Atlanta recently played host to chief diversity officers from across the country who gathered to consider ways to close the gender gap and promote women in the workplace. With its long history of influential, pioneering women, our city seems like the perfect location for a discussion about female empowerment. But, when it comes to advancing female executives in Atlanta — and, more broadly, Georgia — employers still have a long way to go.
The city’s technology sector was recently called out for paying men 72 percent more than women, the largest tech-sector wage gap in the United States. Other Atlanta industries are, unfortunately, not much better. Across all sectors — and despite the higher cost of living — median pay for women in Atlanta is less than median pay for men anywhere in Georgia. In three Georgia counties (Fayette, Forsythe and Coweta), in fact, median pay for women is barely more than half of median pay for men.
The issue is not exclusive to Georgia. The wage differential can present a real challenge for women across the country that aspire to be corporate leaders. Women fill little more than 20 percent of C-suite positions across the nation, according to a 2017 study by McKinsey & Company. Women of color represent only 3 percent, despite comprising roughly 17 percent of the entry-level job force.
Fortunately, innovative HR technologies are making it easier for employers to help improve their overall hiring practices and overcome the gender gap. Artificial intelligence applications, for instance, are helping employers avoid unconscious bias in hiring and promotion. Cloud-based platforms are expanding talent pools to find more diverse candidates, while providing greater flexibility for women. More than three-quarters of global talent leaders say their companies plan to invest in these kinds of HR technologies in 2018, according to Randstad Sourceright’s 2018 Talent Trends research.
But companies cannot rely on HR technology alone. Employers must actively demonstrate a commitment to gender diversity starting from the top, although the tactics for achieving that goal begins with a comprehensive audit of the barriers women face throughout their career path with the company — from intern to CEO. Companies should identify where women may be impeded and create a diversity pipeline that helps them overcome these barriers.
Equal compensation would also persuade more women to pursue corporate leadership and make it easier for those who are offered executive positions to ascend to the highest echelons of business. More than half (53 percent) of global talent leaders and C-suite executives believe that having more women in leadership roles will be critical to organizational success, according to the global talent solutions firm Randstad Sourceright.
New research indicates that having women in corporate leadership improves a company’s performance and likely increases gross earnings. On average, companies with the most diverse executive boards make 53 percent higher returns on equity. And when top companies have women at the helm, they are found to generate up to three times the returns. A female CEO also typically cultivates more women in leadership positions.
Employers in Atlanta and beyond should bolster their efforts to implement necessary diversity initiatives. Doing so will not only help close the gender gap, but will create a workplace that enhances the company’s business strategy in the future. AT
Audra Jenkins is Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of Randstad U.S.