On March 8, countries around the world will commemorate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme – Balance for Better – invites us to think about how to work together to build a more gender-balanced society.
Shared ownership of this goal is an idea that resonates with me both personally and professionally. I am the proud dad of a teenage daughter. Here at PepsiCo GCR, two-thirds of my management team is female. And, the list of female colleagues who have offered me mentorship, collaboration and friendship throughout my career is long and also filled with incredible leaders.
I am proud to work at an organization that acknowledges the contributions of all of these women. PepsiCo’s 2025 Sustainability Agenda pledges to continue a focus on achieving gender parity in the organization’s management roles and compensation practices, and frequent accolades show that these efforts are working. The workplace compensation website Comparably.com included PepsiCo on their list of “2018 Best Companies for Women.” And, PepsiCo Greater China Region has been on China’s “Top Employers” list 9 times in recent years.
However, I know that the work on this front is far from done. I appreciate the occasion of International Women’s Day to think about what we can do, today and everyday, to create a more balanced workplace for all.
WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY: “THE WORLD HAS A LONG WAY TO GO”
Being a numbers guy, I turned to the data to help me think about creating Balance for Better. The most salient numbers I found? 41 percent and 202 years.
A 41% GAP IN ECONOMIC PARITY…THAT COULD TAKE 202 YEARS TO CLOSE.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index benchmarks countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions. When it comes to Economic Participation and Opportunity, the gender gap is 41%. We are not even halfway there when it comes to mitigating the barriers to gender balance in workplaces around the world. Most remarkably, the WEF estimates that at current rates of progress, it will take 202 years to close the Economic Opportunity gap.
WOMEN ARE AN IMPORTANT HALF WE CANNOT AFFORD TO OVERLOOK
Noting that “more than ever, societies cannot afford to lose out on the skills, ideas and perspectives of half of humanity,” the WEF captures what is at stake when it comes to creating a more gender-balanced workplace.
The good news is that rates of workforce participation are approaching equality in many countries. In China, women’s labor participation is 70%, no less than Chinese men. Chinese women contribute to 41% of the national GDP, making theirs the highest share of women’s contributions among all regions in the world.
The not-so-good news is that there are still significant and lingering pay gaps between men and women. And, women face significant barriers to taking on senior roles. Across the world, women hold just 34% of managerial positions.
There are many, complex reasons for these barriers, and they vary across cultures. However, one of the universal themes is that of “time.” Across the 29 countries for which data are available, women spend an average of twice as much time on housework and other unpaid activities as men. The WEF categorizes this imbalance as a “significant barrier” to career advancement.
Social scientists use terms like the “second shift” and the “mental load” to describe the work that women do to manage their homes and families when the paid workday ends. This was the topic of one of the hottest social media posts in China last week, titled, “How tired are the Chinese women? I am stunned after seeing the big data.” Receiving over 100,000 views, it laments the fact that over two-thirds of Chinese women feel like they take the lion’s share or more of family chores. A conversation about this in my office led one of my senior leaders to confide that she has often joked with her husband about her “two jobs.” One at PepsiCo and another that starts the moment she walks in the door of her home.
Time spent on unpaid work is of course time not available to spend on career-related tasks, including continuing education, networking, and researching and pursuing new opportunities. In the discussion about gender balance in the workplace, time is a critical soft factor. Invisible, but deeply influential in preserving imbalances.
TO BE BALANCED, LET’S BE FLEXIBLE
Simply talking about the gendered imbalances in the way men and women spend their time is important, because it puts the issue of time on the radar in a meaningful way. While societies are working to correct the bigger cultural imbalances, we know that females are currently still shouldering most of the household management tasks in countries around the world. How do we set about making meaningful progress in our own work environments?
A study conducted by Accenture recently caught my eye, because it uncovered 14 concrete factors most likely to contribute to a diverse and equitable work environment.
Half are captured under the categories of “bold leadership” and “comprehensive action,” and these include top-down initiatives like prioritizing gender diversity for management, sharing diversity targets outside the organization, and making meaningful progress in progressing women. I noted earlier, and it bears repeating, I am proud to be part of an organization that is leading on these fronts.
14 Factors That Contribute To A Diverse And Equitable Workplace
Interestingly, the other half of the factors on Accenture’s list fall into a category called “An Empowering Environment.” The recommended steps here include things like giving employees the freedom to be innovative, making remote working a common practice, providing on-the-job training, allowing employees to avoid long-distance travel by using technology, and permitting them to work from home on days when they have a personal commitment. The common thread across these factors is that they all provide the ability to “flex” between work and home responsibilities and time.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s commit to empowering all employees with the flexibility to better manage their personal and professional time in a way that works for them. It’s an actionable, meaningful step toward creating the change we all want to see in the world.
I close today in a spirit of gratitude to all of my employees, especially the women who are holding up half of the “PepsiCo sky.”