Blog Post
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February 28, 2023

Breaking barriers: How to solve gender inequality in internal mobility

Ceridian’s 2023 Pulse of Talent survey reveals a gender gap in internal mobility. Donnebra McClendon, our Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, shares her insights on how to solve gender inequality in career flexibility and better suit the needs of female employees.


There’s been a lot of talk lately about how to solve gender inequality in pay. And rightly so, given that women globally earn around 37% less than men in similar roles, according to the World Economic Forum.

But gender inequality in the workplace doesn’t stop at paychecks. It can impact women’s entire careers.

Ceridian’s 2023 Pulse of Talent survey respondents told us they don’t just want flexible jobs – they want flexible careers. But, as we will explore in this blog post, our female respondents have a harder time getting what they want, with more barriers to internal mobility than their male counterparts.

We asked Donnebra McClendon, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Ceridian, to share insights to help employers ensure their internal mobility initiatives are equitable. Read on to learn how you can help eliminate this gender gap at your organisation.

There has been a lot of talk in the wake of the pandemic about women leaving their roles and the workforce. What do you think employers are still missing about how to retain their female employees?

Our Pulse of Talent survey results could very well be a wake-up call to employers that may not realise they have retention challenges among their female employees. Less than half (49%) of the women we surveyed said they are committed to staying with their current employer for at least three to five years.

The data is clear on one solution: Women want flexibility. During the crisis phase of the pandemic, many women achieved flexibility gains in terms of when and where they work. But now, many employers want to pull back on those offerings. And that is a big mistake. Fifty-four percent of the women we surveyed said flexibility/work-life balance is among the most important attributes in a job, versus 42% of men who said the same.

In addition to flexibility, career development is another gap. Employers must revamp internal development programs to provide female employees equitable opportunities to improve their skills and grow their careers. Actionable career development plans can often be an untapped opportunity for retention and organisational resilience. And when employers are intentionally inclusive in this way, it can be another solution to support gender equality in the workplace.

We saw in our Pulse of Talent survey results that many workers no longer want to follow the traditional career path, but employers don’t always understand that. This is especially true for women. How can employers become more attuned to the career aspirations of their female employees?

Our survey results are telling in this area. Only 14% of women said their highest career aspiration is to become a company executive (compared to 17% overall). And among female middle managers, less than half (43%) said they still see themselves being a people manager in three years – compared with 52% of men. To top it off, just 42% of women said their employer understands their career aspirations.

When employers fail to create a culture that encourages employees to pursue career paths that align with their career goals, they are perpetuating antiquated barriers that will ultimately push talented employees out the door. By requiring leaders to engage in candid and meaningful conversations about goal setting and career growth, employers will gain valuable insight into an employee’s career aspirations. These kinds of conversations are also a great way to bolster workplace inclusion by helping to identify any problem areas that might exist.

What can employers do to create equitable career pathing?

Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to career pathing is not equitable. So, employers need to make room for career paths that reflect a variety of career aspirations – not just those that involve climbing the traditional career ladder.

I think one of the biggest things employers can do is give more control of career paths to their female employees. Only 9% of our female Pulse of Talent respondents said they have a high degree of control over their career paths. It’s time for that to change so women in the workplace feel they have a career path that suits their unique professional and personal ambitions.

For those who do want to move into leadership roles, equitable career pathing starts by making significant investments in establishing differentiated leadership programs. Employers also need to provide employees access to sponsors. Sponsorship opens the door to networks, giving underrepresented employees a platform to display their talents.

Learning and development is an essential part of internal mobility. How can employers ensure they don’t have a gender gap in this area?

Only 19% of the women we surveyed in the 2023 Pulse of Talent said their employers have helped them build a personalised learning and development plan in the past year. And personalisation is a key part of overcoming a gender gap in learning and development. To be truly valuable to female employees, learning and development plans must suit their individual goals, bandwidth, and learning styles.

To achieve gender parity in learning and development programs, employers should broaden their internal talent communications strategy. Lack of awareness of internal opportunities is a major contributor to the gender gap in this area. Employers can leverage women’s networks and other employee resource groups (ERGs) that are highly populated by women to bring awareness to internal development opportunities.

To learn more about our 2023 Pulse of Talent findings and how employers can create the framework for career flexibility within their organisations, download the full report.

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