If you have even a remote sense that there is gender inequity playing out at work — whether you’ve heard unofficial comments or observed something more blatant — it is critical to step up and address the situation head on.
Here is an action plan for what to do:
1. Acknowledge there is a potential issue and there is a plan to look into it. Making people feel heard is hugely validating and will build trust and allegiance.
2. Do an objective assessment of the situation across levels, departments, locations, men and women. Use an outside expert to create a confidential setting for sharing perspectives and analyze data. Surveys, one-on-one interviews, exit interviews, off-line feedback from alumni and review of hiring, promotion, pay and turnover data are all important to incorporate.
3. Report out on findings and why they matter. Highlight how this impacts the business as well as the individuals, including alignment with the company mission, core values and performance targets. Leverage industry and competitive data to show where there is a deviation from leading practices.
4. Set up support. Steps 1-3 will get people talking more and they need a place to share and be heard — and the company needs to keep listening. Small group discussions, peer level discussions and 1:1s with managers and leaders are really important here. Keep the conversation going.
5. Develop a detailed action plan to address operational, cultural and individual changes with specific steps, timing, owners, KPIs and accountability by leadership. Outline who is on the hook for achieving change and how success will be measured and stick to it. Be specific about what the future will look like. Communicate widely on all of this to rally the company around a common vision.
6. Establish ongoing, regular measurements against goals, reviews of issues and new findings, and read-outs on progress to date. Ensure this work stays a consistent priority and does not get buried under everyone’s other day job commitments.
7. As initial goals begin to be achieved, establish a continuous improvement process so new feedback and learnings continue to be incorporated into the new cultural and operational norms. This is the icing on the cake that will help employees and shareholders see there is true long-term commitment to change. The payback is tremendous here.
We have seen time and time again that gender inequity does not work itself out. It is like a splinter that is not removed right away. It festers and spreads infection. Getting to the root of any gender-based issues is critical to make employees feel safe, engaged and valued, all of which translates to driving the best results possible for the company.