CCL Research Reveals That DEI Agenda May Be Diluting the Women Leadership Agenda

Most recently a broader equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) agenda has in some ways diluted focus on women leadership and a growing EDI backlash seems to be getting in the way.

CCL Research Reveals that DEI Agenda may be Diluting the Women Leadership Agenda

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)®, a global provider of executive education, has released a new report, “Elevate the System” with its research partners, Institute for Human Resource Professionals, Prasetiya Mulya Executive Learning Institute (prasmul-eli), Society for Human Resource Management, Slingshot Group, and XEd Space. The report was developed through data drawn from 894 survey respondents and 71 interviewees across the Asia-Pacific (APAC).

The report unpacks challenges that have stifled women from attaining senior roles and examines whether gaps in perception between men and women have improved or gotten worse since CCL’s 2020 Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Leadership Research.

“While increased focus on women’s leadership is encouraging, our latest report reveals a critical disconnect. The persistent underrepresentation of women at the highest levels suggests hidden obstacles are impeding their advancement. These obstacles often stem from biases – deeply ingrained societal expectations and systemic barriers that we are not aware of and don’t see on the surface. Addressing the gender gap in leadership requires men, women and organizations to come together as champions for equity, with the courage to make changes to the systems that are holding women back. The gender equity agenda isn’t just about fairness, it’s about unleashing the power and potential of our full talent pool to create a stronger and more prosperous future for all,” said Elisa Mallis, Managing Director and Vice President, APAC at CCL.

Organizations are encouraged to move beyond quotas and targets by measuring female participation more holistically, engaging male allies, and celebrating champions of gender equality.  This combined effort from organizations and individuals will pave the way for a more inclusive leadership landscape, supporting women’s leadership development ultimately enabling their success in leadership positions.

Thoughts from Our Research Partners

“As a research partner in this study, we echo the findings that highlight the need for systemic change to advance women’s leadership and contributions to the workplace. The data underscores a persistent gap between perception and reality in workplace equity, revealing unconscious biases and societal expectations as major barriers. HR professionals play a pivotal role in addressing these issues by taking a strategic and business-aligned approach in implementing progressive HR policies such as flexible work arrangements to elevate a ‘skills-first’ and ‘change-ready’ culture. By doing so, we not only unlock the full potential of women leaders but also drive organizational success and innovation. This report is a call to action for all stakeholders to commit to meaningful change and create workplaces where everyone can thrive.”

Aslam Sandar

“Diversity is not just an inevitable aspect of life but also a fertile ground for innovation. Promoting and managing diversity has already become and will continue to be a vital factor for future business success. Therefore, discussions and studies about women in leadership, as a part of gender diversity, are both interesting and essential. In Indonesia, while there has been considerable progress in women’s leadership, ongoing discussions and studies are necessary to achieve even greater benefits.”

Deddi Tedjakumara

“Initially, we didn’t think there was an issue with women leaders, as we believed their journey to leadership was based on their skill set and competency. For too long, we have lived without a sense of urgency regarding this matter. However, the survey results have been a powerful wake-up call, revealing the urgent need to confront unconscious biases, cultural norms, and familial obligations that hinder women’s leadership progression. Despite their remarkable capabilities, women face many challenges. It’s time to transform the entire system to ensure true equity, enabling women leaders to rise without undue barriers. Let’s break down these obstacles and create a future where the next generation of women leaders can lead with confidence and strength. It is time to make equity a reality.”

Dr. Sutisophan Chuaywongyart

Partner, Slingshot Group

“Australia is currently ranked 26th globally for gender equality, so clearly we still have some way to go. Only 9% of the top ASX companies are led by a woman, our gender pay gap is calculated at 12%, Australian women do more than nine hours additional unpaid work each week compared with men, and one in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. XED Space is an Executive Education firm that aims to make a real difference in everything we do.  We want to accelerate the development of others so that they too can make a difference in their worlds, and we can be part of something that is bigger than us. We are tremendously proud of the work that we and our colleagues do to help shift the part of the ’system’ that better equips all leaders to lead more effectively and more equitably.”

Ric Leahy

Co-Founder, XED Space

About the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)®

At the Center for Creative Leadership, our drive to create a ripple effect of positive change underpins everything we do. For 50+ years, we’ve pioneered leadership development solutions for everyone from frontline workers to global CEOs. Consistently ranked among the world’s top providers of executive education, our research-based programs and solutions inspire individuals in organizations across the world — including 2/3 of the Fortune 1000 — to ignite remarkable transformations. Learn more about CCL.

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