Women’s Equality Day Reminds us of How Much More There Is to Do

By Sandra Beach Lin, Jewelle Bickford and Ellen Kullman, Paradigm for Parity ® Co-chairs

On August 26th we celebrate the 98th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote! We remember the women who would not be denied. Because of their persistence, generations of women were given the opportunity to participate in our democracy. But as history has shown, despite having made great strides, women have a long way to go to achieve true equality.

With only 22 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, and 107 female members of Congress, women continue to make up an unequal portion of leadership positions. While women on average earn about 77 cents for every dollar that white males earn, that figure is 64 cents for black women, and 56 cents for Latinas. Without systemic cultural changes, the inequity women face in the workforce will continue.

McKinsey recently found that companies with leadership teams with gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to have above-average financial returns. Moreover, companies that demonstrate these values will be positioned to attract and retain talent.

Standing on the shoulders of the suffragettes, women are inching forward to the C-suite. The good news is that 81 companies have joined the Paradigm for Parity® coalition and follow the Paradigm for Parity® 5-Point Action Plan to bring parity to their workplace. We applaud the CEOs of our Coalition Companies — including the most recent Ken Frazier of Merck and Lorna Donatone of Sodexo — who have stepped up and committed to follow these five steps and close the gender gap in corporate leadership by 2030.

The Action Plan gives companies five concrete steps a company can take to close the gender gap: minimizing unconscious bias; increasing the number of women in senior operating roles; measuring targets at every level and communicating progress results regularly; basing career progress on business results and performance, not on presence; and, identifying women of potential and giving them sponsors in addition to mentors. When simultaneously implemented these steps will create a culture where women can thrive and succeed.

The suffragettes of almost 100 years ago showed us that we cannot make systemic change individually. We need women and men working together.

As we honor Women’s Equality Day, you can help us continue their path to parity by introducing Paradigm for Parity® coalition to a CEO or CHRO in your network. Let’s honor the 19th Amendment by adding 19 companies to the coalition!