During the past month, I have been fortunate to attend a number of events focused on breakthrough initiatives companies are implementing to advance women.
The first was the 2017 Colloquium on Global Diversity with 50 major multinational companies, the second was the 2017 Catalyst Awards Conference and Dinner where 3M and Rockwell Automation were honored for their work in advancing women; the third was a gathering of 1200 women and men at a major pharma company with the CEO kicking off International Women’s Day to an additional global audience of 22,000, and the fourth was with 700 amazing women in the wine and spirits industry in Napa Valley for the Annual Women of the Vine and Spirits Global Symposium. From these events, three major themes kept recurring as critical to accelerating their women’s leadership advancement strategy.
The three things are:
1) Treat your women’s leadership initiative as a change initiative rather than a program or policy change policy.
- This means total enterprise engagement. Women’s leadership advancement is owned by operations, sales, and marketing with HR playing a critical support role with the necessary progressive policies and programs.
- As with any change initiative, rigorous work is done to identify choke points and barriers. One company identified 13 basic root causes that were holding women back and they are now working to solve each of those issues.
2) Visible vocal senior leadership holding people accountable to true measures, metrics, and scorecards for advancing women.
- Senior leaders are out in front leading the initiative. They are talking about it and more importantly, they are holding people accountable for success. In most cases, measure, metrics, and scorecards are in place and compensation is tied to the active advancement and development of talented women.
- Senior leaders need to ask three simple questions of every direct report.
- What was the turnover rate in your division of women and men and what are you doing to address it (hint, women’s turnover in most companies is higher than men).
- What is your plan for next year to recruit, develop and advance women.
- How are you pushing this down into the organization including middle management.
3) The active engagement and critical need to create male champions to help drive women’s leadership advancement.
- Great companies realize that men are critical if companies are to be successful. Best in class companies have increased male engagement from 38% to 49%. This is over a 20% increase.
- Many men want to help but do not know how to start or what it looks like to actually help and support women. This is where the need to train and develop male champions occurs. Every company I meet had an active male champion development program.
The final closing thought is each of these companies took a long hard look at the current state. If you examine women’s advancement at all levels of the organization, you will see women are congregated in middle tier staff roles and no real advancement (think 20 to 30% increases) has taken place to move women into senior roles.
Are you satisfied with status quo regarding women’s advancement in your company? What do your numbers look like over the last 10 years? If you’re doing it well are you satisfied or do you want to go even higher? Best in class companies are never satisfied with status quo and it’s time to raise the bar, regardless of where your company is.
Jeffery Tobias Halter is a corporate gender strategist. The country’s leading expert on engaging men to advance women, Jeffery is the President of YWomen, a strategic consulting company. If you would like to access where your company is, download Jeffery’s 30-point Readiness Assessment. A highly sought-after speaker and thought-leader, Jeffery is a two-time TEDx speaker and frequently talks at industry and corporate events.