Mercer | When Women Thrive

Mercer | When Women Thrive

Thriving Workforce

When Women Thrive

Despite overwhelming evidence that engaged female talent is a key driver of competitive advantage, workplace diversity remains a challenge. Standalone and well-intended programs and policies are not advancing gender diversity. It’s time for tangible solutions, not just talk. It’s time for holistic programs and policies that consider and support the career, health, and financial well-being of women across every phase of their professional journey.

Statistical analysis of Mercer’s groundbreaking 2014 When Women Thrive research outlined the following key drivers for organizations to thrive!

A broad, enterprise-wide focus is linked to sustainable change.

Organizations that focus on broad and holistic approaches to support female talent have more comparable talent flows for women and men than those that do not.

Accountability is not enough

Leadership needs to be engaged in promoting and managing diversity.

Formal accountability turns out to be insignificant in increasing gender diversity when divorced from true leadership engagement. But organizations where leaders are actively involved in diversity programs have more women at the top and throughout the organization as well as more equitable talent flows between women and men.

Active talent management

The active management of talent drives more favorable outcomes than traditional programs.

Simply implementing programs to support women’s needs is not enough — and may actually slow the trajectory for women in the absence of proactive management of their careers. Specifically, we found that:

  • Actively managing pay equity, as opposed to making a passive commitment, drives gender equality.
  • Ensuring that women and men have equal access to profit and loss responsibilities leads to better gender diversity outcomes.
  • Simply implementing traditional check-the-box leave and flexibility programs is not sufficient to improve gender equality — and may even hurt diversity efforts when not complemented by proactive coaching. 


Engage and retain female talent

Non-traditional solutions impact firms’ long-term ability to engage and retain female talent.

Innovative programs that target women’s unique health and financial needs are helping organizations better attract, develop, and retain female talent, and include: 

  • Customized retirement solutions geared toward women’s unique financial behaviors, attitudes, and needs — such as differences between women and men in lifetime earnings; in longevity, which impacts the length of time savings need to last; and in investing behavior.
  • Health-related programs, when prioritized and focused on the needs of women.


Men and women offer employers different but equally important skills.

While companies view female and male managers as having somewhat different strengths, they rank those strengths as equally important to success. Our conclusion is that organizations need a mix of different skills for business success — and must look to a diverse workforce in order to access those skills. And indeed we find that companies that embrace the different strengths that men and women bring to their roles are more successful at achieving gender diversity.

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