Diversity is not just about bringing more women into an organization nor is it just an industry buzzword. Much has already been written and said about the subject and it has long been a focus for HR and business leaders. In the two decades that I have worked with leaders to tackle talent challenges like gender inequality, we developed many innovative approaches and achieved some positive results. Nevertheless, we are yet to fully address the issue.
Although the majority of organizations are embracing new strategies to improve gender diversity both in terms of recruitment and retention, we still have a long way to go before women are equally represented in the workforce. So what are we missing?
Here are some actions that business leaders, CHROs, and diversity leaders should consider:
- Gender diversity fosters diversity in thought and deed. Educate leaders at the top to build “diversity of thought” through formal programs to bolster and create ‘forces’ that drive diversity and inclusion.
- In addition to focusing on metrics, prepare leaders and hiring managers to accept and encourage diversity in their teams by training them on unconscious bias. This includes both men and women as I believe bias can be across genders. In doing so, organizations enhance those ‘forces’ significantly, thereby enabling inclusion.
- Society plays a major role. Drive school-level programs, government or privately sponsored, to eliminate gender prejudice and inculcate shared responsibility. This is a long battle and corporate leaders should throw their full weight behind it.
- In many cultures, women are still expected to take on the brunt of domestic responsibilities and their career choices tend to reflect this. Leaders would do well to invest in culture and policies that promote equal opportunity to progress.
- Most organizations focus on gender diversity metrics at the leadership and entry levels. However, most diversity talent is lost at the mid-career level. HR and diversity leaders should drive actions, policies, programs, and a culture that focuses on mid-career talent to create a strong leadership pipeline.
- Maternity benefits should be accompanied by measures that help women get back to work. Education and skill development bridges, for example, could make up for time lost while rules could be rewritten to restore equal opportunity to progress. Leaders should invest in career customizations, and above all, redefine competencies, assessments, and organizational culture that supports, recognizes and cultivates diversity in the workplace.
- While we do all of the above, the most important thing is to set an example in the organization and make diversity in teams non-negotiable.