THE SOLUTION: How To Make Your Organization A Great Place For Women To Work
In the first three parts of this series, I focused on identifying some of the gender equality issues women have been trying to address for over 60 years. In this part I will emphasize how leaders can identify issues that may exist in their organization and how the awareness of the problem will lead to the solution. I offer a bold, new, innovative solution that will ensure all women receive the equal treatment for which they have been fighting, how it can apply specifically to your organization, and demonstrate how this can be done at an accelerated pace of change women need and deserve!
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO ACCELERATE THE PACE OF CHANGE?
If we want to help women advance at equal rate as their male peers and eliminate gender bias and discrimination once and for all we, as men, must recognize and take ownership for the problem.
Men hold 70-80% of the C-level jobs in most organizations and thus drive most of the business priorities and decisions in the U.S. The solution must begin with male executives first recognizing that gender bias and discrimination may exist in their organization and decide that gender equality is a priority. Organizations cannot “guess” about if and where their problems lie, they must have concrete data that identifies, with certainty, where the problems exist. Conducting a survey is the first step.
Once top management has data that demonstrates that issues exist, male and female executives alike, must take ownership for the problem and for creating the solutions. This cannot be the responsibility of female leaders or Human Resources – it must be the responsibility and priority of male executives. In 1964, as a young entrepreneur, I took a risk and challenged sales managers at Fortune 500 companies to hire women for jobs traditionally held by men. I did it because it was good for business and it was the right thing to do. Male executives must take the risk – not only will it be good for business, but it is the right thing to do.
Today’s leaders are faced with the same challenge and opportunity I had early in my career. I am not naïve. These leaders have priorities and pressures to generate sales, profits, and shareholder value. They know that setting a goal to make their organization a great place for women to work will take courage and commitment; . They should not be doing it because it is politically correct or because it’s the “hot new business concept” of the day.
Leaders also have a compelling business reason to help accelerate the pace of change. A McKinsey report, Delivering on Diversity, indicates that companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation.
THE SOLUTION: HOW TO MAKE YOUR ORGANIZATION A GREAT PLACE FOR WOMEN TO WORK
Every good leader sets strategic business goals and uses metrics to evaluate problems and opportunity. They measure sales, profits, productivity, customer satisfaction, shareholder value, etc. They look for potential problems, measure trends, and take actions on potential issues.
Great leaders also use this same strategy to determine if their organization is a great place for women to work, but you need concrete data to prove it. Once you have data, you can set a strategic goal to ensure their organization is a great place for women to work, look for trends and/or blind spots in the organization’s culture, and they take actions in order to get out in front of potential issues.
Where Do You Start – SIX BOLD, INNOVATIVE STEPS
Step #1 – Leadership – Shift Ownership To Leaders Who “Get It: Today, women are still striving to find solutions to issues that has fueled the women’s movement for 60 years. The first step is to identify a leader(s), male and female, who are committed to collaborate and take ownership over making the organization a great place for women to work; who are committed and willing to make a modest investment of time and money to develop a bold, new, innovative solution that is designed for the specific needs of their organizations; who are committed to solutions that will ensure all women receive equal treatment for which they have been fighting; solutions that can be achieved at an accelerated pace of change women need and deserve!
Step #2 – First 30 Days – Collect and Report the Right Data: This is more than being a good place to work, hiring and promoting more women, or even making simple changes to policies and procedures. This is about accessing a proprietary survey question bank that is used to identify the right questions to ask that will produce valuable data around where the true biases lie within the organizational systems, processes, and culture. It is an anonymous assessment that identifies the specific needs and experiences of employees in your organization, and it should identify issues of bias and discrimination in your organization, of which management may not be aware.
Step #3 – Next 14 Days – Establish Organizational Priorities: To transform the organization, the survey data is used to establish organizational priorities, set project timelines and build the implementation plan that defines where time, resources, and attention should be invested in the next 12-24-36 months. Those priorities are centered around the formula for being a great place for women to work.
Step #4 – 12-24-36 Month Plan Implementation: This step usually requires collaborative efforts with an outside consulting firm and your staff to develop and roll out programs, policy, and systemic changes to set the transformation in motion. None of these programs can be cosmetic. Each must be focused on ensuring the goal of becoming a great place for women to work.
Step #5 – Year One Metrics: It is critical for leaders to monitor, adapt and modify the priorities of the implementation plan. In addition, to have continued support, top management will want to see quantifiable results and a return on investment. Without data, that is not possible. Therefore, a second survey will assess where the plan is working and where it’s not. It is also critical to develop success stories and experience testimonials that demonstrate progress and achievement of women on the team. Otherwise the claim of being a great place for women to work is superficial.
Step #6 – Promotion: Armed with the data, success stories, and testimonials from women in the organization, the organization can then embark on initiatives that market the organization as a great place for women to work. With some assistance, a strategy for communication can be developed. Success stories can be shared using internal and external marketing, the company website should contain a dedicated section to share “best place for women” stories, literature should be developed for recruiting activities, and social media plans should be launched. Your job will become to tell the world, your customers, and your staff the story of being a great place for women to work.
I started this blog series because I was frustrated by the pace of change within the gender equality movement. I wanted things to move faster. I want organizations to move faster. I want leaders to move faster. The six-step program above is the only one I have seen that accomplishes most of the goals of all women, and does in in a very short period of time. Credit for this innovative process goes to Jessica Gendron, President of The Center for Leadership Excellence and her team, of which I am proud to be a part. Visit their web site www.cleindy.com
Bio: Richard Butz is founder of The Center For Leadership Excellence whose mission is “Making Indy A Great Place For Women To Work”. He has been recognized as a pioneer and a passionate advocate for gender balance and gender equity in business for over four decades.