By Susan Gallagher

While women have certainly gained ground in leadership roles over many years, we still have a long way to go. Women comprise more than 40% of the global workforce, yet hold less than 25% of leadership roles. Unconscious (or even conscious) bias and the proverbial glass ceiling still pose significant barriers to women’s advancement. According to a McKinsey study, at the rate we are going, it will take well over 100 years for women to gain parity in leadership roles.

To improve the rate of change and accelerate better outcomes, we need action. Nationwide movements such as #MeToo, Time’s Up, and the Women’s March have generated new momentum for women to lead on important issues. The 2018 mid-term elections yielded a record number of women serving in Congress. Many companies and organizations value diversity and inclusion more than ever and are creating development paths for women to succeed.

However, the pipeline for future women leaders in the executive suite remains slow and the number of top women earners has slipped back, around the nation as well as in Chicago. While Chicago’s economy has expanded, there has not been a corresponding increase of women rising to the upper ranks of leadership and management roles (McKinsey Global Institute).  These persistent inequities across Chicago’s business landscape underscore our urgent need to tackle this issue head on.

Elevating women to leadership roles is not only the right thing to do from a social and moral perspective; it has become a business imperative. There is a great deal of research to back this up. The McKinsey report indicates that gender equity worldwide can lead to a $12 trillion increase in global GDP. In Chicago, narrowing the gender gap in the workplace could increase the Chicago metro area GDP by $58 billion.

The time is right to seek action from employers. This is why The Chicago Network (TCN), an organization representing Chicago’s most powerful and influential women leaders since 1979, has launched The Chicago Network Equity Principles Campaign. This initiative aims to achieve 50% representation of women at all levels (from entry-level and mid-management to senior leaders serving as C-suite executives, and in senior management roles) in Chicago-based organizations by 2030.

By signing the Equity Principles pledge, businesses will commit to action steps to remove bias in the workplace, make the paths to success visible, and support the development of employees. TCN will create a repository and share best practices and tools that organizations find successful. To the extent our members can help and support this shared learning, we are committed to make this happen.

At Bravanti, we’re proud to be among the first signatories to this pledge. We strongly believe that creating pathways for women to succeed and achieve leadership roles will help businesses continue to attract and retain top talent in a highly competitive market, and is therefore a smart business strategy.

It’s time for business leaders to step up and work together to create a 50/50 workforce. For more information about the initiative, or to sign the pledge for your organization, please visit the website here.