When Women Do Better, Economies To Do Better

By Mara Swan (ManpowerGroup), ManpowerGroup
12:21 PM, July 17, 2013

Few companies have helped empower women like ManpowerGroup – both inside and outside our organization. As the world leader in innovative workforce solutions for 65 years, ManpowerGroup was one of the first employers to bring women into the workforce decades ago and remains a pioneer for women today. We not only provide experience and employment opportunities to women that they previously may not have had access to, but equally important, we nurture a culture that respects how diversity of thought inspires the productivity, innovation, and collaboration companies need in the Human Age – an era of certain uncertainty requiring flexibility and new approaches to work.

Every March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day to honor the economic, political, and social achievements of women. While much progress has been made – for example, I am writing this piece the day after the passing of Margaret Thatcher, a woman who certainly made her mark on the world as the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom – many barriers still exist. Women are still grossly underrepresented both in the workforce as a whole and, particularly, in leadership positions.

According to the International Labor Organization, nearly half of working age women are not currently active in the formal global economy. Grant Thornton’s 2012 International Business Report revealed that barely one in five senior management positions globally are held by women. Among Fortune 500 companies, only 15.7 percent of board seats are held by women. The issue of women in the workforce is not about fairness or merely achieving gender parity, it is a critical economic issue.

Women account for 70 percent of global consumer spending, which means that when we do better, economies do better. Women also make up half of the global talent pool, yet they are being underleveraged at a time when businesses across the globe cannot find the talent they need to drive future growth – ManpowerGroup’s 2013 survey shows 35 percent of employers report talent shortages. This situation is not sustainable.

Project start

Contact person
Mara Swan
America’s Top Corporations

Project benefit

  • Advocating women within the company
Anti-Corruption -
Business & Peace -
Development -
Environment -
Financial Markets -
Implementing UNGC Principles in your Corporate CSR Management -
Human Rights -
Labour Standards X
Local Networks -
Advocacy of global issues -
Business opportunities in low income communities/countries -
Project funding -
Provision of goods -
Provision of services/personal X
Standards and guidelines development -

Accelerating demographic shifts in many countries, particularly developed markets, are shrinking traditional talent pools. As world economic growth continues to shift south and east, emerging markets have plenty of people but not necessarily the required qualified talent. In a world where uncertainty is the one certainty, diversity of thought is required to remain agile and adaptable in the face of an unpredictable business environment.

The modern issue of women in work is not necessarily one of deliberate exclusion; companies on the whole desire an inclusive workforce because they recognize there is no substitute for diversity of thought and perspective. The issue now is this – what companies are offering is not what women want. The barriers placed in front of working women are social, cultural, and structural, and there needs to be a shift toward contemporary work models that better provide them with the flexibility they seek so that the percentage of women in the workforce does not drop off with every sorting of talent.

There also needs to be greater focus on strategic ways to reintegrate women who temporarily leave the workforce to raise a family. Skills lifecycles are now so short that being out of the workforce for a period of time makes it extremely difficult to return because skills have atrophied in the interim. This requires flexible work models and people practices so that women are not forced to choose between a career and children. Evolving technology makes flexible working feasible, where it was simply not possible in the past – now we can work from anywhere, meaning that women who are the sole caretakers of their children and cannot be in an office or workplace at certain times of the day have the option of flexible hours and telecommuting.
Across the world, ManpowerGroup is committed to providing training, experience, and employment opportunities to help women unleash their potential anywhere at any time.

  • Manpower in Australia has launched several recent initiatives to increase the proportion of women in the Australian Defense Force, resulting in more women applying for a diverse number of roles in the military. Manpower Defense Force Recruiting centers around the country have been developing Women in Army information sessions, including guest speakers. One recruit, who is also a single parent, provided excellent insight to those in attendance on how the army has supported her and her family.
  • In France, an energy company was faced with a serious lack of skilled electricians. To fill these positions, Manpower France developed a custom solution helping source, train, and recruit women for the roles, which have traditionally been filled by men. The program is now being introduced nationwide.
  • In Hong Kong, a nationwide staffing initiative recruits unemployed or underskilled women found through NGOs and non-profits to fill a large number of support positions working in hard-to-fill roles at more than 60 public libraries.
  • Our operations in Mexico and Central America have taken steps to help women with disabilities find work, including sponsoring those with visual impairment so they can train as massage therapists, as well as providing scholarships to assist 129 women in completing high school.

Inside our own organization, women account for more than 70 percent of ManpowerGroup’s managers globally. For the fifth consecutive year in 2013, ManpowerGroup was named one of America’s Top Corporations by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council in recognition of the company instituting programs offering equal access to women-owned businesses and world-class supplier diversity. ManpowerGroup was also named a 2020 Women on Boards Winning Company for its commitment to board diversity – 30 percent of ManpowerGroup’s board of directors are female. I am proud to work for an organization that values diversity of thought, experience, and perspectives regardless of gender.

Today’s era of certain uncertainty demands new ways of working, sharing, and collaborating that makes old models unsustainable. This means companies should address their leadership models, people-practices, and talent sources, and revise their internal systems, culture, engagement, and training practices to create new, flexible work models so that high-performing women can contribute and unleash their full potential.

“At a time of acute talent shortages, making a workplace more flexible and attractive to women can give companies a significant advantage over competitors. I am proud to recognize International Women’s Day but look forward to a time when the world no longer needs such a day because our societies have achieved equality in the workforce and have unleashed the potential of all people.”

This project description was originally presented in the Global Compact International Yearbook 2013.

About the Authors
Swan, Mara

Mara Swan works as Executive Vice President, Global Strategy and Talent at ManpowerGroup. This position she has held since January 2009. Swan joined the company as Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources in 2005 and has had a significant impact in both the human resources area of the organization and the strategy and contemporary talent development area.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
Post Comment

Write a comment about this page

Your comments are provided by your own free will and you take sole responsibility for any direct or indirect liability. In order to maintain the highest discussion quality, all comments will be reviewed by our editors. You hereby provide us with an irrevocable, unlimited, and global license for no consideration to use, reuse, delete or publish comments in accordance with our Community Guidelines.





CSR Manager Logo


















About Us // Privacy Policy // Copyright Information // Legal Disclaimer // Contact

Copyright © 2012-2018 macondo publishing GmbH. All rights reserved.
The CSR Academy is an independent learning platform of the macondo publishing group.