Stop the Journey. Start the PLAN.
Many years ago, I was at my first ever national diversity conference, when I heard a Chief Diversity Officer talk about the company’s progress vis-a-vis gender diversity.
He said the company was on a diversity journey and that ten years after setting forth on a strategy, they were now beginning to see progress when it came to advancing and retaining women. He reported that the percentage of women in their firm had grown by almost 40 percent and women represented almost 18 percent of their C-Suite.
At first, when I heard those words, I was encouraged. It was good to know that companies were making progress, setting strategies, and measuring success.
Yet, as I listened on, I became more and more disheartened.
- It had taken that company A DECADE to drive a 40 percent increase, yet women were still less than 25 percent of the leadership.
- Something else dawned on me that day; it was that diversity officer’s use of the word journey.
That word was echoed by many of the people in attendance that day brilliant, hard-working diversity practitioners defining their effort in advancing more women and minorities as a journey.
I still hear that word used today to describe how companies are undertaking their gender diversity initiatives.
And every time I do, I think back to my days in sales and how the field approached their goals and initiatives. I have never been on a sales journey.
- If you don’t make your sales goals for two-quarters, you’re probably going to get fired!
People go on journeys; organizations implement long-term strategic plans.
So, here’s an idea for diversity practitioners, HR professionals, and organizations on how to make the diversity dialogue more powerful:
- Senior Leaders have to stop saying journey, and instead, say “we are on year two of our five-year strategic diversity plan”.
- This immediately changes the dialogue to be much more powerful and demonstrates action and accountability.
- To infuse urgency in diversity initiatives and drive palpable change, you have to also use more urgent words like imperative.
Change is Imperative. It Begins NOW!
This was the main purpose in writing my book: WHY Women. I wanted leaders to embrace an integrated organizational approach to women in their organization. Not because it is a nice thing to do but because it is an absolute business imperative. Leadership today conceptualizes diversity strategies but few companies treat it like a true business imperative and attack it with a true sense of urgency!
As such diversity practitioners, we need to speak in business terms that leaders truly listen to.
Today there are only three critical reasons to implement a women’s leadership strategy; Grow Revenue, Improve Operating Profit, and to Enhance Your Corporate Reputation. Everything you do must fall under one of these drivers.
Women Are a Business Imperative Because of Three Key Facts:
- Women Help Grow Revenue: With an incredible $7 trillion in national purchasing power, according to sheconomy.com, women drive or influence purchasing decisions in every household – from groceries to furniture to new cars – women hold the purse strings. (We will talk about women’s impact in the B to B space in part 2 of this blog series).
- Women Improve Operating Profits: Externally, with increased revenues, come better-operating profits for companies. Internally, the way to boost operating profits is through getting talent right. This includes the mix of talent as well as increased worker productivity. And studies have consistently shown that women tend to be more engaged workers than men and that workers who work under female managers tend to be more productive. These numbers should provide any company the boost they need to throw their weight behind women’s advancement programs.
- Women Enhance Company Reputation: In an increasingly interconnected world, your company has to build and maintain trust, transparency, and its reputation with its consumers. And with 85% of most consumption being driven by women, it’s fair to extrapolate that 85% of your company’s reputation is in their hands (and heads) as well.
Given these stark realities, your company’s Women’s Advancement Program needs to start TODAY.
You might wonder where to begin!
You’re in luck because I wrote an entire book (WHY Women) about this.
In the next couple of posts, I want to give you a helpful framework to build your women’s program from scratch and will include helpful tips such as:
- The 80/80/80 Solution which lets you frame your women’s program keeping in mind the revenue, talent, and engagement that women bring into your company
- Leveraging the Five Key Business Drivers to systematically implement your program by integrating key departments in your company including marketing and sales, field operations, HR, and Senior Management.
- The Critical Linkage of Company Reputation and your Integrated Communications Plan. The often missing and most critical piece of your strategy to advance with key stakeholders inside and outside the company.
But the key message of my book and indeed, this series, is that for any women’s advancement program to be successful, you need to engage men as champions and visual advocates who recognize the value of women as the cornerstone of organizational success.
They must be leaders who get it and walk the talk every day in their actions and communications.
Like what you are reading? There’s more in my book, WHY Women. Read more about how you can create a truly integrated women’s leadership strategy by buying it today.
Ready to get started? Download Chapter 1 (Sneak Peek) today!
A version of this post originally appeared on HuffPost.
He is the President of YWomen, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership issues. Jeffery is a TEDx speaker, Huffington Post Blogger and the author of two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women. Follow him on Twitter at @YWomen.