IWD: Women call for greater transparency in the workplace

As part of efforts towards achieving more gender equality, women have called for greater transparency in the workplace, as more women are actively pursuing career goals than ever before.

The call was made in a survey conducted by leading tax and advisory services provider, Pricewaterhousecooper (PwC), involving over 3,600 professional women (aged 28-40 years) to find out about their career development experiences and aspirations as part of activities marking this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD).

The report titled, Time To Talk: What Has To Change For Women At Work, reveals that women are confident, ambitious and ready for what’s next, but many don’t trust what their employers are telling them about career development and promotion, or what helps or hurts their career.

In the report, CEOs recognise the importance of being transparent about their diversity and inclusion programmes to build trust, the message isn’t universal and strong enough.

According to the report, 82 percent of women surveyed are confident in their ability to fulfill their career aspirations, while 73 percent are actively seeking career advancement opportunities.

On the other hand, 42 percent feel nervous about the impact starting a family might have on their career, even as 48 percent of new mothers felt overlooked for promotions and special projects upon their return to work. 38 percent feel that taking advantage of work life balance and flexibility programmes has negative career consequences at their workplace.

While there is a clear concern over what women see as a motherhood and flexibility penalty, almost all women (97 and 95 percent respectively) said working in a job they enjoy and having flexibility to balance the demands of their career and personal/family life is important. 75 percent admitted that getting to the top of their career is important to them. 82 percent said they are confident in their ability to fulfil their career aspirations.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of the women believe an employee’s diversity status (gender, ethnicity, age, sexual preference) can be a barrier to career progression in their organisation, even as 51 percent agree that employers are doing enough to progress gender diversity.

To improve career development opportunities, 58 percent of the women identified greater transparency as the critical step employers can take. This means offering staff a clear understanding of the expectations on both sides of the employment equation, including information about career progression and success, and open conversations with employees on where they stand and what is expected of them to advance.

According to Country Senior Partner, PwC, Uyi Akpata, women are confident, ambitious and actively pursuing their career goals. Leaders should focus on creating an environment where women – and men – can have open conversations, and where there is clarity on what it takes to progress. This will benefit everyone and will lead to better results overall.

“This greater transparency is however just one piece of the puzzle, additional actions are needed to drive change. It must go hand in hand with efforts to mitigate any unconscious biases and gender stereotypes that have traditionally impacted career success and progression in workplaces around the world,” he said.

Akpata noted that women, traditionally, are not self-promoters although when they speak up they get results. He noted that the survey shows that more women are recognising the need for and power of advocating for themselves, with over half actively pursuing and negotiating for promotions, pay raises, and the career enhancing experiences so critical for advancement.

Obioma Ubah, PwC Nigeria Diversity and Inclusion Leader, self-advocacy pays off and a move to greater transparency combined with workplace and personal support will act to bolster this further.

He said: “It is really encouraging to see that more and more women are speaking up and proactively going after their career goals. Organisations can do a lot to help women progress and reach leadership positions, for example by encouraging more open career conversations, mitigating the impact of any potential unconscious biases in decisions related to career progression, and explicitly setting uniform and transparent criteria by which employees are assessed. Providing advocacy and support programmes such as mentoring and sponsorship helps too.

“Women need employers to rethink their approach to helping talent balance work, life, parenthood and family care, to prevent potential biases, and to provide organisational solutions that work,” Ubah added.

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