The Messy Middle Of Management And Why It Matters


Image: Jack Moreh

The Third Most Discussed Issue at Davos

Each year, The World Economic Forum in Davos brings together public and private sector constituents to examine the most pressing issues facing the world. Key topics this January included the fourth Industrial Revolution, the refugee crisis, and terrorism. But the third most-discussed issue of the conference was that of gender parity. Even with women making up only 18% of attendees, the topic was extremely charged.

One after another, CEO’s and chairmen stepped forward to emphatically discuss measures their organizations are taking to attract women leaders to their executive and C-suite level teams. Long gone are the days of believing that gender inclusion in the workplace is an act of charity. With women making up 70-80% of today’s purchasing power, the economic landscape can no longer subsist without a more diverse leadership to strategically address the evolving market.

The question that still remains is how.

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The Messy Middle

According to the Mercer’s Global Report: When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive, there appears to be an alarming decline of women in the workplace as we move up the ladder. This comprehensive research revealed that of the 40% of women working at the professional level, only 36% moved on to managerial levels, with a steep drop to 26% at senior manager levels, and 19% for executive levels.

Moreover, the patterns observed in this study also showed that simply establishing generous policies and benefits without engagement made little to no impact in the retention of women professionals.

What does all of this mean?

It means that closing the gap on gender inclusion is not as easy as just hiring more women or checking off a box on diversity benefits. The fact remains that somewhere in this messy middle of management, organizations are still failing to adequately address and maintain the future pipeline of women leadership.

Here are some more revelations that solidify why this messy middle matters.

  • 52% of organizations believe their board members are engaged in D&I initiatives whereas only 39% agree their middle managers are engaged.

  • Only 38% of organizations say their male employees are engaged in D&I activities.

  • Only 29% of organizations say they give their managers training so they can effectively support employees through the maternity/paternity leave and return- to-work processes.

So, what now?

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The changes that need to occur now are less about policy and intentionality, and more about the driving behavioral change, facing 'unbiased bias’, and modernizing the traditional workplace. However, none of these things can change without a resolve to be involved and take action by both men and women.  


Follow our three-part series, "The Messy Middle", exploring the important behavioral issues that we must take into account and understand on the road to gender equality.

Are you interested in exploring these issues and ways you can participate?  Check out our 

Tool Kit: Messy Middle: Assessing


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