Sandra Beach Lin

In the summer of 2015, frustrated by a lack of progress for women in business, a diverse group of current and former female CEOs, executives, and academics gathered and started the Paradigm For Parity® movement. The movement was united behind a shared mission to create a new norm in corporate leadership, one in which women and men share equal power, status, and opportunity.

The Paradigm For Parity® coalition approach is unique in that a corporation’s CEO commits to creating gender parity in the leadership levels of his/her organization by 2030, utilizing the coalition’s 5-Step Action Plan.

The Action Plan is supported by an extensive toolkit, and the coalition company members have become a powerful and supportive community for each other. The Paradigm For Parity® coalition was developed by CEOs and executives, so there is an inherent understanding that each company may execute the following five steps slightly differently.  The plan allows for flexibility without diluting the commitment to achieve parity in corporate leadership.

  1. Minimize or eliminate unconscious bias, starting with senior leadership
  2. Increase the number of women in senior operating roles
  3. Set measurable goals and be accountable
  4. Base career progress on business results and performance, not on presence.
  5. Establish sponsorships as well as mentorships.

Sandra Beach Lin, one of the co-chairs at Paradigm For Parity® took time to respond to queries from the Women Icons Network in this exclusive interaction.

How did the coalition come into being and what has been the response from major corporations?

We launched the Paradigm For Parity® coalition in December 2016 with 27 major corporations whose CEOs pledged in writing to implement the coalition’s action plan. In less than just 4 years the Paradigm for Parity® coalition has grown to be a powerful alliance of 124 corporations. Our eventual goal is to see a majority of Fortune 500 companies commit to Paradigm For Parity® coalition and to expand these commitments to companies based outside of the U.S. The coalition is gaining momentum and recognition, and so we expect the pace of growth to not only continue but to accelerate.

What parameters do you use to identify companies that should become a part of the coalition?

We have a wide variety of parameters to identify companies that should become part of the movement. Many of our original cohort of supporters remain very involved with the Paradigm For Parity® coalition, and this network has proved hugely valuable to identifying and recruiting new companies to join us. P4P welcomes companies of all sizes, from all industries whose leaders are committed to our action plan and committed to achieving gender parity in corporate leadership. Currently, the coalition covers 28 sectors, together employing more than six million people.

What challenges do you face when enrolling these companies?

The key to a company’s success in achieving gender parity starts with the CEO. We work with many companies where the Human Resources officers and the D&I leaders are engaged, but at the end of the day, the entire C-suite needs to be committed to making the transformational changes that are required to change the culture in the corporate world.

How do you ensure that the companies which sign up stay committed?

We ensure that companies who sign stay committed through the supportive network and programming we offer. Paradigm For Parity® coalition companies very frequently share best practices with each other, and they are frank about what hasn’t worked. We enable this sharing through regular webinars and our annual meeting.

What according to you stops companies from publishing Gender Pay Gap reports? 

There could be a number of reasons why a company doesn’t share its data. Some organizations may be concerned that their organization will be viewed negatively by the business community if the data reveals discrepancies, or a company may not be in a financial position to correct discrepancies immediately, potentially creating ill will with employees.

Collecting data is critical to tracking our progress and it’s a step in the coalition’s action plan. We encourage our companies to collect data around the attraction, retention, promotion and sponsorship of women and report it to their team and publicly.

In your opinion what are the challenges CEOs face while trying to achieve Gender Equality at their workplace?

Challenges that CEOs face while trying to achieve gender equality at their workplace include cascading the CEOs commitment throughout his/her company. Driving significant culture change requires not only commitment, but widespread execution, with metrics. This is why the Paradigm For Parity® coalition Action Plan step #3 is included – “Measure Targets at Every Level and Communicate Progress and Results Regularly”. Many CEOs are now starting to publish these metrics externally, as well as internally.

How has the pandemic affected momentum for Gender Equality?

The momentum for Gender Equality has been moved forward faster as a result of the widespread commitment and efforts to achieve racial and ethnic diversity within U.S.-based companies following the death of George Floyd and other black men and women. The pandemic has cast a light on the significant responsibilities that women face at home, caring for families and now assisting with supervision as children are schooled virtually. Companies that had not yet implemented programs to support employees and create inclusive cultures are looking for solutions, and those already on the journey are looking to accelerate their progress.  The Paradigm For Parity® coalition Action Plan and Toolkit provide the support and solutions companies are looking for right now.

Today, there are quite a few initiatives for creating Gender Equal places of work. How do you think they could work together to achieve the 2030 goals?

Collaboration among organizations is key to achieving gender parity. We all share a common goal and must work together and learn from each other. The Paradigm For Parity® coalition has a broad coalition with other organizations that are working to achieve gender and racial equality at work. A few examples of organizations P4P collaborates with include Diversity Best Practices, Simmons University for Inclusive Leadership, Catalyst and C200, where we often collaborate on panels and webinars to share best practices that will move the needle.

Sandra Beach Lin is a Co-Chair at the Paradigm For Parity® and a Member, Board of Directors at American Electric Power, PolyOne, Trinseo and Interface Biologics.