Times are changing. News cycles come and go in minutes, thanks to social media. Supercomputers now fit in pockets and purses. And commerce never stops.
So business leaders take note: no matter what industry you’re in or what continent you’re on, firms no longer have an excuse not to bring purpose to your work and parity to your workplace. Why? Because purpose and parity are driving profit and performance. That’s a bold statement, but the numbers back it up.
Start with purpose. Nearly three-quarters of the 1,470 business leaders from a wide range of industries around the world that EY spoke with last year said that having a well-integrated purpose helps them navigate today’s disrupted environment.
Additionally, two-thirds of the business executives interviewed by EY are rethinking their organizations’ purpose, and more than half of those are moving toward a broader definition of purpose that includes employees, customers, shareholders and society as a whole.
Good for purpose. But, what about parity?
Women in particular have identified purpose as a vehicle to navigate the perils and perks of disruption.
In fact, 80% of women interviewed by EY said that purpose helps guide their organization through volatility, compared to just under 70% of men who were surveyed. When it comes to realizing the proven benefits of purposeful business – like better employee retention, stronger customer engagement and a more innovative workforce – that 10% gap could mean the difference between seizing and skipping this transformative opportunity.
That’s not the only way purpose and parity go hand-in-hand. EY research shows that more women than men believe purpose creates value for their organization. Similarly, the 2015 Workforce Purpose Index by Imperative found that women are more likely than men to be purpose-oriented workers.
Women recognize the value of purpose and the benefits it brings. But what does that have to do with bringing women into leadership roles?
Women leaders put purpose into practice
A key challenge of moving purpose from rhetoric to reality is making sure all employees are motivated by it and living it, not just the C-suite or the marketing department. More than 85% of women describe collaborating and integrating purpose through a wide network as “extremely critical.”
The positive relationship between purpose-driven leadership and gender equality may help explain why a 2018 report from Development Dimensions International, The Conference Board, and EY found that increasing gender diversity correlates directly with stronger growth and more effective leadership. Similarly, a 2016 EY-sponsored study by The Petersen Institute for International Economics found that an organization with 30% female leaders could add up to 6 percentage points to its net margin.
Further evidence suggests the leadership skills needed to navigate today’s volatile markets and an increasingly interconnected world are the same skills that women tend to be stronger in – relationship-building, interpersonal communication and collaboration, and balancing competing priorities. When organizations illuminate clear paths to leadership, build inclusive cultures, and support flexibility, women rise within the ranks, often inspiring purposeful transformations within their organizations along the way.
Purpose and parity reinforce one another. Regardless of where this cycle started, it’s a good for business – and good for society.
How do we advance gender parity?
The social and economic benefits of purpose and parity are clearer than ever. Women and men believe in purpose, and are motivated by it. Women and men seek meaning in the work they do. And women and men want to work for organizations that look beyond short-term shareholder value, and seek to have a greater impact on society.
As leaders, let's ask ourselves:
- Are we building inclusive environments that bring purpose to life for every employee?
- Are we creating workplaces that allow everyone to bring their full, human self to work?
- Are we proactively sponsoring women in leadership roles?
- Are we making space for women and men to question decisions through the lens of purpose?
If we work toward a “Yes” answer to each of these questions, we’ll see the path forward is pretty straightforward: parity and purpose drive profit and performance. The more disrupted and uncertain the world, the better that simple formula works.
Businesses willing to follow this path will find themselves at the intersection of profit and purpose – and this builds a better working world for us all.