I confess I am tired of hearing about how we need to increase gender equality. No duh. How do you get there?
I don’t know of any magic bullet, but here are my 12 suggestions. Each of these could be a separate book, let alone a separate blog.
1. Improve gender representation on your board of directors
When a company has at least one woman on its board, it is more likely to crush the competition. Unlike in the employment context, you can specifically target women for positions on the board. No discrimination issues.
2. Make affirmative efforts to increase the diversity of the applicant pool for leadership positions
Companies with gender diversity on the senior leadership team outperform their competitors. While we always should hire the most qualified person, we should make sure that we cast a wide net to increase the diversity of the applicant pool. For example, consider circulating to managers resumes without names. This not only will help eliminate unconscious bias relative to gender, but also race, religion, etc.
3. Consider decision-making processes
Diverse teams should help to ensure that there is not conscious or unconscious gender bias in decision-making. How do you avoid the unconscious? Bring it to conscious awareness through training, discussed below.
4. Educate the senior leadership team (SLT)
The SLT needs to understand the legal issues associated with gender discrimination. It is not enough simply to reference it generally. Focus also on unconscious bias and how conscious systems can minimize the risk of it. Don’t forget to focus on covert bias, too.
5. Evaluate the assignment process
It is important to evaluate critically your organization’s work assignments systems to make sure the work is being distributed fairly and equitably and not based on personal relationships, or there is a real risk of “like-me” bias. I could go on, but I won’t, except to say: No system not only produces chaos but also can help create guardrails for a boys’ club.
6. Consider the money
We have a gender gap when it comes to pay. There are fair questions about whether the gap is solely due to gender, but no reasonable person can deny a gap exists, and it must be closed. Here are some recommendations for how to do so:
7. Social inclusion
Social inclusion is a big part of business inclusion. Candidly, I bristle at the term “social inclusion” because it diminishes its importance. A conscious effort should be made to ensure that social inclusion is, well, inclusive. Not everything needs to take place on a golf course.
8. Work-life management
Work-life management benefits everyone, but with more women as primary caregivers, it is particularly important in minimizing gender inequality. By way of example only, the focus should be less on face time and more on the bottom line. We need to train managers how to control their control issues.
9. The evaluation process
In my experience, the evaluation process often benefits men as a result of unconscious bias. We need to evaluate the evaluators. Be careful not to evaluate based on projected confidence rather than actual competence. Focus on the performance, not the person!
10. Evaluation of our leaders
Some leaders engage in behaviors that are contrary to gender equality. Make them pay a price on their evaluations and in their compensation.
11. Empowerment of women
We talk a lot about sensitizing leaders. We need to empower women, too. While we always need to be clear that employees can bring a complaint, teach power tactics, too. Excluded from a meeting where you clearly belong? Join the meeting and say something like, “Someone mistakenly left me off the invitation list.” Don’t be too hard on them.
12. Include men
Men must play a role in remedying gender inequality. Women cannot resolve it alone — nor should they, particularly in organizations where men dominate the power circles. Addressing this problem takes time and effort, and it is not fair to expect women to carry the burden alone.
Men who are women’s allies sometimes face bias from men and women alike, so focus on that, too.
Want more hiring best practices? See 4 Ways to Take Advantage of the Talent Ecosystem.