Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure in attending my niece's university graduation ceremony at Wellesley College. The energy created from celebrating 500 women from around the world who collectively earned such an achievement through their intellect and effort was inspiring. Given I was about to moderate a panel discussion at the IPI's Annual Conference & Expo, one troubling thought that came to mind that day was what a shame it would be if any of these graduates lost out on a well-earned opportunity simply because of her gender.
As the panelists (Pam Corbin from The City of Orlando, Pam Brown, SP+, and Alan Lazowksi, LAZ Parking) discussed during our session this past Tuesday, leaders at all levels have a responsibility to recognize with every hire, career opportunity and promotion decision to select the best, not the "familiar". To look beyond what's "comfortable" about a candidate, placing too much value on similarities and instead, truly evaluate each candidate based on merit, accomplishment and potential.
We also recognized during our discussion that establishing and maintaining gender balanced teams isn't about policy - it's about strategy. A study from Sodexo highlights this distinction. They employ over 450,000 employees world-wide and conducted a study in 2015 to analyze how gender balanced teams (i.e., 40-60% male/female composition) performed as compared to those that were male dominated. Their study concluded that gender balanced teams reported higher:
•Profit Margin – 8%
•Customer Retention - 9%
•Employee Retention - 8%
- Employee Engagement– 14%
They're not alone - several studies I've looked at prove out that the more an organization is gender diverse, the more their shareholders enjoy higher returns.
Looking to improve your gender balance workforce? Here are three tactics that will drive an immediate impact:
- ER Branding. What message does your website or social media feed send about what it's like to work at your company through the lens of women? It's human nature to look for visual indicators that resonate. Candidates want to know, beyond receiving a fair wage and benefits, what the work environment will be like. That regardless of gender, there's a real opportunity to contribute, learn and advance. Through a critical eye, evaluate your employer branding to ensure it's casting a wide net to attract a diverse pool of applicants. If you're looking for a few websites that exemplify this approach, check out Spot Hero, Premier Parking, LAZ Parking or SP+. Each has a career site that's easy to find from the home page and demonstrates the employee experience - from actual employees.
- Outreach. Often times in our line of work, we have discussions and/or projects related to increasing hourly associate applicants driven by observations related to how hard it is to attract females at this particular level. Given the many national, regional and city based organizations that enable women to re-enter the workforce with training, support and resources, establishing a partnership with one of the entities is easy and beneficial. We’ve been a part of a few organizations who enjoyed much success with the relationships on both the gender diversity and talent gap fronts. As well, more than a few of such organizations offer subsidies , guarantees, etc. with their partnerships that decrease risk and increase benefits. A quick google search will return with a robust list of options, regardless of market.
- Mentoring. Can’t influence your company’s Employer Branding Program or outreach efforts but still want to play a role in gender diversity improvement at your organization? No problem. Be a mentor. Find one high potential female colleague who you believe would benefit from your expertise, insight and experience and offer to be her mentor. When you set up the mentoring relationship, agree on a few ground rules related to time each month that you both commit to meeting, who sets the agenda (typically the mentee), and absolute confidentiality regarding what’s discussed each session. If your mentee sets objectives she wishes to achieve as a result of the mentoring relationship, commit to your part in holding her into account, providing resources that will be of help as she develops each and celebrating each milestone reached. Almost all, if not every mentor I’ve ever chatted with acknowledges that he/she gained as much benefit and value as he/she intended to give in the relationship.
What I've learned through my personal experience that this type of transformative change in any organization really starts with just a conversation. That talking about the importance of gender diversity in strategic tones raises awareness, which likely pivots perspective, which then drives decisions that translate to action. If nothing else, just ask your colleagues, team, leaders what collectively can be done to increase the male/female balance in your organization and trust that small steps will yield big results.