How do you put gender diversity on your company’s agenda? A lot of HR and Diversity Managers have tried saying something like this:
“Gender imbalance in our management teams indicates a loss of female talent, and it’s a serious problem that needs management’s attention.”
This picture captures pretty well how that message is likely to be received
Not exactly the picture of enthusiasm, is it.
So what’s the problem?
There’s no obvious link between gender diversity and the company’s strategic goals.
If managers can’t see the connection between gender diversity and the company’s strategy, they won’t understand what the point of it is. And they’ll invent a point. That’s a recipe for stonewalling. They may see the new focus on gender diversity as a mere exercise in political correctness. Some may even feel like you’re suggesting that they’ve been discriminating against women. If they can’t make a connection between gender diversity and the company’s strategy, they will resent the time and resources you will ask them to spend on it. They won’t commit, they won’t engage – and everything will stay the same.
So start by finding the link between gender diversity and the company’s key strategic goals.
It’s pretty easy to do. A number of studies show that companies with gender diverse management teams achieve better financial performance and create more value than companies where most of the managers are men. McKinsey has produced a whole series of reports with data showing the positive effects of gender diversity in a wide range of companies. BCG has recently published a report on gender diversity in Danish companies that shows similar results. The most obvious reasons for these positive results are that gender diverse companies are attracting and benefitting from a larger talent pool. They also get a clearer understanding of their customers and consumers and thus a better ability to meet their demands (especially in sectors where women make most of the purchasing decisions).
Equipped with data like this, you can easily present gender diversity as one of the keys to achieving your company’s goals. After all, who can argue that getting the very best talent and delivering the very best customer service are NOT essential to your company’s success?
Once you’ve persuaded your managers about the WHY of gender diversity – that it’s an essential part of your business strategy – you can start talking about the HOW of gender diversity.
More on that later…