Disruptive Ways to Achieve Gender Balance

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Disruptive Ways to Achieve Gender Balance

In SHAMBAUGH Leadership’s work with client organizations and speaking at conferences across the nation, I’ve noticed that many struggle with understanding what gender balance really means—and more importantly, how to get there. Now more than ever, smart organizations are awakening to the fact that encouraging and tapping into the collective intelligence of “all” will be the means to drive greater levels of problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making—all of which drive innovation, helping companies compete and thrive in our new world.

Despite organizations continuing to make investments toward achieving gender balance, these efforts are not getting us to where we all collectively need to be, considering the current era of major disruption to almost every industry and business model.

I will be speaking at the Masie Learning 2018 Conference in Orlando, Florida on November 6th. Here, I’ll explain what needs to happen not only to achieve gender balance, but to ignite collective intelligence at all levels of an organization—both of which are necessary elements for companies to attract and retain top talent while remaining agile in today’s new marketplace. Here are a few highlights of what I will be presenting at my session:

Frame the business case for gender equality. Cognitively diverse teams solve problems faster than teams of people with similar thinking styles, according to a recent research study published in Harvard Business Review. SHAMBAUGH and many industry analysts have similarly proven a compelling business case for inclusion and gender equality, validating its connection to high performance cultures. At the heart of this business case is the fact that great ideas don’t happen in isolation. Innovation requires connecting and tapping into the broader spectrum of human intelligence—a truly collective intelligence—which includes harnessing the strengths and skill sets of both genders.

Determine your organization’s narrative. It isn’t enough to know what the business case is regarding gender balance—leadership then must link this case to a specific storyline that’s unique to the organization. Take some time to determine what your company’s narrative will communicate regardingthe business case for gender equality. It’s important to link this narrative to corporate goals and an innovative culture. Gender equality must be clearly positioned at all levels of the company as a true business imperative, rather than just a nice thing to do.

Re-examine and expand measures for success. Move beyond the usual metrics as the sole measure for achieving gender balance. The core of what needs to happen for real culture change goes beyond numbers alone. Balance standard success measures such as diverse slates/hires and promotion/retention of women with inclusive behaviors, people’s personal stories, and their perceptions of how they experience work.

Engage men. We don’t have a just women’s leadership gap—we also have a male gender gap when it comes to participation in initiatives relating to gender balance and inclusion. Women need to invite men into the conversation and engage them as champions for real change. Focus less on the number of men you can bring along—instead, engage individual men who not only understand the business case for gender balance, but are highly effective leaders and believe in pulling up and leveraging all the diverse talent in the organization to create a high performance culture. I invite women to prioritize building a bridge to incorporate men in the mission of gender equality, being purposeful in helping men understand why they are needed, how specifically they can help, and what we can learn from them.

Start the conversation together. On a related note, it’s critical to shift from having conversations in separate channels that include only men or only women, to merging collectively on the topics of inclusion and gender equality.  We’re much more powerful combined than “talking amongst ourselves.” To make a real difference, men and women together need to change their mindsets, recognizing we won’t make sustainable progress if women are the only ones talking about and acting on overcoming the status quo. Men and women can work in partnership to communicate about ways to break down outdated cultural barriers, address gender stereotypes, and help each other achieve a better balance of leadership intelligence.

Expand the meaning of inclusion. Finally, it’s important to educate people at all levels to expand the meaning of inclusion. The goal is to move beyond a merely programmatic or event-driven term, to instead have the meaning reflect anenvironment and culture where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute freely to the organization’s success. As one CEO shared with me: “Inclusion is about the human business case—it’s balancing out the thinking to enhance decision-making and problem-solving.”

What is your company doing to achieve gender balance in 2019? Watch out for my next blog for a continuation of these ideas on the type of disruptive thinking that’s needed today, and other best practices for achieving gender balance.

Rebecca Shambaugh is a leadership expert on building inclusive and high performance cultures. She speaks at major conferences and to executives on how to disrupt traditional mindsets and create an inspiring vision and roadmap for driving greater levels of innovation and performance through a unified voice for leadership. Rebeccais 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

At SHAMBAUGH we’re on 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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Rebecca Shambaugh


  1. […] by intentionally developing a very clear vision, like the one above, of what success looks like. When I spoke at the Masie Learning 2018 Conference last week, I started the dialogue with this exact visioning […]

  2. […] intentionally developing a very clear vision, like the one above, of what success looks like. When I spokeat the Masie Learning 2018 Conference last week, I started the dialogue with this exact visioning […]


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