsible for speaking up when they are sitting around the decision-making table. Men should encourage women to use their voices by including them and asking for their opinion.

It starts with a grassroots mindset shift

Changing the gender narrative cannot simply start in the office. It needs to start at the grassroots level with young girls and boys. We must build resilience and self-confidence within our youth – especially girls – to ensure they can cope better and have a real sense of self-worth.

Despina Senatore, the author of SOAR! For High School Girls – Inspiration For Your Life, Career and Future addresses this issue in her book aimed at high school learners to bridge the gender gap. It aims to equip young girls with valuable information they can use to map their futures based on informed decisions. VoC believes that how we talk and relate to girls and boys in their formative years shapes their view of themselves as they grow up and, consequently, how they show up in the world and ultimately in the workplace.

Copies of SOAR! will be available up to and on the day of the movement to support wider distribution. Join us in the quest to inspire and give hope to thousands of high-school learners by giving them a glimpse of a different life through the stories of young people they can relate to.

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