Advancing Women Is Not A Journey. It’s a Business Imperative And Needs a Strategy.

Tips for Implementing An Integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy.

YWomen Advancing Women Is Not A Journey. It Demands Strategy.People go on journeys. Organizations implement long-term strategic plans. To advance women, organizations need an Integrated Women’s Leadership Strategy. We need to speak in business terms that cause leaders to sit up and listen.

You may have heard me share this story before but it bears repeating. Many years ago, I was at my first-ever national diversity conference when I heard a Chief Diversity Officer discuss his company’s progress regarding gender diversity.

He said the company was on a diversity journey and that 10 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 at his firm had grown by almost 40 percent, and women now represented nearly 18 percent of their C-Suite.

At first, I was encouraged. It was good to know that companies were making progress, setting goals and measuring success.

Yet, as I listened, I became more disheartened.

It had taken that company a DECADE to drive a 40 percent increase, and women still made up less than 25 percent of senior leadership.

Something else dawned on me that day. It was the diversity officer’s use of the word journey. That word was echoed by many 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. Every time I do, I think back to my days in sales and how the field approached important goals and initiatives. I can safely say, I have never been on a sales journey.

In fact, if you don’t hit your sales goals for two quarters in a row, you’re probably going to get fired!

Stop the Journey.  Start Your STRATEGIC PLAN.

Here are some ideas to reframe the diversity conversation into a strategic business imperative:

  • Senior leaders, stop saying you are on a journey, and instead say, “We are on year two of our five-year strategic diversity plan.” This subtle change in wording demonstrates action and accountability.
  • To infuse urgency in diversity initiatives and drive palpable change, use more urgent words like imperative.
  • Encourage accountability. Review the demographic data for your organization. Establish goals, track and measure progress and most importantly report and discuss progress regularlyBe transparent.
  • Engage men as allies. As at least half of the workforce and 80 percent of senior leadership, men have the ability to bring the issues of gender inequity to the forefront in a unique and effective way – and engage other men. Studies have found that when men are engaged most organizations see progress.

Change is imperative, and it begins NOW!

When I wrote my book, WHY Women The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men, 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 diversity as a business imperative or change initiative and attack it with a true sense of urgency!

We need to speak in business terms that cause leaders to sit up and listen.

There are three critical reasons to implement a women’s leadership strategy: Grow Revenue, Improve Operating Profit and Enhance Corporate Reputation. Everything we do should fall under one of these drivers.

Women Are a Business Imperative Because of Three Key Facts:

  1. 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 B2C purse strings. Women also sit on the purchasing desks in the B2B world, influencing the purchase of trillions of dollars worth of items acquired by their organizations, and there is a distinct imprint of how they make their purchasing decisions. Therefore, it is vital that organizations understand gender roles in B2B selling and service delivery.
  2. Women Improve Operating Profits: Externally, with increased revenues come better operating profits for companies. Internally, the way to boost operating profits is by getting talent right. This includes a mix of talent as well as increased worker productivity. Studies have consistently shown that women tend to be more engaged workers than men and that employees who work for female managers tend to be more productive. These numbers should provide any company the boost it needs to throw its weight behind women’s advancement programs.
  3. Women Enhance Company Reputation: In an increasingly interconnected world, companies have to build and maintain trust, transparency and reputation with their customers. With 85 percent of consumption being driven by women, it’s fair to extrapolate that 85 percent of a company’s reputation is in their hands (and heads) as well.

Finally, one of my key messages is that for any women’s advancement program to change from a journey to a successful strategic initiative, organizations must engage men as champions and visible advocates. When men aren’t involved or don’t understand what’s at stake, organizational gender initiatives and D&I programs remain siloed and stagnant. However, men who recognize the value of women as the cornerstone of organizational success will work in tandem to transform the workplace into a place that enables everyone to participate and benefit fully.

This article was orginally on Linkedin.

Jeffery Tobias Halter is the President of YWomen, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership advancement. Founder of theFather of Daughter Initiative, creator of the Gender Conversation QuickStarters Newsletter and the Male Advocacy Profile, Jeffery is the former Director of Diversity Strategy for The Coca-Cola company and is the author of two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women.