Gender equality is a candid conversation. Ask 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…
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.
Gender equality is a candid conversation.
That is why our website is packed full with resources to have this candid conversation, including:
- 5 Questions to Start the Gender Equality Conversation
- 5 Questions Video Series
- 2-minute video overviews of key topics in diversity, leadership, and career development
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