There’s a lot of talk about the problem of gender inequality. There is a lot of talk about the benefits of a gender diverse workforce. Increasingly, CEO’s are including gender diversity in their top priorities. I would forgive you if you were thinking “blah, blah, blah” right now. Because guess what? Many leaders are thinking blah blah blah. Alarmingly, there are many women in the corporate world who think (and say) the same thing. Because there is a LOT of talk and very little high impact action. Or is there?
‘This is a well polished problem.”
A woman at a workshop I hosted recently told me “this (gender inequality) is a very well polished problem!” So true. So this blog is not another missive about the problem. It is a blueprint for leaders to take action, that leads to enduring and sustainable outcomes.
Three Types of People
When I was appointed to my first senior leadership role, I received some advice from the executive I reported to. He said “Michelle, there are three types of people in the world. Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and then there are those who wonder what happened. You are in the first category, always remain there.”
I am there! Getting sh*t done is my mantra. Now, its my job to advise CEO’s, Boards, Executives and sporting leaders how they can be in category number one and make things happen (#GSD!) by moving from conversation to action on gender equality in their organisations.
Less Blah Blah and More Rah Rah!
Like many other people, I am frustrated that gender equality remains stubbornly, belligerently out of reach. I am even more frustrated that I am not seeing more diverse boards and executive teams. However, I am convinced that the advice I received to be a ‘make it happen’ leader, is what is sorely needed in this space. Flawless, relentless execution on the plan to solve gender balanced organisations.
“Execution is a specific set of behaviors and techniques that companies need to master in order to have competitive advantage. It’s a discipline of its own.”
—Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy, Execution
The Business Case Stacks Up
There is little doubt that the business case for gender diversity stacks up. Whilst organisations like Catalyst encourage organisations to look more broadly than the bottom line, leaders should be relentlessly pursuing the superior financial returns achieved by gender balanced organisations. McKinsey tell us that organisations are 15% more likely to outperform industry peers when they are gender balanced at the top table. Also;
- Companies in which women hold 25% of decision-making roles generate 4% higher cash flow returns on investment (Credit Suisse)
- When women represent half of senior managers, these companies produce 10% higher cash flow returns on investment (Credit Suisse)
- When companies added women to their boards over the five-year period, their median gains for Earnings Per Share were double those of companies that lost women (22% compared with 11%). (MSCI)
- There is much greater opportunity to attract the best and brightest talent from all genders;
- Investors are increasingly looking at D&I ratings to ensure that they are investing in companies that can innovate and grow.
- A 6% increase in the female participation rate in Australia would boost the level of GDP by 11%;
In summary, failing to drive aggressively towards gender parity at all levels in your organisation means your organisation is introducing risk across a number of parameters.
Role Models and Best Practice
I’m not going to quote any more statistics about gender inequality in the Australian sports and business sectors. You can get them for yourself here and here. However, I am going to share some insights into arguably the best performing organisations across the globe when it comes to gender equality.
The Top 5 companies globally for gender equality as measured by Equileap are:
- General Motors (USA),
- L’Oreal (FR),
- Kering (FR),
- Merck and Co (USA)
- StarHub (SING)
Israel, Norway and Belgium are the best performing countries for gender equality. These are the organisations and countries that have moved the dial by ceasing conversation and relentlessly starting to take action, which will reap the rewards that the well documented business case for diversity delivers.
Whats the Blueprint?
IF you are developing your gender equality action plan (heavy emphasis on action), then there are some key steps.
Step 1: Diagnose
- Where are you now?
- What are your organisations numbers?
- What are the facts?
Key Questions: Using these questions as a guide will help you to confront the ‘brutal facts‘ about your organisations performance.
- Do we have gender balance at the non-executive, executive, senior management and across our workforce? If not, where are the gender gaps?
- How do women feel about working here?
- Why do women leave our company?
- How many women have been promoted versus men?
- What is our parental leave policy for primary and secondary carers?
- What is our policy (and what really happens) on flexible work?
- Do we have a gender pay gap? If so where, why?
- Do we have a strong culture about combatting sexual harassment in the workplace?
- How diverse are our suppliers and are our procurement policies up to scratch?
Step 2: Define
- What problem(s) do we want to solve? (your diagnostic will identify several)
- What will be our priorities, and why?
- What does success look like?
Step 3: Design
The Gender Equality Action Plan
Consider: Who are the people we need to deliver? Do we have the capability AND the capacity? What policies, processes and tools need to be developed, optimised or discarded?
Step 4: Deliver
Flawless, relentless execution is often the downfall of any program, project or change initiative. Again, consider:
- How will we deliver flawlessly, relentlessly and sustainably?
- What will it take? (people, processes, tools, resources)
- How will we measure and celebrate success along the way.
- Remember that this is a journey that doesn’t end.
What male leaders must do now.
Given more than 186 of the top 200 companies in Australia are run by men (yes, only 14 female CEO’s) we need mens help. Here is what male leaders must do, now:
- Do make a visible, verbal, ongoing commitment to a gender balanced organisation;
- Do be cognizant of your own mindsets and those of your leaders about women and leadership;
- Do confront the brutal facts about your organisations gender balance performance;
- Do assign resources (money, people, time) to solving the problem;
- Do hold your executives accountable to deliver against organisational gender targets.
What male leaders must not do:
- Do not assume you understand the lived experience of women;
- Do not assume that a women’s mentoring or confidence building program is the answer (it is not);
- Do not give this job to woman as a ‘pet project’ on top of her day job;
- Do not assume that your organisations professional women’s group will ‘sort it out’;
- Do not assume that your organisations overall performance is not being affected by a lack of gender balance, at all levels.
The journey to a gender equal organisation is an ongoing one, arguably with no end. Organisational leaders begin this journey in many different ways, and that’s OK. The important thing is to begin. To move from conversation, to action!
For a no obligation conversation about how to move your organisations gender action plan into action mode, please contact Michelle.