A recent article in Forbes by Bonnie Marcus explored what it takes to keep women in tech companies. At the end of the piece, Marcus notes: “Off the shelf generic gender initiatives often fail because they don’t address the actual needs of the women who are employed by the company,” challenging companies to ask women what they actually want and need when it comes to sticking with the organization.
I think Marcus is completely on point with this topic. In fact, this is something that SHAMBAUGH has been proactively working on with our corporate clients, guiding them in making this shift happen. Specifically, when SHAMBAUGH helps our clients address gender balance within their organizations, we encourage their managers to conduct “listening tours” with the women on their team. On these tours, we suggest asking women questions such as:
- What has your experience at work been like so far?
- When do you feel included/excluded?
- Do you feel you have adequate coaching, feedback, and development opportunities?
- Do you feel your voice is heard and valued, particularly by your managers and/or leadership?
- What can we do to ensure you stay with the company long-term?
- What would cause you to leave?
Based on SHAMBAUGH’s research and our work with organizations and women through programs including our Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL) Program and others such as Creating and Leveraging an Inclusive Culture and Leadership Development, we’ve identified the following top three ways that organizations can take to move diversity and inclusion to positive action:
Ensure Constructive Management Feedback
Research from SHAMBAUGH and others including Lean In and McKinsey has found that even though women are as likely as men to ask for feedback from their manager, women are less likely to actually receive meaningful feedback. Women have been found to be over 20 percent less likely than men to hear tough feedback—the type of information that can help them improve their performance. Studies have also shown that the type of feedback that women receive is often vague and not tied to specific outcomes, both in praise and developmental feedback.
Instead, women were found to receive negative feedback on their communication style rather than strategic feedback that can help them improve in other critical areas. With this in mind, companies should guide managers in being more intentional and constructive in their feedback. Providing opportunities for true sponsorship and having managers serve as role models for inclusive behaviors can help. It’s also important to mentor women in ways that are authentic to the strengths that each individual brings to the business.
Help Women Explore Their Sticky Floors
While this isn’t a “women’s problem” but everyone’s problem, there are things that women can do to recognize and free themselves from certain hidden behaviors that sabotage their career success. I’ve written about these behaviors extensively in my book, It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor. There I discussed seven key Sticky Floors that women often encounter, which include balancing work and life, embracing the concept of “good enough” at work, making your words count, and asking for what you want. Since each individual faces her own unique challenges, companies should offer women the opportunity to engage in coaching and relevant learning sessions to explore their own Sticky Floors and learn ways to rise off of them.
Create an Inclusive Culture
An inclusive culture is one in which all voices and perspectives are heard and valued. The goal of leadership should be to facilitate a culture of cognitive diversity that supports a wide range of differences in how employees think about, respond to, and tackle workplace challenges. Another part of a culture of inclusion is avoiding the old boys’ club by ensuring transparency in opportunities and job openings so that everyone gets a fair chance, regardless of gender, age, problem-solving style, and other differentiating factors. Also, it can help level the playing field when companies offer and support intentional practices for work-life integration.
Are you ready to create a true culture of inclusion? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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