Setting ambitious and public diversity targets shows that an organisation is seriously committed to gender diversity and equality; that it has senior buy-in and leadership on this issue; and that it is constantly striving to improve, rather than accept the status quo.
But simply setting targets is not enough. Despite women making up nearly 50% of the labour market, there are still fewer and fewer women at the higher levels of most organisations and in some cases, including central government watchdog the National Audit Office, progress seems to have slowed.
There are many complex causes for this leaking pipeline.But given that the compelling business rationale for organisations to create workplaces which allow everyone to succeed and thrive no matter their gender, what should public leaders do to improve their diversity at senior levels?
Here are six steps a senior leader can draw upon to accelerate this pace of change.
1. Set out the goalposts
An important first step is to unpick the workforce metrics. What are the numbers telling you? It is important to understand the current situation. Have a close look at the areas of recruitment and selection; where people are in the organisation; promotion rates and appraisal scores; staff turnover; exit interviews; and pay and reward. Only then can you identify the sticky areas you need to address under your control.
2. Do you reward & promote fairly?
Be honest with yourself. Do you wait for your staff to bid for pay rises or promotions? Do you unwittingly reward certain competencies more than others? Apply a gender equality lens to how you and your peers choose who to put forward for promotion. The law firm Addleshaw Goddard undertook a gender review of the way it was promoting people to its partner positions and changed it to be more inclusive and gender-balanced.
3. Encourage coaching, mentoring or sponsorship
Interventions targeted at tackling the sticky areas can be hugely effective. These include reverse mentoring (pair senior managers with more junior employees), co-coaching (peer coaching within an organisation or with external partners) and senior sponsorship. These must have mutually agreed objectives and timescales. These activities bring value to coach, sponsor, mentor and participant alike and are fantastic for identifying talent in the business.
4. Embed agility: performance not ‘presenteeism’
Flexible working is a key enabler for women in the labour market, and is widely known to reduce overheads, sick days and attrition. Most jobs can be designed outside traditional working patterns to enable employees with external responsibilities or interests to contribute fully.
Identify where this is possible in your team and encourage all employees to participate, not just working mothers, otherwise it risks becoming a new form of segregation. Always train your managers in how to manage a remote workforce. This is a policy Dell followed when it allowed all employees to work remotely – now 65% of its UK workforce does so.
5. Inclusive leadership: motivate from the top
Are you an inclusive leader – do you encourage the creativity of non-homogenous groups and support organisational change? Visible leaders who ‘walk the talk’ are inspiring role models for every level of the organisation. Vodafone’s inclusive leadership programme is aimed at increasing the number of female senior leaders and spans 21 countries, involving 250 senior executives.
6. Lead by example
Never underestimate the impact one senior individual can have on the wider organisation. Be a visible voice for diversity and equality. Push for training to counter unconscious bias; ensure there are rigorous and transparent promotions processes; set up mentoring, coaching and sponsorship circles, with senior peer participation; encourage your senior peers to re-evaluate how they identify, manage and reward talent – is it always like-for-like after a certain level?
Some of these processes will inevitably taketime to set up and start delivering tangible results. Yet the rewards of implementing these will go beyond solely addressing the identified ‘sticky’ area; they will provide visible female role models, deliver agile working patterns that benefit all employees – not just women. They will support your organisation to keep its most valued talent and encourage diversity of thought.
August 06, 2012
The Guardian | Making Your Workforce More Diverse: Top Tips