As well as researching stories and conducting interviews for the book, Giles and I did extensive reading. We included a section in the book called Further Reading because we don’t believe your interest in this subject will start and stop with our Wonder Women book. We’re now embarking on writing some book reviews, so you can select which further reading might be interesting to you.
One of the books we read is The Other Half, written by Simona Scarpalgeggia. Simona was CEO of IKEA in Switzerland from 2010-2019, where she closed the pay and gender gaps. In 2019 she moved into a global role at IKEA and led the initiative called “The future of work”, with the purpose up-skilling and re-skilling the workforce for the digital revolution, which emphasises the importance of combining both tech and people for business success. In 2020 she was appointed CEO of Edge Global Strategy, working to accelerate the pace towards gender equality as well as diversity and inclusion at a global level.
Reading her book, The Other Half, provides strong arguments for promoting women’s empowerment. Half the population are women, but only a small percentage are in leadership positions, and although university graduates show that women have on average attained a higher level of education than men, men find jobs more readily and earn higher salaries. Yet statistics prove that those companies who value and empower women (as well as men) in their workforce have better qualified, high performing teams. Organisations that include and develop women are also better able to understand their many female customers.
There are four main sections in the book; the first deals with the situation today and what needs to be done. Unsurprisingly, there’s still a long way to go – especially as in many workplaces women are simply forced to comply with male conventions, becoming a mother is viewed as disruptive to the workplace, and women are seen as the problem. But there is a hint of positivity when we look around the statistics for success of gender balanced teams – women bring different perspectives with which to address the company’s issues, which ultimately leads to greater opportunities, higher creativity and a better understanding of the customer base.
After setting up the problem, Simona Scarpaleggia goes on to provide practical solutions (a journey in five steps) to making your organisation fit for the paradigm shift. This is backed up and proven by her own experience of making the changes at IKEA in Switzerland where she and her team broke down the barriers to create a truly inclusive culture, not just a diversity and inclusion programme which pays lip service to the issues.
All her ideas are backed up by personal stories of her own and of the people she has worked with, which really bring the problems and solutions to life in a relevant way. One example is an excerpt from an amazing interview with Sergio P Ermontti, former Group CEO, UBS,
“We need to empower women not only on social and moral grounds, but also because it simply makes economic sense. The most important thing is for us all to change our mindset and create a working environment that allows everyone, regardless of gender, to pursue a career and raise a family at the same time. Diverse teams are in a better position to tackle complex problems, to find the best solutions.”Sergio P Ermontti
In the final section Simona calls upon governments to step up and to provide adequate support to enable women to work productively, including investing in quality public care services and decent care jobs, social protection for all, and infrastructure that supports women’s safe access to economic opportunities. If there are measures to support families and better work-life balance, this will result in better economic conditions and a more harmonious society.
Below is a link to a Ted Talk with Simona where she talks about the 5 Steps to a Balanced Workforce – a roadmap and toolkit for business leaders to achieving gender equality and inclusion in the workplace. How to create a paradigm change in the workplace, where women and men thrive and the business benefits from it.