One of the high spots of the year for me is getting involved with International Women’s Day (IWD). I find the event, which takes place annually on March 8, and the series of activities around it is always a timely reminder of how far we’ve come—and how far we have yet to go—in accelerating equality and inclusion in the workplace. And I am proud that Accenture’s research always features keenly in telling it like it is.

IWD 2021

This year, Accenture has partnered with Women (W20), the non-government policy group affiliated to the G20, to produce a new report titled: “If not now, when?” The report looks closely at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and offers a roadmap toward a more gender-equitable economic recovery.

As the report acknowledges, we must all seize the opportunity to build forward better for women and accelerate gender equality for all. Especially since our research found that the pandemic could extend the time to gender equality by 51 years (moving the goalposts to reach equality by 2171 instead of 2120). Many working mothers will be able to tell you why. The research found that 79% of women are more likely than men to be made redundant and women shoulder 76% of unpaid care work hours.

In particular, COVID-19 has highlighted some of the workplace inclusion differences between women and men. There’s an average decline in women’s income of 16.5% in women vs 10.1% for men and women’s reliance on the internet for both work (54%) and personal life (35%) is higher than for men.

Seize the equality inclusion opportunity

Of course, these aren’t new shortfalls—gender inequality has been a hot topic for close to 110 years! But the report helps us to look at these issues with a new lens. Here’s a couple of suggestions for businesses to move the dial:

  • Workplace inclusion: Recruiting more women is an important first step, but organizations need to create workplace cultures in which women thrive and advance. State the case for greater diversity. Set bold targets for all women. Mitigate the burden of unpaid work on women and reduce bias, discrimination and harassment. At Accenture, our ambition is to be the most inclusive and diverse company in the world. We are accelerating a culture of equality through programs such as our Global IT Women’s Network that meets monthly to discuss relevant issues, deliver training and network with like-minded individuals. We also support apprenticeship programs to provide more inclusive career opportunities. Also, we partner with third-party organizations such as everywomanNetwork and Catalyst to provide free access to online self-development platforms.
  • Digital inclusion: Businesses must look to close digital gender gaps in terms of access, use and development. Build digital infrastructures that work for women. Increase women’s digital literacy. Boost the participation of women in developing new technologies. And develop gender-sensitive ethical guidelines on advanced technologies. I believe Accenture’s culture of equality unleashes innovation. We use our “technology quotient” (TQ) skills development program to offer key technical training to all Accenture employees. Topics include: Agile and DevOps (shortening the software development lifecycle), artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud, data and security. Even before the pandemic our research found that 97 million women could enter paid work if their digital fluency rate doubled.

As you would expect, Accenture is supporting the IWD celebrations and I feel privileged to participate in the proceedings. This year we will be relying on some of the global IT expertise to run virtual streaming platforms and spotlighting champions to host meetings on the key topics of the day. Our own global IT IWD event is planned for March 18 and we’ll be running a number of different activities and streams.

And I’ll be participating in a Keynote Fireside Chat with Pam Prince-Eason, President and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council around the theme: Focus on the Future.

Accenture has already articulated a vision for the future—“let there be change”—and there is no better area than inclusion and diversity to drive such change. In fact, I don’t think our commitment to equality has ever been more relevant than it is today—the past year has inspired us to drive our innovation agenda and act as responsible business leaders.

I invite you to join the conversation and keep up-to-date with what’s happening. Take a look at our Web page, read the research and check out our videos to see how Accenture is getting involved. And join me in asking yourself “what can I do to accelerate gender equality for all?”

Penelope Prett

Chief Information Officer

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