The great McKinsey has spoken…
“Treat gender diversity like any other strategic business initiative with a goal and a plan that your company follows up at the highest levels over many years“ (Nov 2012 “The Global Gender Agenda”)
But, for sure, the response from the likes of the Government, the CBI, individual company boards and, sadly, the 30% Club will continue to be:
1. “We can’t possibly put in targets or quotas – it’ll upset the women who get promoted as they’ll think they’re just token”.
You know what – they’ll get over it (or so the post-quota legislation female leaders in Norway tell us) – they’ll be too busy doing what they love and have been over-working and over-performing all their careers in the hope of.
2. “The boys will be upset and throw their teddies out of the pram.”
Try explaining that all the evidence says that companies do far better with a critical mass of women at the top than those that don’t*; that teams that need to innovate are at their most productive when they have at least 50% women** and that in a global economic melt down its a no-brainer to invest in out-smarting competitors.
OK, fine, if you don’t have the courage to commit to the strategic benefits of delivering gender-diversity within the company plans, follow McKinsey’s plan B:
“Where targets are rejected, other mechanisms “with teeth” are necessary”
And where should you apply these teeth? To the communities that feel the pain the most:
- Those who are responsible for delivering business performance: LEADERS
- Those that will join your competitors (or set up on their own) if you keep over-looking their actual and potential contribution – WOMEN
Leaders can’t manage what they don’t know – right? OK, so they need to know whether or not their decisions on teams and talent are balanced, or whether unconscious gender bias towards the pale male is negatively affecting results.
Start here – https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/research/ and get your leaders to assess their unconscious gender bias. Guaranteed – they’ll be shocked. I was when I measured mine and I’ve been working on gender diversity full time for 7 years, and I was born a feminist (gosh, did I say that out loud?)
Then get them to identify the range of decisions this could impact and then task them with identifying sustainable, measureable mechanisms to address them.
Women need dedicated support with teeth, not patronising presentation skills workshops. They face a labyrinth of barriers, detours, dead-ends that their male colleagues don’t. However, women often resist support, and HR worry that it’ll be discriminating against others if they provide support just for women. Get over it!! Use these teeth to bite the bullet. Women do not get there on merit because of this unconscious bias (there own bias included) – so if you’re going to manage talent to ensure it’s all utilised then make it happen.
Here’s what should be on the list of women’s development strategies with teeth:
- Assessment: to identify where they are against the range of labyrinthine challenges (defined within the Women’s Sat Nav to Success™) and to create individual development plans
- Coaching (against pre-defined objectives for their progression)
- Senior sponsorship (to champion individuals to secure pivotal assignments, higher profile and more strategically significant, stretching work)
- Training to understand the nature of the barriers and strategies to overcome them (www.womenssatnav.co.uk)
As McKinsey says,
“successfully transforming gender attitudes and performance requires much greater leadership attention and dedication than even committed CEOs and top teams are currently giving to it”
So, in the absence of the leadership courage needed to embed binding targets (in the face of overwhelming evidence of the economic need for delivering diversity) “mechanisms ‘with teeth” are necessary’”.
Here’s to the future…