No Shortcuts

How to spark change from the inside.

In order to develop an organization it is not enough to work with just one department or one group. A classical and common mistake in the past was to send “middle managers” to a leadership program and hope that it would lead to changes within the entire company. Today we know that we have to work with the whole entity in order to achieve development. And it has to start at the top with targeted programs working throughout the organization—level by level—with training, seminars and projects.
However, it is possible to start with one department in order to create a “role model” for the rest of the company.
Your department or business unit could be the “pilot project.” A successful result will lead the way and make other units willing to follow. But, along with this, it is important to work with internal marketing and conduct seminars within the entire company. Gender equality has to be on top of the company agenda in order to make things happen. It is one thing to talk about changes, but a totally different thing to make them happen by taking action.
The steps below describe a full program to foster gender equality. Of course, it is possible to make a choice among the points simply because it is better to start with something then to do nothing. However, points one and two are crucial and are impossible to ignore, as well as the question about salaries.
1. Start from the Top
Hold a top management conference. Include definitions of equal opportunities for your company, presentation of the steps below and statements from the CEO.
2. The Project Team
Team should be as “top heavy” as possible—the CEO should participate. A ten year project may be appropriate—equality work is a never-ending story. Set long term and short term goals. Spark a culture shift: Democratic identities, ethics and morals. Explicitly link it to company mission and vision.
3. Basic Work
Conduct a questionnaire—survey the company as a whole. Focus on gender and diversity, gather company-wide statistics on women, men, and their roles. Salary: are there differences between the sexes that are “hard to explain” regarding doing the same job and having the same position?
4. Planning
What should we do? Where are we going with this in the long- and short-terms? Inject realism: Who should do it? I’d say, “everybody”— it’s not just an Human Resources question.
5. Measurable goals
There needs to be something to measure, not just statistics, but also development on every level regarding positions.
6. Internal marketing
Changes come from within—you need ambassadors. And you need to provide information, live, on site. E-mail and video conferences are a secondary step.
7. Education
Host working conferences and open seminars. Start with the Management Team, then roll out to all employees.
8. Projects
Start small projects on each level within the company. Make visible changes on how you talk, recruit, behave, and treat each other.
9. Networks
Start mentorship programs, create women’s networks, and invite female managers from other companies to share their experiences.
10. External marketing
Tell the “world” outside your company that diversity is a key issue for you! Deploy media and advertising. Highlight the role models in your company.
11. Recruitment
Institute a plan regarding the hiring of women. Go for competence, not gender.
12. Evaluation and report
Require reporting every month and quarter.
As I wrote above, there are no shortcuts and in order to put all the steps above in place, you need to get going. Today!
Posted by Lars Einar Engström on Jan 9, 2013 11:40 AM America/New_York

Blog Post Comments

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As you mentioned, there are no shortcuts. While all of the points are key, 1,2 and 4 will ensure a solid foundation for long-term success.
  • Posted Fri 11 Jan 2013 02:20 PM EST
Thanks for this great list of action steps, Lars. I've seen some companies make progress using a "small wins" approach--i.e. beginning with a pilot effort in one part of the organization and then later leveraging the success of the pilot to expand the efforts more broadly.
  • Posted Fri 11 Jan 2013 09:06 PM EST
I Agree with you Anthony, Its possible but Its hard work!
  • Posted Sat 12 Jan 2013 03:07 AM EST
Communicating success internally and externally ignites change. Stories inspire others to join ensuring we move forward together while building community and partnership. Thanks Lars! @MARCmovement
  • Posted Sat 12 Jan 2013 07:23 AM EST
Sheryl, yes! And communication is about meeting people. Social media, e mail etcetera is fine for information, but in order to make things going forward Its important to talk to people, face to face, and then move!
  • Posted Sat 12 Jan 2013 10:48 AM EST
@ Lars or others in conversation, what strategies would you suggest in organizations where there isn't much support for diversity and inclusion from the very top?
  • Posted Sat 12 Jan 2013 01:29 PM EST
Dicsuss reports regarding mixed groups and the effects of those with top management. I know Its difficult but positive figures usually has an effect on men with power. Its a long process but in order to attract future top competence, companies need to connect diversity programmes with their brand. I use to show men the reports from McKinsey. Does it help? Yes!
  • Posted Sun 13 Jan 2013 03:42 AM EST


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