If you're a man looking to be a part of the solution to increase women in leadership positions, eliminate pay inequity, and improve gender diversity, there must be something. Failing to engage all professionals in building a more equitable work environment is everyone's problem and, therefore, everyone owns a piece of the solution.
If asked --as I am from time to time by mentors, bosses, clients, or colleagues--what more can be done for the women in the workplace, I owe them an answer that includes a couple of concrete, actionable items.
Here's a list to start and I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments section or via direct message, as well.
- Create diverse hiring panels to review resumes and interview candidates. The bottom line is that you get better employees when more people are involved in the recruiting and hiring process.
- Vary the ways you recruit to build awareness within your industry and community about the company and increase the chance that you'll tap into a pool of highly qualified talent.
- Take the initiative to change company policies that you know have a disproportionate impact on women. Places to look for outdated and troublesome policies include blanket prohibitions on telework and sick leave.
- Develop processes to overcome attitudes embedded within the culture. I talk to women who often say that their boss assumed they would no longer be seeking the next promotion after announcing that they were pregnant--that they'd put themselves on the "mommy track." Create processes for all employees such as multi-year career planning that negate the need for managers to make any assumptions about what an employee does or doesn't want at various points in their career.
- Stop targeting women to staff special working groups focused on the "people problems." One of my good friends is a highly respected, senior leader at a big consulting firm. She's super busy running her business yet she always seems to be the partner's first choice to lead special initiatives that relate to the staff such as revamping the awards program, refining performance review processes, or improving engagement. Just because she's a woman doesn't automatically make her better at the "soft skills." Identify a diverse cross-section of staff that reflects the gender balance you're striving for and not what the mix looks like today.
- Immediately make honest feedback on business issues to all employees your standard practice. Avoid sugar coating your observations with women out of fear that they'll have an emotional reaction. They'll be fine if you use a fair, professional approach.
- Cancel after-hours team building activities that aren't open (and reasonably appealing) to everyone. Also, don't assume women can't or won't want to play golf. I don't but know a lot of women who do. When planning activities, take a quick poll to identify the types of extracurricular activities that staff might be interested in.
- Reflect on your own unconscious biases and take action to reduce and eliminate the negative impact of your past choices.
Men: We need you to continue to step up to the challenge of building a more equitable work environment. And more than that, your sincere efforts to affect change are appreciated. As women, we'll continue to do our part to overcome stereotypes and policies that have such a detrimental impact on so many and we'll strive to help each other in that process. However, you can, and should, be a part of the solution.