The topic of gender diversity in the workplace still seems to be a tiny bit taboo: overtly ensure that your business hits the “female” quota with x number of women serving on a board or in leadership roles or, quietly go about your business and encourage HR to “hire more women.” Either way, this isn’t ideal for a number of reasons.
But pushing to hire more women because “it’s the right thing to do” doesn’t necessarily equate to hiring the right person for the job. Gender be damned!
Below are a few tips I have picked up over the years that I believe are effective, practical, considerate and genuinely work towards alleviating some of the tension and uncomfortableness around “that which shall not be named…” gender diversity.
- Deal with it head-on. Any business knows whether or not its teams are heavily skewed. Recognize the challenge, invite discussion with respected and open-minded colleagues from across the business, and together map out how to redress the imbalance. Our world is pretty much split 50/50 men/women because we, as a company, have made a conscious effort to create a balance.
- Kill ‘em with stats! According to many studies, companies with the highest representation of women board members have attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. A well-respected piece of research is extremely hard to refute, plus the black and white nature of proof, void of any emotionally charged feelings can do wonders for any naysayer.
- Make it happen. Once a series of actionable changes have been agreed upon, don’t waver or make excuses. Actively seek out new candidates to fill future roles, show (don’t tell) your team how important it is to have a well-balanced team that represents the world we live in, bring in inspirational people from all walks of life to share their stories…Make good on your promise and celebrate this change together.
- Top-down, bottom-up. It’s essential that leadership believes in the “why” as much as the rest of the team does. Ideally, any shift in ways of working or recruiting should start at the top, where senior leaders openly recognize and deal with much-needed change long before the murmurings take hold “in the ranks”.
- Empower men. Did she really write that? Is this really a tip?! Yes to both. Let’s be honest, these are tricky times we live in. We’re all having to learn new words, embrace new gender identities, and navigate new ways of interacting. I’m not excusing how it’s been, but I also recognize that change can be hard. Not impossible, just hard and sometimes scary…Men and women need to collaborate and allow each other the space and time to mess up, say the wrong thing (unintentionally) and learn from those mistakes.
Before I joined my current company, there was a conscious effort on behalf of the executive team to recruit a C-suite woman, the first ever as I’ve been told. Their reasoning was simple and honest: it was important to them and to the whole of the business to ensure there was a positive role model for women (and men). If there was never a senior woman in place, then the message they would continue sending is that there never would be one. That was no longer considered acceptable. Lucky for me I’d add.
Does this make me or any other woman that was actively recruited for a role the poster child for gender diversity? A cynic might say yes, but my feeling is that change needs to start someplace. If I could lead the way in opening up opportunities for other women then hell yeah, bring it on.
Fredda Hurwitz is the Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at RedPeg. American by birth, “Euro-trash” by default (30 years abroad does strange things to a person…), Fredda is known as The Mixologist, combining her global brand strategy know-how, sports & entertainment sponsorship expertise, and journalism background with her passion for all things French (et oui, elle parla français).
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