This International Women’s Day, we wanted to amplify the voices of our people. Sharing their expert views and opinions, leaders from RSM dive deep into some thought-provoking questions on the importance of embracing equity in the workplace, how we can build towards that, and much more.
Why should International Women’s Day be significant to organisations?
There are three dimensions of corporate responsibility: what must be done, what should be done, and what could be done. An increasing social consciousness in consumers is driving much of the progress in the area of “what could be done” to foster a decent work environment, create more equal opportunities, make larger contributions to communities, and leave a lighter environmental footprint. All of which bring long-term benefits and meaningful change.
Organisation leaders are recognising that committing to fairness and equality, such that it becomes pervasive in the ways business values are operationalised and business is conducted, is a strategic differentiator.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a catalyst for social reform, with Sustainability Development Goal 5 (gender equality) being an area where most organisations have the power to make a real difference. If organisations do not recognise that equality is a key element for sustainability they will lose out on market share and decrease their brand value. Conversely, organisations taking gender equality and other areas of ESG seriously, will continue to gain social acceptance and brand loyalty, resulting in better economic success.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity for organisations because it is well known globally, resulting in an inescapable awareness of gender equality, or rather the lack thereof. This day of annual significance provides a chance for organisational introspection and discussion about what more could be done to drive meaningful change towards gender equality.
My message to organisation leaders this International Women’s Day is: You have the power to make a better world for everyone. Get on and do it.
Response provided by Candice Eaton Gaul, RSM International
Why is equity an important factor in achieving equality?
It’s so easy to get confused between these terms - equality and equity - so what do they really mean? Equality is ensuring everyone is given the same opportunity, and equity is striving to give everyone what they need in order to have equal access to those opportunities.
So, why is equity so important? For me, it’s about recognising and appreciating that we are all different; we all experience different barriers to accessing the opportunities that equality will give to us.
Our leaders are all committed to providing equality across our business, offering all people equal treatment irrespective of background, so we all have the chance to feel safe, respected, and valued at work, and to succeed in our role. The importance of equity in achieving this is that it creates a level playing field by providing the support and resources based on an individual’s needs. Introducing measures to achieve equity will help to eliminate the inherent gaps that exist in society.
Response provided by Hannah Catchpool, RSM UK
How do you ensure support for initiatives aimed at equity in the workplace?
I am fortunate to work amongst people that recognise each employee has varying access to resources and privileges - which makes conversations around equity and representation in the workplace easily embraced. To get support for such initiatives, you firstly need to understand and evaluate the extent to which equity exists in your workforce.
You also need to be actively spreading awareness and promoting equity. This means prioritising representation at all levels, as well as ensuring equity in terms of remuneration.
You can also achieve this by ensuring that organisations continuously evaluate their internal practices and policies, ensuring that there is regular communication to spread awareness of the importance of equity in the workplace.
Response provided by Phelokazi Nyangane, RSM South Africa
Closing the gender pay gap is critical to the economic empowerment of women. What are the risks to businesses of not taking action towards equitable pay?
Businesses cannot afford to ignore the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) and the potential risks it brings to them. Firstly, there is a legislative imperative in most countries across the world both to report and take action on the GPG. The transparent GPG numbers will impact a business’s:
- Employer branding
- Attraction and retention of top talent
- And ultimately, their growth potential and bottom line.
A study of 22,000 companies, globally, found that having at least 30% of women in the C-Suite adds 6% to the net profit margin - just one of a myriad of studies demonstrating the benefits of taking action towards equitable pay.
The GPG is a concrete way of measuring women’s position in the workforce in comparison to men. This context is a fairly compelling call to action for organisations. It is a common misunderstanding that the GPG refers to equal pay – it doesn’t. The GPG points to the difference between men and women’s earnings across the entire organisation, so actions to close the gap will need to be multi-faceted and systemic across the organisation.
The concept of equity as opposed to equality can be a useful guiding principle for organisations planning action; it allows us to differentiate the measures we take to achieve fair outcomes – one example being ‘Gender Quotas’. Pay transparency and promoting more women to leadership positions in the first instance is a great starting point.
Response provided by Catherine Corcoran, RSM Ireland.
How do you counteract comments that are negative about initiatives aimed at employment equity? (such as, “it’s reverse discrimination”, or “hire or promote the best person for the job, regardless of their gender identity”)
The way we counteract negative comments about initiatives aimed at employment equity is with common sense focused on the business. There are three areas where culture, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are business imperatives. These are:
1. The competition for talent - the true assets of our organisation driving performance.
2. Clients who are essential to our financial livelihood.
3. Community which is increasingly more critical of organisations based upon their commitment to DEI.
Starting with talent - our talent want to work in an environment where inclusion safety exists. This means safety to be authentic, to learn, to contribute and to challenge – without it being costly or expensive to their careers.
Secondly, clients and those seeking advisory services are also interested in organisations that have their finger on the pulse of the business. They want firms that embrace diversity and show up with diverse teams that embrace diversity of thought, collaboration and innovation. We serve educated business consumers who have an expectation that their teams reflect the global environments in which all do business. All things being equal in expertise, culture, diversity and inclusion is a business differentiator.
Lastly, community. If you are against the idea of culture diversity and inclusion in business, there is a risk that your business will not be found connected, relevant or engaged with the communities we serve nor the markets in which we do business. In every environment, the marketplace analyses our ESG and CSR footprint by the “S” for our social commitment. Are we engaging the next generation of accountants and making local impact? Both our talent and clients care about our standing in the community and we must care as well.
Difference is the new differentiator, and those who lack cultural dexterity will find themselves a bit deficient in this ever-emerging area. So when we hear negatives, we view them as an opportunity to bring people in and help them become the inclusive leaders that the firm, our talent, our clients and communities need them to be.
Response provided by Tracey Walker, RSM US.
What are the benefits of having an Employee Resource/Network Group aimed at the empowerment of women in the workplace?
Having an Employee Resource/Network Group fosters an environment that empowers women at all levels to interact, support one another and help develop opportunities. The main benefits that spring to mind are:
- Sharing our career journeys: We can connect with experienced mentors and peers outside of our division or local office to provide guidance and support for overcoming challenges within the workplace, growing our careers, developing our skills and achieving goals. We can all learn from each other’s journeys.
- Solutions that make a difference: Our teams come from a diverse range of backgrounds and when we share and work together, this leads to more solutions that are creative and have an impact.
- Happy me, happy we: We empower women to manage their work and family responsibilities, whilst also providing the tools and resources to support a healthy work-life balance that leads us to be happier and more productive.
Response provided by Nicole Mohan, RSM Australia
RSM Uruguay was one of the first RSM Member Firms to commit to the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles, would you advise clients to take this step, and if so, why?
We strongly encourage all organisations that have not yet signed the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles to do so.
Signing the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) represents your business commitment to this matter and it provides you with a powerful framework, tools, and other resources to advance gender equality in the workplace.
At RSM Uruguay, we are committed to empowering and giving a voice to the women that collaborate in our firm. We are very proud of the high percentage of women who are already part of our organisation and who hold leadership positions, but we still continue working to create a more equal environment in our community.
Response provided by Gabriela Montaldo, RSM Uruguay
For more information on the United Nations Women’s Empowerment principles, visit www.weps.org