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Gender Diversity in the Workplace

Innovation Center April 4th, 2017

Lily Cortese, Director, Transactions & Business Analytics, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Did you know that companies with top quartile representation of executive committee level women consistently perform better than companies with no women at the top? By some estimates this can be as much as a 47% premium on average return on equity!

Did you also know that this year the global economic gender gap reverted back to where it was in 2008? A quick perusal through the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, published by the World Economic Forum, will tell you that along with plenty of other interesting facts and facets.

Why though?

Why are we still having to prove that gender diversity, or frankly any sort of diversity, is an economically sound proposition? Why do I still need to go and look up facts and figures to support that claim?

A few weeks ago at the BIO-Europe® conference in Cologne, Germany I participating in a panel about gender diversity in the biotechnology / life sciences industry. While I greatly enjoyed the panel, a niggling thought in the back of my mind kept popping up - we were still talking about the same old gender related topics that have been covered for at least the last 10 years that I’ve been in the workforce. “Issues” like the need for daycare for working moms, flexible working hours or working remotely. Really? Are those issues really what we believe are causing our global economy to face a scenario where gender parity will not be reached for another 170 years?

If I sound mad, well that’s fair – I am. We are afraid to talk about what will really move the needle so we stick to the same old safe themes. What about taking some action?

  • ADVOCATE: Women should be advocating for other women’s careers and take an interest in building the next generation of talent to succeed them. I am lucky enough to work for J&J, a company that does that fantastically well, not only for our own talent pool but helps facilitate women in getting the support they need to flourish outside of our organization, from childhood through adulthood (see WiSTEM2D)

  • ACT: How about helping to change policies that allow families to make a decision about who should take parental leave to raise a child – regardless of gender? Until the opportunity is equal on both sides, it is always the women who stay home in greater numbers, because it’s a better economic proposition for the family. The Women’s Equality Party in the UK has some clear precise objectives and asks for PM, Theresa May, to help address this and other gender issues like violence against women, educational gaps, and gender related media bias. Shouldn’t we all be considering how these principles can be applied in our day to day lives, rather than just at the macro level? Top down and bottom up…

  • INCLUDE: Want to create an inclusive conversation about work life balance? Here’s my take. I am a single childless professional and I still have a family life. I work with many women who don’t feel empowered to make this point with pride. So on all of our behalves, I am making it. For those of you who read Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg perfectly captured when she said “It’s not only the working parents who are looking for more hours in the day; people without children are also overworked, maybe to an even greater extent.” I am tired of the implication that my activities outside of work are somehow less valid because they are not child-centric. I love my job, but to be good at it, I too need time away from it.

What point am I making here? Well, maybe it’s simply that we need to evolve the gender parity conversation into action. I feel compelled to mention that this is a call to action for both men and women. We are all part of the solution here. The time for facts and figures are over. Please people, let’s get empowered to do something. 170 years is a long time….

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