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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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GM named No. 1 company in world for gender equality

Mary Barra, General Motors chairman and chief executive, speaks during a session on the first day of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday Jan. 17, 2017. (Associated Press)
Mary Barra, General Motors chairman and chief executive, speaks during a session on the first day of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday Jan. 17, 2017. (Associated Press)
By Jamie L. Lareau Detroit Free Press

DETROIT – General Motors is ranked No. 1 in the world for gender equality in the workplace.

That’s according to the Global Report on Gender Equality released last week.

In the report, GM bumped cosmetic company L’Oreal France from the top spot last year to second place.

But Ford Motor Co.’s advertising agency’s parent company (WPP) and cable titan Comcast landed on the list compiled by the gender equity data and insight group Equileap.

“We have seen organizations making great strides toward improved gender equality in the past 12 months,” said Equileap CEO Diana van Maasdijk. But, she said, those in the study are still the exception.

“There is a long way to go until we reach the goal of true global equality in the workplace for everyone,” van Maasdijk said.

Formed in 2016, Equileap is based in Amsterdam and London. Its second Global Report on Gender Equality looked at more than 3,000 companies in 23 countries and assessed them based on 19 criteria that included equal pay, work flexibility, gender equality in leadership, policies promoting gender equality and commitment, transparency and accountability, to list a few.

Why GM?

GM dominated the rankings because it’s currently the only company in the largest 20 in the United States that has both a female CEO, Mary Barra, and an equal number of women and men on its board of directors, the study said.

At the time of this study GM’s board was evenly split between men and women. But in June, GM added Devin Wenig, president and CEO of eBay Inc., to the board, making the split six men and five women.

But, the study also mentioned that GM’s move to name Dhivya Suryadevara as its first CFO as of Sept. 1 as positive for gender diversity in leadership.

Also, GM is one of just two global businesses that have pay equality in top, middle and bottom “bands” as well as overall no gender pay gap across the company, the study said. It also said GM offers flexible hours and flexible work locations as well as having policies to combat sexual violence at work and measures to improve supplier diversity.

GM’s Chief Diversity Officer Ken Barrett said the carmaker is “honored” to be recognized, noting it focuses on building “a winning culture – one that provides opportunity and an environment that allows each employee to reach his/her highest potential. We win together as one team.”

Not just for women

Equileap’s top 200 winners also included London-based communications corporation WPP, which came in 17th and cable provider Comcast, which landed at 198.

WPP is a holding company that includes Ford’s ad agency, GTB, which has offices in Dearborn and around the globe. Likewise, Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia, but it has a big presence in metro Detroit.

A WPP spokesman sent over WPP’s 2017-2018 Sustainability Report in lieu of comment. In the report, it said WPP aims for “gender balance at all levels within the group. We have achieved this across the business overall but, despite a small increase this year, women remain under-represented in senior leadership. Addressing this is a priority.”

WPP also said it is running mentoring and development programs to support career progression for senior-level women. The report showed 49 percent of WPP’s senior managers were women, up just 2 percentage points from 2013. Women comprised 25 percent of WPP’s board in 2017, down from 29 percent five years ago. Yet, women comprise more than half of WPP’s total employees at 54 percent, flat compared to 2013, the report said. In terms of pay, of those employees who received a bonus last year, 43 percent were women, 45 percent were men.

No one from Comcast returned requests for comment.

These 200 companies named in the study are setting a “blue print” for others to follow, Equileap’s van Maasdijk said. Providing equal opportunities yields a business advantage that can lead to higher financial returns and lower volatility, she said.

“True gender equality isn’t just about pay and the representation of women on boards, it’s a far more complex issue,” van Maasdijk said. “That is why our research looks at 19 different factors including benefits such as shared parental leave. We want to see a level playing field for every employee, not just women.”

In the study, Equileap defined its mission as “to accelerate gender equality in the workplace as a powerful and under-used way of tackling poverty and inequality.”

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