Mind the Gap: Creating an Inclusive Culture That Supports Gender Equality

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Mind the Gap: Creating an Inclusive Culture That Supports Gender Equality

Last week, I held a live webcast that shared the first steps that executives and companies can take to improve their organization’s leadership capacity for creating high performance cultures. Key to making this change a reality is fostering an inclusive culture where everyone can thrive. During this groundbreaking webcast, SHAMBAUGH shared best practices and relevant learning topics on inclusive leadership, and provided a clear coaching framework for leadership teams to follow.

If you missed the event, don’t worry—you can still reach out to SHAMBAUGH to have a similar session tailored to your company. To give you an idea about the power of this training and development initiative and how it is helping organizations across the nation attract—and retain—their top talent and accelerate their leadership pipeline, read on. I’ll recap some highlights from the “Mind the Gap” webcast, where we detailed the following ways to create an inclusive culture that supports gender equality:

Overcome complacency. When it comes to diversity, many organizations don’t view gender equality and inclusion as areas in need of an intentional and targeted change effort. But in fact, to be successful and help the company and individuals reach their intended goals, these initiatives do require a deliberate strategic change effort.

To this end, SHAMBAUGH has developed a Change Curve for inclusion and gender equality, which details what needs to happen at each stage of the maturity curve to ensure this effort first sticks, and then continues to evolve. Part of the key here is noting where you are currently in the Change Curve when it comes to four criteria: awareness, understanding, implementation, and adoption.  SHAMBAUGH provides organizations with specific strategies to advance through each of these stages.

Balance head with heart. SHAMBAUGH’s research has found that the number-one barrier to achieving an inclusive culture is lack of a compelling business case that’s built not just on “head”—facts and stats that support diversity and inclusion—but also “heart”—behaviors and stories that reflect experiences shared by employees about what it’s really like to feel included or excluded.

To succeed as an initiative, inclusive leadership must concern itself not with the numbers, but also the experiences of your employees. What causes women to join, stay, or leave your company? What barriers impede women from advancing through the pipeline? When leaders act on what they learn from heart experiences as well as head information, they’re in a much stronger place to effect lasting cultural change.

Embed a real strategy. In SHAMBAUGH’s research, we found that nearly three-quarters—72 percent—of companies have put efforts into gender equality and inclusion initiatives. These numbers sound promising, but when you dig deeper, you discover that these approaches generally are more programmatic than cultural, particularly at the leadership level. To move the needle, organizations need to create and embed a true strategy. When it comes to inclusion, our research shows that only 8 percent of leaders indicated having a real strategy.

What constitutes “real,” in this case? The distinction often comes down to whether your approach is based on a one-time program like a course or training, or if you’ve truly made inclusion an embedded cultural requirement throughout your leadership team. The latter approach is how you ultimately change the culture of a company to redefine the organization’s culture as inclusive, with opportunities for all mandated as part of your ongoing leadership training and development. Some ways to do this include:

  • Empowering your managers to understand the business case, while providing the tools and coaching to lead the change
  • Building benchmarks of inclusion into performance reviews for all managers
  • Requiring managers to actively sponsor women and diverse talent
  • Providing targeted and ongoing development and growth opportunities for women though the pipeline
  • Creating forums to listen to women across the company in order to learn what they see as opportunities and challenges—specifically, where they experience bottlenecks and bias that impedes their growth and success


In each of these cases, it’s important that early on, the organization dialogues with their entire leadership team regarding inclusion. Are your leaders aware of and embracing the right behaviors and mindsets that allow them to demonstrate the right actions? If not, then your first step is to coach your leadership development team to embed inclusive behaviors versus one-off training.

I invite you to reach out to SHAMBAUGH to engage with us in a similar session conducted specifically for your company. We also offer a framework for targeted development for high-potential women leaders based on our proprietarykey learning strategies that are known for advancing and retaining women up through the executive leadership levels. You can reach me at info@shambaughleadership.com.

Rebecca Shambaugh is a leadership expert on building inclusive cultures and high performance cultures. Sheis the Founder of Women in Leadership and Learning, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, and blogger for the Huffington Post. She is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results

We’re on a mission to develop high-performing and inclusive leaders who transform workplace cultures so everyone can thrive. Find out more about us at: www.shambaughleadership.com


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