Companies lack plans to add more women to management, despite CEO pledges: Study

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There’s no shortage of corporate leaders who say they care about diversity and pledge to promote more women. The executives in charge of human resources, however, say there are few if any strategies for actually making it happen.

Only 40 per cent of U.S. companies have action plans to advance women to senior leadership roles, according to new research in which 400 top HR officers in the U.S. and Canada were surveyed. The percentage is even lower in Canada, at 36 per cent. And in both cases less than half — 41 per cent in the U.S., 44 per cent in Canada — have strategies for hiring more women at the entry level to fill leadership positions down the line.

The study, “Advancing Women as Leaders in the Private Sector,” was released on Monday by the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.

It’s hard to address personnel trends that don’t get tracked in the first place. Less than half of top HR officers said their companies had accurate data on a variety of measures that contribute to women’s professional success, the study found. That included data on the recruitment of women, retention of women after maternity leave, and attrition rates. Just over one-third of American companies have accurate data on pay by gender.

There’s a silver lining here, said Julie Sweet, chief executive officer of Accenture North America, who helped lead the research: Companies’ efforts have been so lackluster that once CEOs start dedicating meaningful resources to diversity, change could happen fast.

“By simply putting in the basic elements of business priorities — a vision, leadership accountability, measurements and an action plan — we believe that companies will be able to make progress pretty quickly,” Sweet said.

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