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These ten companies admitted they don't employ enough women

Barclays, PwC and Unilever are among those sharing data on gender parity in a new UN report.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 24 Jan 2016

For all the talk about improving gender diversity at work, most companies would probably prefer to keep shtum on their own numbers – at least until they’ve improved them a bit more. But ten big firms have agreed to have their dirty laundry aired as part of a United Nations report.

UN Women’s inaugural 'HeForShe Parity Report' was unveiled at Davos today, as AccorHotels, Barclays, Turkey's largest conglomerate Koc Holding (pronounced kotch...), McKinsey & Company, PwC, Schneider Electric, Tupperware Brands, Twitter, Unilever and Vodafone simultaneously shared data publicly.

Based on 2014 data, women represent close to 40% of new hires at the companies, predominantly at the entry level. That's fairly underwhelming, though it wouldn't be such a problem if all these entry-level women felt they were being given opportunity to progress within these firms.

That's less likely to happen considering men comprised on average 73% of senior management positions at the companies in question. New hires, particularly at a lower grade, are unlikely to find much confidence seeing so few women higher up. There's a lot to be said for visibility of relatable role models.

The companies span a range of industries and collectively employ more than one million people in 190 countries. Despite the ‘must do better’ feel to the report, it’s encouraging to see such big firms open up – not just on percentages of women overall, but in the boardroom and for new hires, both entry and senior levels. By taking part in the report, the companies apparently committed to speeding up ‘progress towards parity in their workforce’ and reporting on it annually as they do so.

The UN also took time to consider its own performance. In 2014, women represented 43.4% of UN staff and 45.8% of all new appointments. Like the companies which offered up data, the percentage of women fell as the seniority of position increased – only 27.7% of the highest decision-making roles at the UN were filled by women.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women executive director, told Business Insider, ‘There was always temptation at certain times for this to be delegated to someone else that did not have as much authority as the CEO – and we resisted that all the time.’ She noted that whenever it was the CEO driving the issue ‘you actually saw the company moving up and moving forward’.

Each firm has outlined strategies for improving the underwhelming figures, though some of these do shed light on just how much work there is to be done. While Twitter is aiming to bring the overall percentage of women at the firm up to 35% by the end of this year, its goal for senior level is 25% (if it's not swallowed by another tech giant in the mean time, of course).

If you can handle the eyesore which is the full report, there’s a lot of talk about what can and will be done, as often seems the way with this type of research. Though if there's going to be annual updates there might at least be some accountability. When implementation actually becomes an active concept rather than an abstract discussion we might see improved figures from more firms. 

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