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CEO: Four steps my firm is taking to achieve gender equality in the workplace

Sanjiv Das, CEO, Caliber Home Loans
Key Points
  • Gender equality in corporate America is fair, necessary, and long overdue.
  • As the CEO of one of the largest housing specialty firms, I've formed a working group to examine my company's pay practices and to suggest paths to eliminate pay discrepancies between genders, promote and recruit more women.
  • There are fewer women at every level of the management stack, according to McKinsey. They make up 37 percent of managers, 27 percent of vice presidents, and 17 percent of the C-Suite.
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Gender equality in corporate America is fair, necessary, and long overdue. As the CEO of one of the largest housing specialty firms, I've formed a working group to examine my company's pay practices and to suggest paths to eliminate pay discrepancies between genders, promote and recruit more women, and ensure that we have a welcoming culture.

While our review is just beginning, I didn't want to wait to make our initiative or commitment public, in hopes that it may nudge other executives to also work towards making their companies more inclusive.

Business can be a catalyst for positive change in society. For example, in 1964, Coca-Cola threatened to move its headquarters from Atlanta if city leaders didn't honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coke executive Robert Woodruff also pushed the city's chamber of commerce to integrate. In recent years, General Motors, L'Oreal, and J.P. Morgan have been recognized for their gender equality practices.

There are fewer women at every level of the management stack, according to McKinsey. They make up 37 percent of managers, 27 percent of vice presidents, and 17 percent of the C-Suite. The report finds that "attrition does not explain the underrepresentation of women."

And that "for every 100 men promoted to manager, 79 women are." In other words, hiring and promotion are key reasons why women don't advance to the higher ranks of an organization.

Of course, there are likely other reasons, from bias to lack of mentorship. What's more, the pay gap between genders is pervasive and trenchant. According to the Census Bureau, women earned about 80 percent of what their male colleagues did for the same job in 2017. This is not right.

Four gender equality solutions

First, make a public pledge. CEOs set the tone of an organization, so it's important for them to announce to their employees that they're taking gender equality seriously, and that they welcome ideas on how to move the firm in this direction. Only 28 percent of firms made gender equality a priority in 2010, and this situation has only improved moderately.

Second, have the difficult conversations. Create a working group that examines internal practices and procedures. The group can hold recurring meetings so that hard issues are faced, such as pay discrepancies among executives. Members of the group can also have public and private forums in which all employees can provide feedback on what a firm can do better.

Third, ensure equal pay for equal work. The United Nations and a consortium of other entities have created a Woman's Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool, in which a corporate executives can take an online assessment to see whether a firm has pay gaps. The tool also generates an action plan so that executives can make meaningful reforms.

Fourth, recruit and promote women. It's important to build a robust pipeline of talent so that there are women in leadership positions at every level of the organization. When there is an open executive position, there will be more candidates to consider both internally and externally.

Not only is gender equality the right goal to pursue, it also makes business sense. McKinsey found there is a correlation among gender and ethnic diversity with profitability: Firms that have high amounts of gender diversity in their leadership ranks were 15 percent more likely to be more profitable than corporations with fewer women.

This isn't academic for me. Growing up in India, my parents taught me the importance of treating everyone fairly. I kept their wisdom front of mind when I traveled to the US as an immigrant to begin a career in financial services.

When I became the CEO of CitiMortgage during and after the great financial crisis, I formed an executive team of people with different genders, races, and orientations. They provided contrarian feedback and fresh ideas that wouldn't have occurred to me. In short, they made me a better CEO and our business even stronger. 

Sanjiv Das is the CEO of Caliber Home Loans, one of the largest housing specialty firms. From 2008 to 2013, he was the CEO of CitiMortgage.

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