We hear about gender diversity almost constantly these days.
Nearly every CEO I speak with is concerned with the lack of gender diversity in their executive levels. However, the most common approach is usually to run a few women's events, maybe set some quotas and tell the boys to include women more in their activities and decision making.
And it stops there.
This is not how you achieve gender balance in the workplace.
Gender diversity isn't a fad or something to throw into the mix at a board meeting. It is a genuine strategic move for all businesses. If there are not enough women at executive levels in a company, there are two main issues: lack of confidence in women, and lack of respect for them.
1. Lack of confidence
A lack of confidence in a women has a lifetime ripple effect which is hard to undo. It becomes embedded into their psyche and also in the minds of those around them. When it comes to the workplace, this means they take things more personally than they should -- and also don't take on tasks they are well qualified for.This is the inverse of what happens with men. While women are doubting their abilities, men are overestimating theirs and going for jobs for which they are under qualified -- and getting them. Encouraging a woman to be confident is purely helping her realise her career path potential.
This confidence gap that exists between men and women is also the reason why women are paid less. Women are the biggest culprits in underselling their abilities while men are masters of selling ice to the eskimos.
If you want to increase gender diversity in your workplace then you need to:
- Run confidence-building workshops for women
- Hold sessions for both sexes on how to understand each other's difference in this area
- Implement one-on-one mentoring for women
2. Lack of respect
When we talk about respect, we are covering a broad range of situations -- including the very common lack of respect that men and women have for each other's differences. If gender diversity is to happen successfully in a workplace, there needs to be an appreciation of each of those differences. But you can't appreciate what you don't understand.
Workplaces are unfortunately given the task (especially in companies that are dominated by one sex more than the other) to assist with the communication between men and women, while having little understanding of how that can be improved. A very common scenario is when men don't respect women who are smarter than them, or women have taken maternity leave and then returned. Women often don't respect men who are successful, feeling they have had it 'easier' purely by being a man.
Mutual respect is key to ensuring there is a solid and unified approach when it comes to men and women working together as a team.
To assist with building mutual respect in the workplace consider doing this:
- Run workshops on the differences between men and women and emphsise that it is okay to be different
- Discourage childish behaviour and gossip
- Encourage collaboration and communication
- Have fun and run a session on understanding the opposite sex. Use humour to explode some of the myths.
Only then, combined with confident women willing to go for it, will there be good quality gender diversity and ultimately a productive and profitable company.