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Fearless Girl’s first birthday: how should companies encourage diversity?

It's been just one year since Fearless Girl was installed, standing up to Wall St's famous horned bull, in Manhattan's Finance District. Seen by some as a cynical marketing stunt, the statue was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) to advertise the investment firm's new index fund, made up of companies with a higher percentage of women in senior positions. As the statue celebrates its first birthday on International Women's Day, SSGA has issued a statement highlighting that some change has come about, implying that its gender-diverse index, represented by Fearless Girl, has had some effect. In particular it stated:

  • in the past year, 152 publicly-traded companies that SSGA reached out to, through either its voice or its vote, that previously had no women on their boards, now have at least one female board member.

The investment firm has actively encouraged 700 of the world's largest organisations to create more transparency and share more data about the number of women they have at all levels of management, conducting a letter-writing campaign or using its vote to address lack of board diversity. SSGA voted against more than 500 companies for failing to demonstrate progress on board diversity.

The firm's Rakhi Kumar commented: “Fearless Girl has sparked important conversations around the world, and has increased shareholder action on the issue of gender diversity... However, there is still important work to be done... more than 600 companies in our original target universe have still taken no action, and we will continue our engagement and voting efforts in 2018 as we look to make additional progress on this important issue.”

13 factors that promote workplace equality

Research from Accenture has a similar message that, while progress has been made, more needs to be done to promote and encourage workplace gender diversity. It highlights the factors that create a corporate culture in which men and women can thrive equally:

  1. gender diversity is a priority for management
  2. the organisation has a published a diversity target;
  3. there is a women's workplace network, which men are welcome to join;
  4. there are clearly stated gender pay-gap goals and ambitions;
  5. employees are never asked to conform to a dress or appearance code;
  6. progress has been made in attracting, retaining and progressing women;
  7. men are encouraged to take parental leave;
  8. employees have the freedom to be creative and innovative;
  9. virtual/remote working is widely available and is common practice;
  10. the organization provides training to keep its employees’ skills relevant;
  11. employees can avoid overseas or long-distance travel via virtual meetings;
  12. employees can work from home on a day when they have a personal commitment;
  13. employees are comfortable reporting sex discrimination/sexual harassment incident(s) to the company.

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