Gwen K. Young

I’m an optimist by nature. I believe when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion there is cause for optimism. I’m also a realist and we must continue to up our efforts for gender equity.

Far more organizations are improving the corporate landscape for women than five or ten years ago. Yet attitudes and systems continue to hold women back, and these must be addressed and changed. Change can be positive, but we must be a driving force to ensure that when companies take further steps toward equity and inclusion, they are the right steps.

There are many reasons to fight for gender equity. Gender equity is not just a women’s issue, it’s an organizational issue, and the numbers back that up. Studies from McKinsey, IBM Institute for Business Value, and others show that profits and the Gross Domestic Product rise when women are in business. A recent study (one among many) of 2600 organizations by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that organizations that were leaders in gender equity reported “19% higher revenue growth than others in the study.”

Achieving gender equity is not just the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.

For the benefit of women and their organizations…

As a leader in the area of gender equity, WBC will continue to be at the forefront of helping organizations of all sizes and across all industries focus on strategies for equitably attracting, retaining, and promoting women. These strategies include:

  1. Ensuring the wholehearted commitment of CEOs and their boards to DEI

    As is always the case, if change is to make a real impact, it must have robust support at the top. All levels of the organization must understand that top leaders take DEI seriously and that it is an organizational necessity, not a nicety. This means tying DEI to business performance, performance reviews, and having the tools to address issues like pay equity.

  2. Making the case for the connection between DEI and financial performance

    Too often DEI is compartmentalized as a “woman’s issue.” That misconception must be dispelled using the facts, figures, and findings that back up the connection between diversity and profitability for the entire organization.

  3. Acknowledging and addressing unconscious bias

    Unconscious bias is an ongoing threat to DEI. It involves things like thinking of women as having “softer skills” or providing them with “kind” rather than career-advancing feedback. This accompanied by direct bias like offering men larger projects, holds all women back. Formalized strategies should be put into place to educate managers about addressing and overcoming unconscious biases and how to correct them.

  4. Measuring results of DEI across the organization

    That old cliché: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will lead you there.” is especially true when it comes to tracking results of DEI strategies and initiatives. Making progress on commitments and improvements is increasingly difficult without data on what’s working and also, what’s not. Also critical, is sharing the data and being transparent about milestones and impact.

  5. Holding managers and leadership accountable to pre-set goals

    Across the organization, managers must be given DEI goals. Managers must understand that whether or not they achieve those goals will impact how their performance is viewed.

  6. Not lumping all women together

    Too often, women are seen as a monolith with one set of needs. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this approach can have a negative impact on both attracting and retaining diverse talent. Strategies and developmental opportunities need to be customized to acknowledge differences across races and ethnicities

Addressing the crisis in the middle

At this point in time, the strategies mentioned above are especially crucial at the middle management level. The post-pandemic Great Resignation is rapidly depleting the pipeline of talented women who would be likely candidates for senior organizational roles.

While overall there is an increase in the number of women at junior levels, the percentage of women in middle management positions has dramatically plummeted post -pandemic. WBC is committed to helping organizations replenish the talent pipeline with women of all races and ethnicities. In this way, in both the near and long term, equity, inclusion and diversity will continue to take a firm foothold at senior and C-Suite levels.

Moving forward with optimism and realism

At this point in time, the corporate environment is more inclusive than it has ever been, but the challenges remain and center around equity, inclusion, and the tools to advance more diverse perspectives and leadership across business. One of the key strategies in upping our collective game is to attract, retain, and promote women across industries and divisions. Let’s continue to work faster together, maintaining our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; innovating in terms of processes to create pathways for diverse leadership; and both measure and be transparent regarding the progress being made for all women in business.

This September, please join us for the Action for Impact (A4I) Annual Summit will take place virtually September 20-21, 2023. We will present the 2023 CEO Excellence in Gender Equity and Diversity Awards and the 2023 WBC Trailblazer in Gender Equity and Diversity Awards.

This year’s virtual summit will feature a fully interactive platform allowing attendees to network and connect with each other, as well as share their ideas, innovations and impact in real time.

Register today to learn more from leaders across industries and sectors on how we are driving corporate purpose and equal position, pay and power for all women across business!

Gwen K. Young