Aug. 26, 2019, 11:22 a.m. EDT

How to create more female corporate leaders

Women’s Equality Day: Accenture surveyed over 22,000 working men and women with a college education in 34 countries

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


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The results provide some insight into the persistent gender wage gap on Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, which commemorates the 19th amendment to the constitution, giving women the right to vote.

If U.S. businesses changed their culture, women would be five times more likely to become leaders.

That’s the conclusion of a major report by Accenture /zigman2/quotes/201711136/composite ACN -0.37%  into workplace culture in the U.S. and around the world. Accenture identified 40 factors that are statistically shown to influence advancement. They include a diverse leadership team that sets, shares and measures equality targets openly, family-friendly policies and practices, flexible work schedules and respectful policies such as not asking employees to conform to a dress or appearance code.

The results provide some insight into the persistent gender wage gap on Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, which commemorates the 19th amendment to the constitution , giving women the right to vote. Accenture last year surveyed more than 22,000 working men and women with a college education in 34 countries — including 1,400 employees in the U.S. — to measure their perception of important issues that contribute to their workplace culture. Out of more than 200 personal and workplace factors, including policies, behaviors and collective opinions of employees, Accenture came up with a list of 14 factors that are most likely to affect change:

• Gender diversity as a priority for management

• Diversity target or goals shared outside the organization

• Clearly stating gender pay-gap goals and ambitions

• Progress in attracting, retaining and progressing women

• The company has a women’s network

• That women’s network is also open to men

• Employees avoid long-distance travel via virtual meetings

• Working from home when need be

• Comfortable environment to report sexual harassment

• Men are encouraged to take parental leave

• Never asking employees to change their appearance

• Employees feel free to be creative and innovative

• Remote working is widely available and commonplace

• Providing training to ensure staff skills stay relevant

Don’t miss: The shocking profession with the biggest gender wage gap

In workplaces where these factors were most common, women were four times more likely to reach senior manager and director levels — and five times more likely to reach these levels in the U.S. For every 100 male managers, there could be up to 84 female managers, compared with the current ratio of 100 to 34, and up to 87 female managers for every 100 male managers in the U.S. Globally, that equates to a lift in women’s earnings of $2.9 trillion or $20,000 per year for women in the U.S.

Currently, women are 22% less likely to reach manager level than their male peers, while men are 47% more likely to reach these positions than their female peers, Accenture found. In the U.S., women are paid 83 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall global gender gap can be closed in exactly 100 years across the 106 countries covered since the inception, according to the World Economic Forum‘s Global Gender Gap Index.

Also see: How can I treat my daughters equally when one college education cost far more?

The battle for equal pay starts before men and women finish school. Expanding class size in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classrooms has the greatest negative effect on female class participation, according to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience. Large classes start negatively impacting students once they consist of more than roughly 120 students, the authors found.

Women make up only 26% of people in computer and mathematical occupations, 21% of computer programmers and 16% of those in architecture and engineering, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, STEM careers are some of the most lucrative.

Don’t miss: Can I treat my daughters equally when one college education costs more?

Earlier this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine put a price tag on the pay gap’s lasting effects for some by applying wealth accumulation models to the medical school faculty’s own salary and gender data. A woman hired in 2005, constantly working under a 2.6% pay differential, lost out on $501,416 in salary and investment returns over 30 years.

And when women do join a male-majority team? Men change their attitudes about mixed-gender productivity and change their previously held views of gender roles, according to a new study by economists at University of California, San Diego, Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Oslo and the Swedish Institute for Social Research at Stockholm University. They randomly assigned female recruits to boot camp squads in the Norwegian military, but not others.

(This story was updated on Aug. 26, 2019.)

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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