If it seems like society has made some gains in closing the gender gap in recent years, consider this. At the current rate of improvement, global markets would see gender equity … in 217 years.


This sobering projection was presented by the Closing the Gender Gap Project during the January 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While few would argue that Canadian women are two centuries away from gender equality, decades – or even a few more years – of continued gaps in pay and opportunities can have serious ramifications for society, individuals, families and organizations.


In Canada, there’s still room for improvement. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016-17, women comprised 56.1% of post-secondary enrollment, but in November 2018, only 61.4% of Canadian women (versus 69.6 % of men) participated in the labour force. In addition, only 593,400 women in 2017 were employed in management positions throughout Canada compared to 1.124 million men.

Status of Gender Equity in Canada

D&I supporters have experienced a roller coaster ride recently as sensational news stories thrust harassment and inequity into the spotlight and stoked a national conversation. In little more than a year since the birth of the #MeToo movement, some fear that the momentum is slowing, at least in some Canadian organizations.


One reason for its limited staying power is that many organizations treat diversity and inclusion as a one-time, “check-the-box” exercise performed by an overtaxed, underfunded HR. In comparison to other “national conversations” on equality, this time might be different. Many employers are realizing that the days of “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” are over. Today, the reality is: “What you don’t know can, and probably WILL, hurt you.” The damage can impact return on investment, stock valuation, legal susceptibility, reputation, talent management, consumer relations and more.


The issue is much more than risk mitigation, however, as research is showing that gender equality – and total diversity – improves business results and powers an organization’s talent strategy, improves employer brand and increases employee engagement by ensuring equitable career opportunities for all. Firms with high inclusivity report 25-50% higher employee engagement, 204% (versus 76% for other organizations) 10-year share-price growth and 841% (versus 49%) 10-year net income growth (Kouzes and Posner 2014 & Roi 2006).

How Do You Get There? It Takes Active Change Management

It’s time for organizations to reset the conversation (and culture) with a purposeful change management and transformation plan for a complete shift in mindset. This will take much more than a one-time-event, slogans, signs or a new HR initiative.  Sustainable and evolving change in processes, practices, protocols and culture require a holistic view, and buy-in and accountability at all levels, especially support for middle managers who are on the frontlines and serve as the face of the organization.


Some of the methods to create change include leader and manager training, employee focus groups and test kitchens, a new communication plan with key message platforms and interactive tools. These are all effective, but to build a truly diverse and inclusive culture – that incorporates gender, race, sexual orientation, backgrounds, thoughts, perspectives, experiences and more – new technology is providing a tremendous boost.

Technology: Objective and Robust Support

In a recent study, Mercer found that only 4% of organizations used hard evidence to value and reward their employees’ diverse skills and experiences; 49% relied on qualitative information. In such a complex, rapidly evolving area fraught with great risks and rewards, organizations should move from feel and instincts toward analytics.


D&I technology and workforce analytics are becoming much more than tools to meet legal/compliance requirements; they are becoming important components of firms’ enterprise software by filtering out biases and creating evidence-based diversity programs.


There are some truly remarkable new tools and processes that can help move the conversation from “diversity is the right thing to do” or “it just feels right” – all admirable positions – to “this is the right thing to do, because it is fair and data show this is how to make it equitable – and profitable.” D&I technologies can be targeted at candidates or employees and can be grouped into talent acquisition, development and advancement, engagement and retention, and analytics.

Following are just a few recent developments that are making a tremendous impact on D&I change management:


Mercer’s Mercer’s Internal Labor Market Analysis® can help companies see employee representation by level and make future projections based on information from the organization’s HR and payroll data and other sources. It helps an employer answer who gets hired, who performs well, who advances and who stays. At a more advanced level, the analysis can look at causation to see what management actions and employee behaviours account for workforce outcomes.


Organizational Network Analysis can help employers understand how people communicate and interact proportionately with some groups over others and the impact of such connections. This review looks at how diverse, inclusive and respectful an organization is among groups and unveils team dynamics that otherwise might have been hidden.


Mercer Pay Equity Index helps organizations ensure the alignment of their compensation practices with their rewards philosophy and overall talent strategy. Unfortunately, recent Mercer research shows that only 35% of organizations reported having robust pay equity review processes. Our desktop Pay Equity Calculator further assists organizations in investigating areas of risk, considers the impact of different actions and tracks decisions when reviewing individual outliers.


Self-identification is an increasingly important process to help measure an employee’s experience by categories and can support an employer’s effort to gather information on LGBTQ status, disability and more, and use the information to assist individuals and groups.

Where Do You Go from Here?

New technology is helping organizations understand that diversity is much more than an issue about individuals; it’s about culture and systems, which require systemic solutions. This means a deliberate strategy that includes processes, policies, technology, culture and behaviors, purposely designed to address individual and structural bias (intentional or not) that are barriers to fair and respectful treatment in the workplace.


Organizations can no longer sit back and wait for changing winds; it’s here, and the world as we know it is evolving at break-neck speeds. Companies that don’t reinvent themselves from a cultural standpoint won’t be in it for the long term. Those that get it will continue to evolve and mirror the world to drive better business and growth, and to attract and retain employees who also mirror the world.


Total diversity is a complex but rewarding journey. In the coming weeks and beyond, Mercer will be unveiling new research and thought leadership to help organizations work through this challenging but exciting time. Check out the latest at Mercer.ca and contact us today to see how, together, we can move this topic from conversation to action to results.

Join the Conversation

Now is the time to ensure your organization has a respectful workplace where diversity and inclusion flourish.

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