Somewhat ironic that the day I accept the invitation from CMI Women to attend their next event in January Men as Agents of Change, I get reminded by the BBC that Bono (U2 frontman) was named by Glamour magazine as their Woman of the Year.
Yes you read that right – Bono, a man, has been named Woman of the Year. In honour of his campaigning for women’s rights. So, you mean there were not enough women campaigning who deserved it more than a man?
Do we really need men to ‘lead’ the battle?
However for me, the real icing on the cake, is the quote from Bono that the battle for gender equality can’t be won “unless men lead it along with women”. My emphasis. Absolutely I agree, and as discussed at the CMI Women launch, we do need men to be involved in the discussions. We need men to be agents of change. But seriously, we’re talking gender equality and he wants a man to ‘lead’ the change.
Though, to be fair to Bono, when you read the full transcript of his acceptance speech, he sees the irony too. Phew.
Because let’s face it, gender diversity and quality is not just an issue for women. As RBS Director Heather Melville pointed out at the launch of CMI Women, men are keen to get involved when their daughters grow up. Because it’s then that they start to realise the potential impact of the ‘missing middle’ on their own daughters’ career paths.
Not just about your daughters
But it’s not just about you and your daughters’ career potential, gender diversity makes good business sense too.
Recent CMI research shows that gender-diverse management teams deliver an 18% Return on Investment premium and diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform competitors. Diversity could add $12 trillion annually to the global economy and £150 billion a year to the UK economy in 2025.
What can YOU do about gender diversity?
Bono is doing his bit – last year his One campaign launched a Poverty is Sexist movement. What about you? What can you do?
Below is a selection of the advice and tips shared by the speakers, panelists and audience at the CMI Women launch last week.
- Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, Fawcett Society:
- “Be bold, back yourself, and stop trying to be perfect. It’s ok to fail. Don’t try to be the perfect candidate. Be the good candidate“.
- “Treat gender discrimination and practices which inhibit diversity as a performance management issue. If you believe it affects the bottom line then treat it like that.”
- And on the biggest challenges for engaging the missing middle women “Practice. Culture. Attitudes.”
- “Every job should be advertised as flexible working otherwise women screen themselves out.”
- Chuck Stephens, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Google:
- “When you raise attention to the gender discrepancy, you will minimise it“. Chuck noticed at Google that men put themselves forward for promotion a year too early (on average) whereas women put themselves forward a year after they were ready. So he started to send out emails telling women what the ratios were. The disparity disappeared. Because they raised attention to it.
- Don’t wait for somebody else to make the difference: “my biggest frustration is people waiting for the people above them to make a difference.”
- Women express their skills and ambitions differently to men and this may mean that your talent spotting systems might be missing the female talent.
- He cited the adage that women will apply if they meet 80-90% of the bullet point criteria whereas men will apply as long as they met 3-4 of of the bullet points from the job ad. His simple solution, “Take away the bullet points“.
- He asked the pertinent question “Does the organisation value the work that you do? Sometimes women are working hard and working 120% above and beyond however if that work is not valued by the organisation, it’s unnecessary work.
Emily Lawson, Deputy Chair, 30% Club:
- Emily highlighted the significance of the timing of a woman’s first promotion in relation to the timing of her family. She suggested fast track promotion which then gives women reasons to come back from maternity leave. I know from my own experience, having children later in life, it was much easier for me as a senior manager to negotiate a change in my working hours and organise appropriate childcare, than it would have been when I was my 20s doing shift work in IT support.
- “What you measure is what gets managed. But it’s crucial to check you are measuring and managing the right things.” As Group Head of HR at Morrisons, she was able to identify that women were promoted into roles which don’t lead onto the top level managers; so they got ‘stuck’ in those roles.
- “You need to understand what your pipeline is coming from. Where it isn’t. And why. Without that understanding, you’ll fail”.
- “[Organisations] need to figure out how to spot talent early” so that they can nurture women through the pipeline.
You manage what you measure
Before your firm starts to implement any kind of strategy to promote gender diversity, it’s essential to have a robust benchmark. Get the support from the most senior management. Get clear that this is a business initiative because it doesn’t work if you’re doing this as a checkbox exercise to improve investor relations. And it doesn’t work if men are ‘leading’ the battle. It’s a matter of men and women working together, as equal partners.
Not sure where to start in your organisation?
The CMI Blueprint for Balance portal is an open resource tool to promote diversity in the workplace. If you have the female talent but the female talent is not reaching her potential, let’s talk.
I help individuals who are stalling in their career, perhaps not applying for promotion or not putting yourself forward for the meaty projects, and feeling frustrated with yourself.
And I help organisations flummoxed because you have put flexible working in place, you have done the unconscious bias training, you’ve reviewed the way you recruit, and yet your female talent is still getting stuck in the pipeline. Let’s talk.
A simple conversation with me might be all you need. I’ll help as much as I can in the conversation, and if you want to take it further we can talk about that too.