05 March 2015

Ireland, Dublin

Conference to mark International Women’s Day (8 March) highlights more is needed to address gender diversity gap

  • Efforts on gender diversity are not improving women’s workforce progression quickly enough
  • First-of-its-kind analysis links global practices to outcomes and calls for new approaches
  • Mercer sample research for Ireland indicates men can expect a retirement pot 60% higher than women

Women, continue to be underrepresented at the most senior levels in businesses, and are not progressing sufficiently in their careers despite two decades of organisational efforts to achieve gender diversity and equality, according to new global research from Mercer.  The ‘When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive’, report findings were presented at a seminar in Dublin today organised by Mercer, in association with the 30% Club.

Among survey participants, if current approaches continue unchanged, only one-third of executive positions globally will be held by women by 2024. North America today has a higher percentage of women in executive positions (24%) than Europe/Pacific (18%). However, if recent trends continue, the representation of women in Europe/Pacific is poised to improve significantly, where progression in North America is stalled.

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,” said Martine Ferland, Retirement Leader for EuroPac, Mercer. “It’s time to act differently, to address the unique needs of female employees and realise the benefit of their full participation,” added Ms Ferland.

Speaking at the seminar in Dublin, Bríd Horan, of the 30% Club said: “The focus for us in Ireland is on gaining support for gender balance at all levels from business leaders in public, private, state and multinational companies.  Mercer, through the ‘When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive’ research, is leading the way in understanding the key issues that drive gender diversity.  We need other business organisations and leaders to come on board in a similar way to support such change.”

Mercer presented research for Ireland which showed that men can expect a final retirement pot on average 60% higher than women. The reasons include fewer gaps in service, higher salaries and higher savings rates.

Commenting on the findings Mairead O’Mahony, DC Leader, Ireland said: “Women face a triple bind of lower earnings, more gaps in service and longer life expectancy – all of these factors mean that women have to draw from a smaller pool of assets for a longer period of time in retirement”. She added: “This means financial planning becomes even more important for women. Organisations who recognise and provide for the unique needs of women when it comes to financial planning will distinguish themselves in attracting and retaining female talent.

“Clearly, companies can do better in addressing and progressing gender equality in the workplace and leveraging the capabilities of a diverse workforce,” said Ms. O’Mahony. “Given the size of the untapped female workforce, greater participation of women has major implications for the economic and social development of communities and countries as well as business performance.”

Mercer’s research - which involved 164 companies in 28 countries, representing 1.7 million employees - assesses the impact of organizational practices and policies on the representation of women in the workforce.  Its findings demonstrate that organisations are still far from achieving gender equality. Despite making up 41% of the workforce globally, women’s highest representation among all career levels is in support staff roles. Women make up 40% of the workforce at the professional level and 36% at the managerial level, but only 26% of senior managers and 19% of executives.

Importantly, how well organisations make use of female talent is a function of how well they attract, develop, and retain them. Mercer’s research indicates that organisations that manage gender diversity by seeking holistic solutions, fostering passion over formality, managing actively, thinking and acting differently and realising the unique values that both men and women bring will have more favourable representation of women in senior positions in the long-term.


March 5, 2015.