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Why Benchmarking is Critical for Diveristy Success

By Melissa J. Anderson

“We’ve been working on our own journey of promoting and measuring progress in gender equality,” explained Pamela Craig, CFO of Accenture. “We’ve always been interested in a global approach – and there are differences among countries. For example, in the Philippines we have a long history of women in leadership. But in other locations – like Japan – it’s more challenging.”

Craig continued, “That’s why it was interesting at this year’s World Economic Forum to hear from Nicole [Schwab], who very much has a global approach – to get to a global standard. It was inspiring to hear her vision and how it’s evolved.”

The Gender Equality Project (TGEP) was launched earlier this year at Davos, with the goal of helping global companies measure gender equality quantitatively and qualitatively across national borders and cultures.

“The approach to TGEP is extremely thoughtful, in terms of how it is intended to measure progress and understand what equivalency is. It is thought-provoking. For me, the light bulb just went on,” she explained.

Self-Assessment

While the chief goal of the project is to set up a global certification system, the organization has added a “self-assessment” component. At recent event in New York, Schwab explained that many companies aren’t quite ready to go public with their gender equality progress, divulging promotion numbers and pay equity statistics to the public – which certification would entail.

But with a standardized assessment methodology, companies can measure their own progress and see where they stand compared to other organizations and industries. That’s why TGEP has developed its self-assessment tool. It enables companies to measure their progress against benchmarks across industries and global regions. Schwab said she hopes benchmarking will allow companies to move faster toward gender parity.

The self-assessment portal is where Accenture comes in. After hearing Schwab’s presentation, Craig said she was so inspired that she knew her company had to partner with TGEP. She joined its Advisory Council, and Accenture has become TGEP’s Strategy and Technology partner and will design, build and deploy a cloud-based self-assessment web portal for the organization based on technology from Salesforce.com. “Utilizing the cloud allows a multi-tenant, efficient approach and can, therefore, promote benchmarking without revealing names,” she said.

Measurement is Key to Success

“I’m personally pleased to be working with TGEP. Understanding, measuring, and improving is what it’s all about. After all, I’m a CFO,” Craig said with a laugh.

“But numbers don’t lie. Metrics quickly bring people to focus on things – I’ve found that to be true my whole life. It brings concepts to a science that people can get their heads around.”

She continued, “The web portal will help companies gain some notion of how they are stacking up and how they can do better, leading to positive actions and results. In the end, we want to understand how we are making progress and advancing and developing women.”

With Accenture’s help, the organization will be able to scale up its footprint, and according to Craig, the portal will be easy to use. “The architecture is going to lend itself to engagement,” she said. “Ease of use is an important characteristic.”

Leading by Example

“I’ve always believed in doing things by example. That’s why we are trying to do our part at Accenture to advance and develop women,” Craig explained.

“And to a degree, that’s what we’re doing with other organizations through TGEP – sharing that this is an issue we care about, and it’s an important issue to care about for the world. I’m always excited when we can marry our strengths, such as our technology expertise, to the issues that are important to us.”

Craig added that she was particularly inspired by the fact that Schwab and co-founder Aniela Unguresan were so passionate about gender equality while being relatively young. “It’s so important that the next generation is taking this on. It’s not just us senior women – the issue is growing legs over time. That is big!”

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