Although the American workforce has worked to shrink the gender gap (and is still struggling on evening the wage gap), it's still often failing the sexes, especially when it comes to gender intelligence.

Throughout the last half century, gender representation has grown and reached near-equality status in hiring and general employment. But when it comes to upper management, it's massively tilted towards hiring and promoting men--and when women get in leadership positions, it's often expected that they act like men and assimilate to the current masculine-centered culture.

It's great for organizations to aim for a balance of new hires between men and women. But better representation is not the same as equality. A 50/50 split isn't as meaningful if one half is still expected to conform the culture set by the other. Businesses should go beyond thinking in terms of sheer numbers in order to create a better culture and attract the best job candidates. 

Here's how to get started.

1. Learn about (and teach) gender differences.

You likely already do staff trainings on cultural diversity and sexual harassment -- and you may cringe when yet another identity-based training makes its way onto your team's "to-do" list. But learning about gender differences is an integral part of growing your business's gender intelligence.

To find the right training, look for one that goes beyond the basic physical and emotional gender cliches like the nurturing woman and protective man. Discuss differences in attitudes, behaviors, communication, and problem solving, not in a way that makes one superior to the other but in a way that demonstrates and explains differences in tendencies.

Once this fundamental basis of gender intelligence begins, engagement among both the men and women in your company increases. Take this understanding and apply it across all the areas of your company, including recruiting, hiring, management, and even client relations.

If your company showcases lunchtime speakers, host lectures that discuss women's issues and encourage the men, especially those in management and hiring positions, to attend. Many men don't realize the imbalance in top positions (in McKinsey's 2017 Women in the Workplace study, nearly 50 percent of men thought women were equally represented in their management teams when it was really a 1:10 ratio) or the pressure women feel to conform to the current culture.

Offer improvisational trainings, teaching women the best way to address gender intelligence issues in the office. That way, the next time a man claims full credit for an idea a female worker suggested and collaborated on, she can address the issue in an effective and productive manner.

2. Embrace synergistic energy.

Expecting women to modify their innate abilities and skills to adapt to the male-oriented culture fails both the individual and the team. When men and women bring their natural talents to the table, everyone benefits.

Companies with high gender intelligence and cultural diversity develop a strong culture of inclusiveness, one that attracts and retains top talent, makes stronger strategic decisions, and produces more relevant products and services. And ultimately that means more business and increased profits.

The best team-builders don't look for an army of clones; they look for complementary pieces. Combining unique perspectives in a collaborative workplace can spark magical results. 

3. Follow education with action. 

When you really want to see gender intelligence develop at your company, everyone needs to get involved, from hiring managers to the CEO. 

Education isn't enough on its own; make sure it's followed by action. Don't just stop with a gender-based lesson in science or sociology, and then go right back to the same old ways of doing business. 

Women are severely underrepresented in upper-management positions; it's a problem that begins in the early stages of management and worsens with each subsequent stage, all the way to the C-suite. Instead of just focusing on the latter group, businesses should have a plan to increase female candidates at every level of management.

It's also a profitable move: A 2016 study on gender diversity from the Peterson Institute for International Economics showed that profits spiked 15 percent after women were better represented within senior management.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, SAP SE serves as an example of a large employer taking action: discarding conventional training sessions for concrete plans for helping women expand their networks and rise through the managerial ranks. 

What it comes down to is that gender intelligence is about recognizing that while men and women hold equal value, they aren't the same. And when everyone, men and women both, learn about the diverse skills and insight women bring to the table, your team and your business thrive.

Published on: Jan 31, 2018