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Change Is Afoot: YPO Releases Results Of Its 2022 Gender Equality Survey With the purpose of sharing a narrative that celebrates women's achievements, highlighting the need for change, and showcasing the achievements made in the workplace to date, the YPO Gender Equality Survey presents an evolving narrative, underpinned by the importance of mental health.

By Dr. Reem Osman

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The overarching narrative of this year's International Women's Day theme, #BreakTheBias, has never been more prevalent, and it is one I am passionate about sharing.

I am a member of Young President's Organization, or YPO, as it's more commonly known, the global leadership community of chief executives, and this year, they conducted a Gender Equality Survey with 300 extraordinary leaders, of all ages, across 57 countries, to raise awareness around gender equality. Both the female and male chief executives weighed in and answered a series of questions that discussed the biggest challenges and obstacles, tangible actions, and success stories.

What we heard is that the world of work has changed for all, and, with this, the discussion around gender equality has evolved and opened up further dialogues, which include the importance of mental health. In response to the Gender Equality Survey, a resounding 99% of female and 92% of male respondents said mental health is a priority for their business. In addition, the World Health Organization reported at the end of last year that women as a whole tend to be twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and anxiety, and, not surprisingly, the problem is even more prevalent among working women.

Related: Advocating For Equality Isn't Enough; You Have To Do The Work

Furthermore, the discussion of women's mental health has reached a tipping point recently, as concerns over the COVID-19 crisis and social injustice have dominated conversations. The mental health of mothers, senior-level female executives, and Black women has never been more at risk, according to the most recent Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org, which details the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on those three groups. It is a time of rapid change, and in the YPO Gender Equality Survey, the sentiment was reiterated that now, more than ever, women with their eyes set on or in c-suite positions must proactively nurture their mental wellness.

The results show that there are a number of subjects that require attention:

  • Merit (11%), acknowledging the results of each person, regardless of gender.
  • Hiring (11%), ensuring that all leaders understand the need to drive change in hiring, promotion, and mentoring habits, specifically dismantling perception of the "boys club." (Notably, it was cited that even more work is needed to support women of color, or who are from more diverse backgrounds.)
  • Gender diversity in leadership (9%), with an overarching goal of bringing women onto boards, and committing to 50% of women in management positions.
  • Leading by example (8%), with the sentiment that leaders need to want it to change, and if they do, they must act for it.
  • Flexible working arrangements (7%), which focused heavily on the sentiment of family, and how leaders and companies should implement initiatives that promote working to gender-neutral goals, and are not restricted to a rigid schedule, and thus support family responsibilities.
  • Communication (7%), which looked at how there is room to further open the dialogue in the various forums of companies to understand and fight unconscious bias internally and externally to normalize the conversation.

With 2022 underway and change afoot, organizations now, more than ever, have to make sure all their employees have the chance to succeed. The YPO survey saw over half the respondent members citing navigating and communicating constant change as pivotal to the narrative of #BreakTheBias, a 20% increase from last year. Further challenges that have been amplified in the last year, as noted in the survey by the chief executives, included staying ahead of the competition (46%), competing priorities (46%), and balancing work and life responsibilities (46%). It is worth noting that loneliness as a challenge within the workplace has decreased from 2021, and was referenced by under 15% of the participants.

Related: Why The COVID-19 Crisis Could Give The MENA's Female Entrepreneurs An Edge

This all reiterates the need to keep a relentless focus on gender diversity, while upskilling people. Achieving gender equality is about equal opportunity. Equal opportunities for people to learn new skills, progress their careers, and reach their full potential, alongside the inclusion of a diversity strategy, increased hiring of women, manifesting a culture of equality, incorporation of flexible working arrangements, and acknowledging merit. Furthermore, the survey reported gender equality and a culture of gender inclusiveness as the most dominant focus of the chief executives at 25%.

Key dialogues included:

  • "We started with a female CEO, and we were an all-female leadership team for our first five years. Simply setting the example meant that many female engineering leaders opted in, as they wanted to work at a woman-run business, after too many years in a male-dominated field."
  • "We have increased the number of women in our management team totalling now 46%. They became managers not because they are women, but because they are capable, eager to be one, and work hard to be there."

With the purpose of sharing a narrative that celebrates women's achievements, highlighting the need for change, and showcasing the achievements made in the workplace to date, the YPO Gender Equality Survey presents an evolving narrative, underpinned by the importance of mental health. Together with YPO, the world's most notable industry leaders have spoken out for action with the aim of supporting the efforts for a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Related: Leveling The Playing Field For Female Entrepreneurs

Dr. Reem Osman

Regional CEO, Saudi German Hospitals Group

Dr. Reem Osman is the Regional CEO at Saudi German Hospitals Group

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