3 ways to get gender balance at work

Published: 11 May 2018

3 ways to get gender balance at work

It requires strong leadership and a clear vision

 

Working across genders, like working across cultures, is a management skill. It requires education, awareness, and the ability to differentiate between real differences and unconscious biases.

Working across genders, like working across cultures, is a management skill. It requires education, awareness, and the ability to differentiate between real differences and unconscious biases.

 

Large, established organisations are finally starting to accept that gender imbalances are a business problem.

But achieving balance does not require a huge culture shift. It requires the momentum that comes from a strategic push toward a clear vision, backed by strong leadership and skilled managers.

1. Lead the charge.

The number one driver of better gender balance in large corporations is leadership. If leaders don’t get it, buy it and sell it, no one else can make it happen. Leaders must be the change they want to see (not just call for change). This requires a thorough understanding of the issues and how to address them.

2. Explain why it matters.

Many people think the business case for gender balance is now so obvious that it doesn’t require repetition. Most managers simply don’t understand the complexity of the issue, and even those who do are not usually ready to preach it to others.

Each company needs its own, fact-based explanation of how this relates to the bottom line. Leaders need to make the link to their own businesses, in a convinced and convincing way.

You need to make the case and explain why gender balance is an urgent global business imperative – just as explaining “why” is important for any key business initiative. Then get all your leaders to repeat the same, aligned message with their teams.

Beware of purely ethical arguments around diversity and fairness. While this works for many managers, many others will argue that the lack of gender balance is simply due to women’s choices, and has nothing to do with fairness.

In our experience (although ethicists struggle with this) a business-driven reason for balance is essential to garner more broadly-based support. This is especially true in countries that are still culturally attached to highly differentiated gender roles.

3. Build skills

Working across genders, like working across cultures, is a management skill. It requires education, awareness, and the ability to differentiate between real differences and unconscious biases.

Help managers understand the current situation in their organizations. What’s the current gender balance among customers? Among employees? At different levels and across different functions?

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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