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Gender equality: an action guide

July 5, 2023

Despite more and more women reaching the top ranks of leadership, which is a hard-won achievement, the picture is still overshadowed by the fact that women remain acutely underrepresented in the middle management tiers, jeopardizing the prospects for a healthy pipeline of future women leaders.

A new study released by IBM Institute for Business Value found that real change, and real benefits only come when organizations build systems to embed and sustain necessary behaviors, accountability, and action. However, the research Women in Leadership suggests these systems are broken. To fix them, organizations need to be willing to go beyond well-intentioned but basic measures that aren’t going deep enough, fast enough.


  • 65% of organizations require diversity training for managers
  • 2023 saw the largest drop in percentage of women from junior professional to senior professional (10 percentage points)
  • When asked if women with dependent children are as dedicated to their jobs as women without children, the majority of respondents say yes, this is what leaders in their organization believe, except for male managers—only about 40% agreed. 


The authors then suggest an action guide for leaders to get serious about achieving gender equity:

Design roles at the top that work for top talent

“Advancement is not just about having more seats at the table for women. It’s about thoughtfully reexamining leadership positions and the systems that support them. This allows individuals to give full expression to their talent in ways that work for them, are fair and equitable, and in tune with their needs and aspirations of the business.”

Change the dialogue around gender

“Reframe women’s leadership advancement in the language that compels action: business results.”

Don’t just set strategy, give it teeth

“Many organizations today claim advancing women is part of their strategic agenda. But without directives and metrics, it’s just words.”

Detangle the messy middle

“When we talk about gender parity in leadership, it’s common to focus on the most senior roles. There are fewer of them, they are visible, and easy to quantify. It’s no wonder that we saw a bump of women on executive boards and in the C-suite—if representation is mandated, it’s usually for these top positions. It’s much more challenging to enact measures that tackle gender parity across the full leadership pipeline.”

Source: IBM