Gender diversity in the workplace is not just a feel-good issue for women; it’s a financial imperative for companies. Studies show that gender diversity, especially in the top ranks, positively affects financial outcomes of an organization. McKinsey & Company, the global consultancy, and Lean In, a non-profit dedicated to women’s parity in the workplace, recently published their latest research report on gender diversity called Women in the Workplace 2018. The results of this year’s research show women are vastly underrepresented at every level of the organization and that their percentages have not increased over the past four years. Indeed, progress towards gender diversity has stalled.
Furthermore, this study states that women are doing their part to “lean in”: they are getting college degrees at higher rates than men, they ask for raises and promotions, and they stay in the workforce at the same rate as men.
It is in the best interest of all organizations to do more to fix this problem. The report lists six actions companies can take to address gender equality, including setting goals for hiring and promoting women and holding all executives accountable to the goals. One of the six recommended actions stood out to me, which was the prescription to “Foster an inclusive and respectful culture.” This upholds Brio Leadership’s conviction that company culture, which is made up of the collective values, beliefs and behavioral standards, is the foundation of and necessary precursor to gender inclusivity.
This report underscored the need for all employees to feel safe in an “inclusive, supportive and civil culture” (p. 50). Here are some ways companies can ensure such a culture:
The case study used to illustrate best practices in the area of setting cultural norms highlights how Mozilla created an inclusive culture. The company wanted to understand why women were leaving the company at rates much higher than men, so they convened a series of women’s focus groups to seek feedback and ideas. They learned that women wanted a clearer description of what constituted acceptable behavior and what groups (ie: races, gender and disabilities) were especially protected under the guidelines.
As a result of the company’s investigation, Mozilla revised their code of conduct to include specific examples of acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors and the consequences of non-compliance with the code. The results of these actions were a positive change in employee engagement scores and an equalization of attrition rates among both genders. You can see the Mozilla code of conduct here.
Organizational Culture is the Foundation for Gender Diversity
Women in the Workplace 2018 is an important read for anyone concerned about gender diversity, organizational productivity and profitability. Companies must start with the report’s cultural prescriptions to build a safe, inclusive & civil environment for all people to do their best work.
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