Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


November 12, 2018

Often, the factors that hold women back in the workplace operate under the radar in unconscious thought processes and familiar practices we no longer even notice. That’s why it is especially powerful when those unconscious beliefs and practices come to light and we can instead choose to act with intention.
Forecasting how promising team members might be developed over time and how high they might rise in an organization falls squarely into that category. For some reason, we are far more capable of imagining what men might accomplish in the future and feel comfortable taking a risk on that promise. With women, we want a guarantee. Knowing that can empower us to change our behavior and pull women up.
Potential vs. Proof
Research from McKinsey & Company shows that men are promoted based on potential. They may not be quite ready for the next job but we are confident they will grow into it. Women, on the other hand, are promoted based on performance. We need proof she has mastered the responsibilities we plan to move her into before we trust she can do it. This common (and largely unconscious) approach leaves men with room to grow, and women working below their potential.
Pull Women Up
“Male leaders have taken risks on men they see as having promise for years,” said Denny Marie Post, CEO of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc., and Chair-elect of WFF. “It is time to take an equal chance on promising women on their teams.  We all need to identify high-potential women and pull them up. Some will not succeed, just as some men promoted into stretch assignments do not succeed. But many women will excel and that will accelerate our drive to gender equity and help unlock the full business benefits of diversity.” 
McKinsey & Company have identified several key steps shown to be effective in developing new mindsets around gender equity and new behaviors that last. They include:
Share the business case. We have said it before but it bears repeating because it’s foundational and effective. Although 86 percent of food companies say that they have articulated the business case for gender diversity, only 55 percent of men and 44 percent of women agree, according to the 2017 Women in the Food Industry report from McKinsey & Company.
Employees hear the rhetoric around gender equity but attribute it to company image building. When they learn the true business case for gender equity, they are much more likely to buy in.
Share your results. While 81 percent of companies say they share a majority of gender diversity metrics with senior leaders, only 23 percent share them with managers, and only 8 percent share them with all employees. Surprisingly, 43 percent of companies don’t share any metrics at all with employees. That makes it difficult for team members to buy in when they don’t know if their company takes gender equity goals seriously or if progress is being made.
Model the change all the way through the organization. No question, it must start at the top. But the activities of employees’ direct supervisors have the greatest impact on their behaviors. If managers are not held accountable for increasing gender diversity, they will not take the tangible steps necessary to create it.
Creating metrics for individual performance and sharing company-wide progress is key to transforming gender equity efforts from lip service to bottom line accountability.
Your comprehensive plans to drive gender equity include creating an inclusive culture, achieving pay equity, implementing HR policies and practices that support women’s advancement and increasing representation throughout your pipeline. But one step you can take today is to reconsider how you evaluate rising talent.
Are you promoting men based on potential while demanding proof from women?

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