Organizations that believe and achieve gender equality outperform those that do not. Yet, this is often a delicate conversation to begin within organizations. Even for those that deeply believe in it. Leaders just do not know how best to achieve it. Men want to be male allies, yet sometimes do not know how or what to do. The fear of saying the wrong thing, or being labelled a feminist still holds men back. And, women leaders do not speak up and ask for what they want, especially if it feels selfish.
That’s why we wrote ONE: How Men and Women Partner for Gender Equality (get your copy here). Think of it as a guide packed with strategies, ideas, and stories for male allies and women leaders to partner together.
We are lucky that our readers have given us feedback already. They really want a discussion guide to get the dialogue started in a healthy, productive way.
You asked, we listened…
Five Questions to Ask to Get the Gender Equality Conversation Started in Your Organization
- What would our organization look like if our gender equality goals were met…
- What are we missing out on by not maximizing the talents of both genders…
- What do we see that tells us we have room to improve our gender equality…
- What are examples of times we have gotten gender equality right…
- What is one thing I can do to make a positive impact on gender equality at our organization…
So let’s start with #1: What would our organization look like if our gender equality goals were met…
Most teams want to be more diverse, they just do not know how to get the conversation started. You are not alone. In fact, the term diversity often triggers those with privilege that do not see themselves as diverse. It does not have to be like that. That is why we have a series of questions focused on how to start this critical, productive conversation with your team and organization.
The first question is a visioning question. I utilize these often in my leadership, career, and leadership workshops. We need to see what is possible. By anchoring to a vision of success, our brains see that it is possible, and map behaviors to support it.
Simply ask your team, or those in your next meeting, “What would our organization look like if our gender equality goals were met?”
I know what you are thinking, people will eye dart and look wild eyed in response. I doubt it. If you do hear crickets, offer this…
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A higher profitability rate, for starters
In fact, gender equal leadership teams outperform their less than equal industry peers according to the latest McKinsey Women Matter report. If you do not yet have goals on gender equality, start there.
That is what Cummins did. Their story is featured in our “Pivot Point” podcast season two titled, “Communication and Leadership Gaps.” Their senior leadership team decided intentionally to focus on gender equality at their C-suite. They are now at critical mass at 35% women and recognize they still have work to do to close the gap to 50/50. However, when asked, they will tell you consistently that they believe gender equality is the right thing to do and it aligns with their business goals. They are growing in developing countries and developing countries grow more when women are active in the community. They need to represent what they want to see in those communities.
Which brings us to the next point…
Have a noble purpose
The Cummins story works because it is genuine. It is a belief that resonates throughout the organization from the top down. If you want to meet your gender equality goals, or increase diversity from X% to Y%, tie it to your values and beliefs as an organization. Better yet, tie it to business goals. When people understand that this is consistent with how we do business, their values and behaviors will fall in line. The challenge is when we see it as a separate initiative. It is hard to get buy-in for something that does not feel holistic or impactful on the overall goals.
Map it out. Try this exercise. If we increase diversity by (fill in the blank)>, we will impact the business goals by <(fill in the blank)>. Dig deep with people and ask for input throughout the organization. Diversity cannot be tackled in a vacuum.
Recognize the behaviors that come from gender balance
I call it the Yin-Yang effect. Not only do diverse teams outperform their peers, they also behave in a way that retains top talent. Teams with gender balance are more collaborative, have a sense of belonging, listen to each other, and have high trust. Research shows that a sense of belonging and inclusion are what keeps people at their jobs today. And, when we have a balanced perspective, we make better decisions. Women are gender socialized to be more supportive, inclusive, and promote a sense of belonging. How could your team benefit from more of these behaviors? This is not fu-fu stuff anymore, millennials are demanding this in the workplace. It is only going to become more important.
I believe in gender equality. I believe women and men, partnering together for gender equality, is what is best for all humans. By collaborating together, we will improve the lives of future women leaders and girls who will grow up in a world where anything is possible. My voice matters. I make choices every day supporting gender equality. We are all in this together. I commit to supporting male allyship. We are stronger together. We are ONE.
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We have lots of resources to help you faciltiate this candid conversation, including: