How do you measure misogyny?
Bloomberg published its 2023 Gender-Equality Index on Jan. 31 and the report seems like a detailed exercise in cataloging much of the architecture of being a woman in the workplace: the broken rung, pay discrimination and the glass ceiling.
Researchers came up with their scores with a 30/70 split on assessing data sets. Thirty percent of a company’s score is based on data disclosure. The other 70% is based on what Bloomberg called “data excellence.” A gender-equitable talent pipeline, pay parity, an inclusive culture, anti-sexual harassment policies and external branding are criteria that comprise this category. The goal for employers is 100 out of 100.
This year’s list of participants included heavy hitters in banking and payments, such as American Express, JPMorgan Chase and Visa; major retailers like Target and Walmart; tech companies like Uber and consulting firms like WTW. The overall score for the 484 Bloomberg GEI employers that participated in this year’s study is 73% — commonly known as a C-minus.
A key area for improvement, it seems, is retention.
To be fair, by Bloomberg’s account, the employers largely have foundations for gender equity. The numbers stack up even better when women themselves are the middle managers, the senior leaders and the executives in the C-suite; increased representation from the top-down had a direct correlation with a more equitable talent pipeline. Overall, 43% of the corporate talent pool were women, GEI members reported, and 44% of those promoted during FY 2022 were women.
Still, roughly 41% of employees that ditched their companies in FY2022, respondents said, were women. (This was one of the questions that 98% of respondents answered.) Additionally, about 41% of employees furloughed or forced to take an extended leave of absence due to COVID-19 were women. (This time, 96% of survey-takers responded.)
The story these numbers tell is that gender parity, in a binary sense, is within reach and women do have support. But women also have reason to leave. This phenomenon is something that’s not lost on employers either: 86% said their company had a targeted recruiting strategy in place to increase women hires. Fifty-eight percent had shared these action plans publicly.
The attrition metrics bring to mind McKinsey and Company’s research on the massive step back from work that mothers have taken, in response to the at-home childcare demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Mercer health research leads told HR Dive that this “pushing-out” of women from the workforce has made the importance of parental benefits “impossible to ignore.”
The GEI acknowledged childcare-related attrition in passing: flexible working policies “indicate support for both mothers and fathers, allowing new parents to share childcare duties while continuing on their professional paths.” And while most of the report relies heavily on the gender binary, Bloomberg “references primary and secondary caregivers” — instead of maternity or paternity leave — “to include all family structures.”
Additionally, the document takes a comparative look at U.S. companies’ parental leave policies versus those of global companies — and how attitudes toward reproductive-health and family-planning can be visible in employer benefits of adoption assistance, fertility treatments, egg freezing, contraception and “support for gender affirmation.”
Comprehensive benefits packages have undeniably become a retention and attention tool, Mercer experts previously said. Notably, about half (46%) of employers that offered expanded travel benefits after the Roe v. Wade rollback told Mercer they did so to “remain an employer of choice.”
One working parent advocate told HR Dive last month that prior to the pandemic, caregiver support was seen as a “nice-to-have.” Now, she said, employer-funded caregiving resources are a “must-have” for competitive businesses.
While reproductive health offerings, child care and women’s exodus from the U.S. workforce may seem like a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum, the report’s findings suggest concrete policies, initiatives and resources to support women — as women are often the ones shouldering primary caregiver responsibilities — are a solid first step to retaining them. Retention then builds a solid foundation for what companies in the GEI are striving for, at the very least: equal representation.