March is Women's History Month and today marks International Women's Day, so I thought it would be fitting to focus on how companies can really create a diverse and inclusive workplace for women. It seems like the focus has, in the past, been on the numbers. Having enough females in the company is important, as McKinsey has taught us, and can improve the bottom-line of a organization, but ensuring that the women in the organization feel included is imperative and is the key to really fostering diversity.
First, assess WHERE you are sourcing candidates from. Women currently make up 58% of the labor force so the excuse of a pipeline problem is a myth. You have to be creative with where you are searching for candidates. Albert Einstein is misattributed for oft-used quote "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results." If your current pipeline does not contain women, you need to revamp your strategies for sourcing candidates. Look at different universities, examine Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and look beyond the usual pool and scope you may have considered. Create a referral program where employees can refer female candidates that are qualified for open roles.
Also-Review job ads to ensure that gender-neutral language is being used. Gendered language in job ads could be keeping potential female employees away, so re-evaluating and modifying current job ads is critical.
Is there objectivity in policies, procedures, pay and promotion systems? I call these the Four P's. Consider how often these Four P's are evaluated and quantified. Creating more objectivity in these systems may lessen the likelihood of bias and discrimination. What is the process to get promoted? Do employees have to have a specific performance ratings and sell a specific amount over a given time period? Frequently reviewing the Four P's of your company can create more objectivity and lower the likelihood for bias.
Are there opportunities for sponsorship and mentorship within the organization? Sylvia Ann Hewlett published an amazing book that I highly recommend about the importance of women having sponsors in the workplace. There should be systems in place that allow for women to be mentored and sponsored by senior employees. I recently attended an event where Carla Harris, the Vice Chairman of Wealth Management and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, shared with us that one thing that greatly helped her career progression was sponsorship. Creating opportunities for women to network with other women is also vital. Ensure that you have a female-centered affinity group/employee resource group and create different events that celebrate women.
Lastly, I try to do everything possible to amplify the voices of other women and especially women of color. It's important that we lift each other as we climb. I don't see any other woman as competition, but I feel like if I succeed and rise, others will too and vice versa. I want you to think about this one question, as I end this article:
What are you/your company doing to help other women rise?