How do we leverage the achievements of past and present advocates of gender parity? How do we embolden people to take action in the workplace, so that rather than inclusion and diversity strategies serving as very expensive virtue signalling mechanisms, they act as the foundation upon which change occurs?
The case for change has been well and truly established. The research is unequivocal. We know that greater numbers of women in leadership underpins improved business performance and economic prosperity. Profitability, ROI and innovation all increase when women are counted among senior leadership.
Given gender parity makes such good business sense, many organisations have developed the strategies and systems that they hope will create a more inclusive and diverse organisation. However, good intentions and even the most sophisticated processes are no match for the mindsets – and in turn, behaviours – of the people who operate within these frameworks.
Changing the mindsets embedded in a culture fundamentally at odds with the principles of gender parity is a challenge at both an organisational and personal level. However, we have to start somewhere.
It begins with each of us taking personal responsibility for making the small changes in the way we think and behave, and committing to holding ourselves accountable for whether our mindsets are helping or hindering the organisation’s strategy. Only then can we begin to see long-lasting and impactful change.
We know that when strategy is in conflict with culture, culture wins every time. We routinely come across organisations that struggle with understanding how their culture impedes their success and what they need to do differently to create a culture that fosters a diverse and high-performing workforce.
We find that individuals often lack insight into how they personally contribute to the current culture. As one of our recent diversity and inclusion program participants reflected, “At the time I was lacking genuine self-awareness of who I really was. During the course of the program I rediscovered my voice and absolutely understood the values and morals that have moulded me into who I am. I had never taken the time to truly invest in understanding myself. I have learned through Grist and in my own leadership journey that I have a voice – it doesn’t have to be the loudest to be heard – and I am proud of the role I play.”
This self-reflection represents the beginnings of the shift in mindset so vital to empowering women to challenge the status quo and take action.
So, where do we start? How do we put the strategies into practice and make gender parity a reality?
We need to start having more conversations that uncover the underlying mindset of our people. The key to these conversations is openness, and the by-product is trust. These conversations need to detail specific actions that need to be taken to execute the strategy, so that people have clarity into both the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.
There’s no better time than now to undertake a deep dive into your organisation and look at where your culture may be misaligned with the diversity and inclusion strategies you want to embed. Instead of considering whether your organisation is saying the right things, determine the extent to which the right actions are occurring:
- Is there active CEO and Executive support for women in your organisation?
- Do your people have a clear path to leadership and career progression?
- How balanced is your leadership pipeline?
- Do women understand the leadership skills and knowledge required to achieve their career goals? Do opportunities exist for women to develop these skills?
- Do women have access to supportive mentors, coaches and sponsors who can lead by example?
- What level of awareness do your leaders have about unconscious bias when recruiting and identifying people for promotion?
- Are leaders trained in diversity and do they understand the impact of their decisions on the culture?
- How balanced are your recruitment panels and processes?
- Do you people have access to flexible working arrangements? And, most crucially, are these seen as career limiting if taken?
- How transparent are your remuneration, reward and recognition systems?
If your answers highlight that your culture is well-aligned to your inclusion and diversity strategy we’d urge you to share your methods and learnings in the comments section. After all, successfully embedding the actions that promote gender parity within an organisation is no mean feat.
If you’re less satisfied with the answers these questions have generated, we’d still love to hear from you – although you may choose to comment anonymously!
This International Women’s Day, let’s move beyond the arguments of why gender parity makes good business sense, and on to the task of actually making it happen.