Like all great leaders, and as further explained in my book Lead the Change – The Competitive Advantage of Gender Diversity and Inclusion, there are key actions that can be taken now to help improve gender equality in the workplace. Here are a few thoughts to get your mind focused in the right direction:
- Model and Commit – make a formal commitment to employees and external audiences, stating that a concerted effort is taking place now to become a more gender diverse and inclusive company. Stating this intention holds the president and other senior leadership accountable and accountability is the key to the success of implementing this sort of change.
- Say It – tell your employees you’re serious by assessing, and where necessary, changing policies, visions, goals, mandates of the company to make it state gender diverse and inclusive language. Say it at the sector level by participating in conferences and stating externally what your company is doing and how it’s not just a social issue, it’s a business advantage.
- Show It – Hold focus group discussions – create two-way communications between senior management and employees to explain why this is important from a business priority perspective; and get valuable feedback from employees on where there is resistance to this change and why.
- Be visible and take action often – Be a challenger within your executive team when it comes to their words and actions.
- Hire a gender expert coach – to get your focused in the right direction – guiding all of your executive team to make a sustainable plan toward gender equality.
- Explain the benefits to men – Explain that work-life balance policies apply to both men and women. With this knowledge men feel a part of this new culture and see how everyone is healthier as a result. For example, men can leave work a bit early to attend their kids school activities without fear of losing credibility or upward mobility opportunities. This social connection to his family leads to less stress and less heart attacks, less suicides, and a reduction in the “death gap” between men and women.
- Create corporate values and stick to them – many companies have corporate values but many employees including the executive see them as lip service. Review your values with your executive team, find ways to communicate and demonstrate these core values in your day-to-day operations. Such things as respect and EQ skills i.e. empathy and self-awareness, impulse control, all can be vocalized and demonstrated on the daily, giving all employees comfort in knowing that their leaders are committed to a healthy workplace culture inclusive of gender and cultural diversity.
- Create a gender champions team – Identify employees from various levels across your organization to be your advocates for implementing change on gender diversity and inclusion. These people will be your voice and ears throughout the organization and are key to successful and sustained change.
- Develop a Gender Diversity and Inclusion (GDI) strategy – With your gender champions team, identify key actions to be undertaken with leadership, HR and communications to raise awareness, build skills and knowledge on this topic, and give recognition so as to create such a powerful positive impact that nobody wants to go back to the old ways.
- Measure and track progress – with your successful results in hand, seek out GDI awards at the sector and country-wide level and gain your company accolades and brand recognition for attracting the best and the brightest talent.
Let’s move forward in our economy and our society and create the change we wish to see in the world, one leader at a time.