"While the diversity efforts of the past several decades have resulted in some improvements in women's participation rates and career trajectories, our research shows that we're still decades away from true gender equality - if we keep doing what we're doing," Mercer President - North America Region - Pat Milligan said.
     
There is a need to act differently to realise the benefit of their full participation and address the unique needs of female employees, she added.
     
The Mercer report titled 'When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive' revealed that despite making up 41 percent of the workforce globally, women's highest representation among all career levels is in support staff roles.

Women make up 40 percent of the workforce at the professional level and 36 percent at the managerial level, but only 26 percent of senior managers and 19 percent of executives, it pointed out.     

The study said that active involvement of senior leaders in gender diversity leads to greater, accelerated representation of women in executive roles.
     
Yet, just more than half (56 percent) of organisations indicate that their senior executives are actively involved in diversity and inclusion programmes, it said.
     
Further, it said, a dedicated team responsible for pay equity leads to more women in senior roles while common policies like flexible work schedules and leave programmes, are associated with slower improvement in the number of women in leadership positions.

The study also showed that non-traditional solutions to gender diversity positively impact an organisation's long-term ability to engage and retain female talent.
     
For instance, more diverse retirement programmes, including monitoring savings by gender, providing investment training customised to different gender realities and gender-specific health education campaigns correlate with greater representation of women at senior levels.

However, fewer than 15 percent of organisations monitor savings and offer retirement programmes customised to different gender behaviours, the study said.

"Clearly, companies can do better in addressing and progressing gender equality in the workplace and leveraging the capabilities of a diverse workforce,” said Milligan.
    
"Given the size of the untapped female workforce, greater participation of women has major implications for the economic and social development of communities and nations as well as business outcomes and performance," Milligan added.

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