How can more women become architects of the Transformative Age?

7 minute read 13 Mar 2019
By Julie Linn Teigland

EY EMEIA Area Managing Partner; EY Global Leader, Women. Fast forward

Passionate about the transformational power of digitalization and innovation and its potential to deliver sustainable, inclusive growth for clients. Prominent voice of the Women20 global agenda.

7 minute read 13 Mar 2019

This International Women’s Day, we need to question why it is taking so long for women to belong equally.

On 8 March we celebrate International Women’s Day across the globe, recognizing women and their achievements. Let’s be honest – we have a lot to celebrate, not only the great achievements of individual women leaders, scientists, teachers, professors, managers, mentors and mothers, but also the shared achievements in gender equality.

And there is the potential to do so much more. It’s no secret that gender equality is good for business, good for society and good for the economy:

  • Equality for women in the labor force would add $28 trillion to the global economy by 2025
  • Businesses with women at the top are worth on average $40m more than those without1
  • Boards with 30% or more women could add up to 6% to their net margin
  • When led by a woman, countries achieve an average of 5.4% GDP growth in the subsequent year, compared to 1.1% if led by a man2

But, while it’s true that we’ve come a long way since one million suffragettes from Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland started the International Women’s Day movement on 8 March 1911, we are still not there yet.

Equality for women in the labor force would add

$28 trillion

to the global economy by 2025.

Just over 100 years on, we are still a long way from achieving gender equality in society, in the workplace and in the economy. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take:

  • 108 years to close the overall global gender gap
  • 202 years to close the economic gender gap
  • 107 years to close the political gender gap

We need to ask ourselves: In this Transformative Age why is it taking so long for women to belong equally?

We need to ask ourselves: In this Transformative Age why is it taking so long for women to belong equally?

Successful organizations ensure everyone belongs

Creating a culture of belonging and inclusivity in the workplace is not simply about gender equality and equal pay. It is about creating workplaces that welcome, understand and celebrate differences, as well as seek new points of view, so that everyone can bring their full selves to work.

A study by the EY Diversity & Inclusiveness Center of Excellence in the US showed that diversity and belonging are workplace expectations. More than one-third of respondents – across generations and ethnicities – felt the greatest sense of belonging at work, ahead of their physical neighborhood, and place of worship.

In fact, in the context of work, research shows that when people feel like they belong, they are more productive, motivated and engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full potential.

It is therefore critical that everyone – men and women alike – feel like they belong in the workplace. If they don’t, motivation and productivity suffers, and that’s not good, for anyone.

That’s why this year, at EY, we are celebrating International Women’s Day through reinforcing the concept of #SheBelongs. While this could have been the tagline for the last 100 years of IWD, it is now more critical than ever that, in a world with so many fissures – politically, socially and economically - women’s full participation in the workforce and in the society is simply an assumption, a given and will soon be the reality. 

At EY, we believe there are three areas that organizations need to focus on to accelerate the inclusion of women in the economy:

1. Women in Business

Whilst progression has been made, women are still severely underrepresented in leadership roles within organizations:

  • One in five women (22%) sit on S&P500 boards3
  • Less than one third (30.2%) of women sit on FTSE100 boards4
  • Less than a third of FTSE 350 leadership roles were taken by women (2017)5

Not only this, in some parts of the world, women are excluded financially. In G20 countries, just 40% of women have access to a bank account and although women own a third of small and medium-sized enterprises, they receive only 10% of loans granted by banks.

To address this issue, these are just some of the ways the EY organization is helping to increase the number of women in business, through the EY Women. Fast forward program:

  • Creating opportunities for women to participate more easily in the workforce through flexible and remote jobs.
  • Embedding gender equality into organizations’ innovation strategy.
  • Hiring women from diverse backgrounds in the EY member firms.

2. Women in Digital

The world has changed dramatically with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. So much so that by 2022, 60% of global GDP will be digitized6. We cannot afford to exclude women from this revolution. While men run most of the world’s technology companies, hold most of the jobs in the industry and design most technology-based products and services, women are critical in terms of the future users and future markets. We leave untapped potential by the wayside when we do not include women in this transformation, and it’s happening already:

The key to including women, is to make sure #SheBelongs. We need more women, and girls, to engage in the development and application of new technologies within education, the workplace, society and the economy to ensure that we are all beneficiaries of our collective digital future. At the end of the day, if half the population is not engaged in the design and application of new technology, how can real innovation occur?

To promote gender inclusion in the digital economy, the EY organization is due to launch a Women in Tech program on International Women’s Day 2019. The program is designed to encourage girls and women to enter, remain and thrive in the world of technology whether to learn, to work or to innovate.

3. Women entrepreneurs

Starting and building businesses is often the only way many women can effectively enter the workforce. In fact, female entrepreneurs own around a third of small and medium-sized enterprises globally and they start businesses at a faster rate than men. Yet access to funding for women to start and invest in their business can be hard to come by. In 2018, only 7% of funds raised by European VC-backed companies went to female founding teams.

If women are to play their part in driving the global economy, more women must be able to create successful businesses. In doing so, not only will they provide much needed jobs in their local communities and contribute more significantly to the local economy, but they will also earn a decent income to support their families.

We need to focus on the creation of stronger entrepreneurial ecosystems with more robust angel investor networks to reinforce that women entrepreneurs belong equally. Female entrepreneurs could be encouraged through mentors who provide valuable knowledge and support, education and the deployment of such entrepreneurial skills to girls at a young age. 

That’s why EY has developed the EY Entrepreneurial Winning WomenTM program. Spanning 65 countries, the program identifies successful women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale and provides them with the support, resources and access to accelerate growth.

And it’s also why there is an EY commitment to spending US$100 million with women-owned businesses around the world by 2020.

How you can ensure #SheBelongs

A world that fails to tap the huge potential of women is always going to be a poorer world than it would otherwise have been. That’s why International Women's Day matters so much. By celebrating the cultural, economic, political and social achievements of women globally, it reminds us that women belong in our world just as much as men do. It also drives discussion around initiatives to promote inclusion and accelerate gender equality. Clearly, we can’t wait centuries to close the economic gender gap.

Small actions can make a big difference, and we all have a responsibility to make a change. Here are some of the ways you can help to fast forward gender equality in your organization.

  • Promote women’s achievements among your team, colleagues and clients
  • Ensure your team has the right skills for the future of work
  • Use data analytics ethically and responsibly
  • Challenge gender stereotypes and biases
  • Recruit and promote balanced teams
  • Sponsor a woman to support her career progression
  • Use inclusive language, always
  • Support women entrepreneurs as they build new start-ups
  • Remove barriers to women’s progress
  • Consider diverse perspectives in all your initiatives
  • Promote the importance of equality in everything you do

Join the conversation #SheBelongs. Let’s progress #WomenFastForward.

  • Show article references

    1. Analysis of S&P Composite 1500
    2. Susan Perkins, University of Illinois, and Katherine Phillips of the Columbia Business School, 188 UN recognized countries
    3. Women on Boards 2018 Gender Diversity Index
    4. Hampton Alexander Review, FTSE Women Leaders
    5. Hampton Alexander Review, FTSE Women Leaders
    6. International Data Corporation (IDC), 2018
    7. UNESCO, STEM and Gender Advancement Data (2018).; UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UIS Fact Sheet: Women in Science (2017)
    8. Forbes, STEM Fields and The Gender Gap: Where Are The Women? (2012).; WEF, 4 charts that show tech is still a man’s world (2017)
    9. Tech Republic


We need women to belong equally: in business; in digital; as entrepreneurs. To drive inclusive growth, women need to be architects of the Transformative Age.

About this article

By Julie Linn Teigland

EY EMEIA Area Managing Partner; EY Global Leader, Women. Fast forward

Passionate about the transformational power of digitalization and innovation and its potential to deliver sustainable, inclusive growth for clients. Prominent voice of the Women20 global agenda.