We know all too well that we need to close the pay gap and that we need more women in leadership positions, and many employers have set goals to make that happen. But figuring out the best way to execute these objectives can be tricky.
One company, though, is making moves to uncover tangible solutions. In its annual “Getting to Equal” research report, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, Accenture reveals what, exactly, it might take to get more women into top roles (which, by the way, is an objective key to Accenture’s mission).
This year, the theme of the report is “when she rises, we all rise.” The company surveyed 22,000 working men and women in 34 countries to determine employees’ perception of factors that contribute to the culture in which they work. Out of 200-plus factors — which include policies and behaviors — Accenture has identified 40 that are statistically shown to influence advancement, and 14 that are most likely to effect change.
“Leaders of businesses and organizations have the power to close the gender gap in career advancement and pay,” Accenture CEO, North America Julie Sweet and Chief Leadership & HR Officer Ellyn Shook wrote in their introduction to the report. “We found that when these  factors are most common, women are four times more likely to reach senior manager and director levels. Globally, for every 100 male managers, there could be up to 84 female managers, compared with the current ratio of 100 to 34.
“Women’s pay could increase by 51 percent, or up to an additional $30,000 per woman each year. Globally, that equates to a lift in women’s earnings of $2.9 trillion,” Sweet and Shook added.
Accenture’s report offers some real, actionable solutions to advancing women at work. And here are five ways the company is leading by example:
1. Having women on leadership teams.
Having at least one woman on a company’s leadership team can triple the number of women in that company’s management pipeline. A part of why Accenture’s declared a goal to grow its percentage of women at the managing director level to 25% globally, by 2020.
2. Setting diversity targets.
When leadership teams are held accountable for improving gender diversity, companies are 63 percent more likely to have seen the share of women in senior leadership roles increase over the past five years. Accenture is walking the walk: the firm has declared that its workforce will reach true gender balance by 2025.
3. Parental leave policies are most beneficial to women when they’re inclusive of men.
Accenture’s report indicates that when companies implement policies that target women only — like maternity leave but not paternity leave — this can actually be counterproductive and hold women back. Yet when employers offer inclusive parental leave policies to all parents, that negative impact disappears completely. To level the playing field rather than creating a mommy track, Accenture offers paid leave to both mothers and fathers, and allows both men and women who often travel for work the opportunity to stay in their hometown for a year after the birth or adoption of a child.
4. Women’s networks are effective tools.
Accenture, which offers an array of internal networking and mentorship opportunities for employees, has found that two-thirds of “fast-track women” participate in women’s networks at their company (the firm defines “fast-track women” as those who have become an owner, partner, or c-suite executive within less than 26 years; women who have become an EVP in less than 21 years; women who have become a VP in less than 16 years; and women who have become a manager in less than five years.)
5. Establishing trust in employees essential.
Women’s advancement at work is accelerated at companies that trust employees and encourage freedom and creativity. Sixty percent of Accenture’s survey respondents say that when their company gives them trust and responsibility, it helps them advance. Establishing trust is a key pillar of Accenture’s culture. Jessica Hartley, a business development director at Accenture, explains how that trust translates to results: “One of the things that was most exciting to me about coming to Accenture was the possibilities and the potential,” Hartley says. “Most of the people you meet here — if they’ve been here for five or seven years — whatever door they came in is probably slightly different, or in some cases very different [from what they’re doing now.] It’s fascinating for me to hear them share their story of how they started out.”