Cutting the gap by half would boost global profits by US$3.7 trillion, along with workforce ambition and empowerment

TORONTO, Mar. 5, 2020 – A significant gap exists between the way leaders and employees view progress toward equality in their organizations, according to new research from Accenture. Closing the gap will yield substantial benefits for companies and their employees.

The report, “Getting to Equal 2020: The Hidden Value of Culture Makers,” which includes research across 28 countries, including Canada, found that organizations are at an inflection point: Today’s workforce cares increasingly about workplace culture and believes it is critical to helping them thrive in the workplace (reported by 79% of women and 65% of men), and a majority of leaders (63%) believe an inclusive workplace culture is vital to the success of their business.

At the same time, there is a perception gap: nearly three quarters of leaders (70%) feel they create empowering environments where people have a sense of belonging, yet only two-fifths (40%) of employees agree. Additionally, the proportion of employees who do not feel included in their organizations is 9x higher than leaders believe (18% vs 2%, respectively).

Just over two thirds of leaders (70 percent) feel they create empowering environments in which, for example, employees can be themselves, raise concerns and innovate without fear of failure. Just two in five (40 percent) employees agree ​

Most leaders also rank diversity and workplace culture low on their list of top organizational priorities. The majority of leaders ranked financial performance followed by brand recognition and quality at the top of their list of priorities (83% and 70%, respectively), while only 35% ranked diversity and 18% ranked culture at the top.

“Accelerating a culture of equality in the workplace has never been more critical for driving innovation,” said Jeffrey Russell, president of Accenture in Canada. “At Accenture, we believe that a future workforce is an equal one, and our research provides a roadmap for organizations in Canada and all over the world to build a workplace culture where everyone thrives.”

Narrow the gap, accelerate progress

Aligning leaders’ perceptions with those of their employees would yield significant upsides. Everyone would advance faster, and global profits would increase by US$3.7 trillion.

If the employee perception gap were narrowed by 50 percent... We estimate that global profits would be higher by 33 percent, equivalent to US$3.7 trillion in 2019 ​

If the gap were closed by half:

  • The proportion of women in Canada who feel like a key member of their team with real influence over decisions would rise from 1-in-4 to nearly 2-in-5.
  • The annual retention rate would increase by 2% for women to 90%.
  • The proportion of women who aim to reach a leadership position in their organization would climb by 46% to 25%.

The research is especially timely for leaders, as employee expectations are only set to increase: It found that a larger percentage of Gen Z, globally, is more concerned with workplace culture than Boomers (75% vs. 64%, respectively).

“At Accenture, we recognize that when equality is made a top priority in the workplace, people feel empowered to collaborate, innovate and support each other,” says Zahra Jadavji, Managing Director, Inclusion & Diversity, Canada, Accenture. “We are committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace by promoting women at all levels, offering flexible work arrangements, including job-shares and part-time work schedules, to meet our people where they are at all stages of life.”

The Culture Makers

The global report identified a small percentage of leaders—‘Culture Makers’—who are more committed to building equal cultures. These leaders recognize the importance of factors such as pay transparency, family leave and the freedom to be creative in helping employees thrive.

In the global Accenture study, Culture Makers are much more likely to have spoken out on a range of workplace issues, including gender equality (52% vs. 35% of all leaders) and sexual harassment/discrimination (51% vs. 30%). They hold themselves accountable, leading organizations that are nearly twice as likely to have publicly announced a target to hire and retain more women.

While just 6% of global leaders surveyed are Culture Makers, they represent a more gender-balanced group compared to the broader group of leaders surveyed (45% women vs 32% of all leaders, respectively). Additionally, a full 68% of Culture Makers are Millennials, compared to 59% of all leaders. They are more likely to lead organizations where people advance, focus on innovation and remain committed — and their organizations’ profits are more than three times higher than those of their peers.

Achieving a culture of equality

The report lays out steps to help close perception gaps and drive progress toward a more equal culture that benefits everyone and enables leaders to continuously evolve their strategies to meet changing needs.

The research reaffirms that bold leadership, comprehensive action and an empowering environment are proven anchors for creating a culture of equality:

  • Bold Leadership – Leaders must truly believe that culture matters and prioritize it. For example, benchmark progress toward a culture of equality by setting and publishing targets; and reward and recognize leaders and teams on progress. A culture of equality starts at the top.
  • Comprehensive Action – Go beyond the data. Leaders should engage in a meaningful, continuous dialogue with employees. Consider face-to-face meetings, focus groups, town halls. Conducting ongoing, real-time conversations with employees helps to capture feedback and empower leadership to quickly drive change.
  • Empowering Environment – Encourage and cultivate Culture Makers. Create opportunities for future Culture Makers to opt-in and take on specific culture-related roles within their organizations and find ways to bring leaders and culture-minded employees together to develop specific, actionable solutions.
Read the global report at:


Building on previous Accenture research that has explored how to build a workplace culture of equality and the benefits for organizations and employees, the report is based on a global survey of more than 30,000 professionals in 28 countries; a survey of more than 1,700 senior executives; and a model that combines employee survey results with published labour force data. Accenture leveraged its Getting to Equal research from 2018 and 2019 to create new data and analysis using three steps: quantifying the perception gap, measuring the impact of the perception gap on employee outcomes, and measuring the impact of closing the perception gap.

About Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services in strategy and consulting, interactive, technology and operations, with digital capabilities across all of these services. We combine unmatched experience and specialized capabilities across more than 40 industries – powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. With 505,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture brings continuous innovation to help clients improve their performance and create lasting value across their enterprises. Visit


Susan Kirwin
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