Reflections on Ten Years: What We Got Right

Five Things Companies are Getting Right in Advancing Women’s Leadership

My mission when I launched YWomen 10 years ago has not changed. I wanted to help organizations recruit, retain and advance women, and I knew engaging men had to be a big part of the conversation. With 80 percent of senior leadership roles in companies held by men, we are 80 percent of the problem, but we can also be 80 percent of the solution.

Back then, it was a novel concept to talk about men as vital to the advancement of women in the workplace, but the math doesn’t lie! I came to understand during my years in sales management and diversity training that “fixing” women and asking them to lean in or encouraging them to act more like men would not solve the systemic inequities and biases that exist within organizations and people.

What is needed is male engagement through awareness, accountability, and advocacy.

Today, more best-in-class companies are engaging men in their diversity strategy and finding success. The ones that are winning the war for talent and winning in the marketplace are also doing some other things right.

Five Things Companies are Getting Right

  1. Fostering male allyship is critical. McKinsey earlier this year reported that 14 percent of companies are doing dedicated allyship training. I have seen this firsthand as I have conducted hundreds of programs on male engagement in the past 10 years in major Fortune 500 companies. Click this link to obtain 4 free tools to help start an allyship conversation at your company.
  2. Shifting to a lens of intersectionality/race/gender +/age/ableism. If we can’t talk about gender equity issues, how can we talk about race, class, ageism or ableism? Women are a gateway to conversations about other dimensions of diversity, all of which are important when it comes to hiring diverse candidates and building the talent pipeline. How can you start to have more meaningful conversations with a lens of intersectionality? Check out these Podcasts:

3. Winning the war for talent. Boomers are pouring out of the workplace and in a few years, we will all be gone. Combine that with the Great Resignation movement after COVID-19 and a red hot job market, and you are in a brutal war for talent. Building the talent pipeline must be a top priority for any company that wants to succeed in the next 10 years. The Millennials and Gen Z employees you need to drive organizational success in the future are looking closely at your website, your transparency reports, your social media reputation and your pay equity policies. If they don’t see themselves and their concerns reflected in your leadership, they won’t be coming to work for you anytime soon. To find out more about winning the war for talent, check out these two white papers:

4. Accountability and transparency. In the 2018 McKinsey Women in the Workplace study, 76 percent of companies articulated the business case for gender diversity but only 13 percent held people accountable for tangible results. Accountability has become more apparent in the past few years as best-in-class companies like Deloitte and Salesforce have publicly published Transparency reports that show the diversity of their workforce and the improvements they are making. To learn more about Accountability, download the white paper Holding Leaders Accountable. Also check out Deloitte and SalesforceDEI transparency reports (FYI, there are many other companies doing transparency reports, do a Google search to find more).

5. Leading with empathy. COVID-19 shined a huge spotlight on issues like mental health, burnout and the need for workplace flexibility. Senior leaders who could not get on board with demonstrating empathy had a hard time retaining their best employees during the pandemic. The burden of extra responsibilities hit women especially hard, and companies had to figure out how to retain their team and lead through the crisis, coming out on the other side. Leading with empathy proved itself to be a pathway to success, and companies have continued to utilize this tool to make the workplace more inclusive and accommodating to their teams. To learn more about Leading with Empathy, click here.

Finally, as you examine all of these materials, reflect back on the progress of your company, and ask one question: do you have significantly more women and other underrepresented groups in upper and senior leadership than you did 10 years ago? If so, how did you get there?

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