Women in industry

Actions to make gender diversity a reality

The evidence is clear around the business benefits of gender diverse leadership. And yet, around the world and across industries, progress is frustratingly slow. Research from the World Economic Forum says it will take until 2133 to reach gender parity4. No business can afford to wait that long to reap the rewards of diversity.

The good news is that we can all take action today – at a Board level and as individuals.

EY - What women can do

What women can do

Our discussions with female leaders revealed insights into how women can take action to advance their own careers:

  • Take charge of the next phase of your career; spread the word about what you want, seek guidance and have a plan
  • Seek mentors to provide advice and guidance, and sponsors to endorse you across wider networks
  • Consider focused networking to build relationships and connections beyond your existing networks
  • If Board service is on your horizon, start thinking about it today: understand what it takes to serve on a Board and how your skills and experience can be enhanced to prepare for this role. Consider Board-readiness training

In our inspiring women series, we profile inspirational female leaders who have shared their experiences and insights on how they overcame potential barriers to reach their leadership positions. Read about some of the actions they took.

EY - What men can do

What men can do

Most senior business leaders are male. Men can close the gender gap by making diversity a personal priority.

  • Become a mentor and share your experience and knowledge with female colleagues
  • Become a sponsor to help female colleagues navigate their career paths; endorse them within your networks
  • Consider whether your team has sufficient diversity of thought and experience to avoid “groupthink” and develop innovative solutions
  • Organize networking and social opportunities that involve activities and environments that make everyone feel welcome and comfortable
  • Create a culture of diversity and inclusiveness that encourages both men and women to excel
  • Consider critically where unconscious bias impacts your decisions about who to work with, who to hire and how to network and collaborate
EY - What boards can do

What boards can do

Our research shows five disconnects holding businesses back from achieving greater gender diversity at the Board level. Overcoming these disconnects requires Boards to make a commitment to change and take real, measurable actions.

  • Overcome the reality disconnect

    Does your company have an unrealistic view of your progress towards achieving gender diversity in the Boardroom?


    • Given the proven benefits of gender diversity, how well is your organization positioned to reap these rewards?
    • How is a lack of diverse leadership impacting your ability to innovate?
    • What is your plan to achieve gender parity in your leadership team?
    • Is this strategy grounded on concrete steps or just good intentions and wishful thinking?


    • Take a critical view of where you are now and where you need to be
    • Align your vision of the future with pathways to get there
    • Don’t assume gender parity will take care of itself. Implement key enablers of gender parity — from increased and more inclusive networking opportunities to formal training, sponsorship and mentoring programs
  • Overcome the data disconnect

    How are your efforts to measure gender diversity in leadership helping – or hindering – your progress?


    • What specific goals do you have regarding gender diversity?
    • How are you measuring your progress towards these goals?
    • If you aren’t measuring progress against a set goal, how do you know when you’ve achieved it?
    • How do you know what’s working and what’s not, as you strive for greater gender diversity?
    • What are you telling your shareholders about your progress towards gender diversity?
    • Is your business going to achieve its top priorities without greater gender diverse leadership?


    • Set your company a concrete target regarding gender diversity
    • Measure the progress towards this target by using clear metrics to count the numbers of women at all levels and in all areas of your business
    • Use this data to identify obstacles and enablers to female career advancement
    • Be more transparent and accountable about gender diversity — this is an increasingly important issue to stakeholders
    • Use this data to improve efforts to achieve gender diversity throughout the organization
  • Overcome the pipeline disconnect

    Does your company have a pipeline for future female leaders?


    • What is your plan to attract and recruit the most outstanding female talent?
    • Once you’ve recruited the best women, what is your plan to retain, develop and promote them to senior leadership positions?
    • Are you assigning women to profit and loss and strategic roles so they get the experience they need to progress to senior leadership positions?
    • Do you know — if, why and when — your leaders of tomorrow are leaving today?


    • Determine what your company must do to become an employer of choice for women
    • Implement formal programs to identify potential female leaders and develop these women in a way that makes sense to them
    • Ask your female employees how you could improve the senior leadership pipeline
  • Overcome the perception and perspective disconnect

    How can you bring the men and women in your organization together to make faster progress towards greater gender diversity at the Board level?


    • Are men and women in your organization aligned on their perceptions of the barriers and accelerators to greater gender diversity? How can you bring these perceptions closer together?
    • Have you asked the women in your organization what would enable their career progression?
    • How are you using this feedback to overcome barriers to career progression?
    • Are you embedding a diverse and inclusive corporate culture that embraces all views and is free of conscious and unconscious bias?


    • Create opportunities for open dialogue between men and women about challenges and potential solutions
    • Make a greater effort to understand this challenge from those who have lived it
    • Take an active role and support the pipeline of female talent. Advise and sponsor women and encourage all executives — male and female — to do the same
    • Decide what actions you will take now that will contribute to a more inclusive — and successful — organization. Commit to making gender diversity your legacy
  • Overcome the progress disconnect

    What best practices from other industries and organizations can improve your own company’s progress towards gender diverse leadership?


    • Is your industry adopting best practice for gender diversity?
    • How does your industry compare to others on this issue?
    • What examples can you apply from industries that are more gender diverse than yours?


    • Take a holistic, cross-sector view of what’s possible and how to achieve it
    • Adopt the best practices for achieving gender diversity, no matter where they originated
    • Consider how you and your organization can play an active role in improving your industry’s gender diversity

4 World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2015