Last week at the Fortune Brainstorm Conference, a discussion took place around what companies need to do to move the needle in diversity, inclusion, and gender balance. Panelists agreed that current approaches and traditional initiatives—from diversity groups, to mentoring programs, to relying solely on metrics and quotas—are clearly not enough to create sustainable change.
In partnering with organizations and speaking with executives across a wide range of industries, SHAMBAUGH has long been a leader in calling for nontraditional ways to achieve D&I goals. A growing number of companies are starting to get more creative in tackling these challenges, including two that appeared at the Brainstorm Conference: Citigroup and Edward Jones.
At the conference, Raymond McGuire—who serves as Citigroup’s vice chairman as well as chairman of banking, capital markets, and advisory at Citi—called the bank’s recent decision to voluntarily disclose the company’s gender pay gap “an inflection point,” according to Fortune magazine. While women earn nearly 30 percent less than men globally across the company, McGuire noted that “you have to figure out how good you are” before you can improve.
Edward Jones was also represented on the panel, where the firm’s managing partner Penny Pennington discussed a controversial new program that they recently launched, which she explained was meant to “raise awareness” and promote inclusion. To help increase gender equity (given that men comprise 80 percent of the financial advisors in the organization), the new program provides retiring advisors with incentives to refer their clients to colleagues who are either women or people of color.
SHAMBAUGH Leadership believes that these two companies are on the right track. I’ve talked to many CEOs and other senior leaders who are struggling with lack of progress despite an ongoing commitment to old-school diversity initiatives, and these leaders have repeatedly told me that they’re just not getting big enough results for their intensive efforts. Fireside chats and brown-bag lunches hosted by employee resource groups are well-intentioned and do make a difference—but not enough of one to feel that their company is succeeding in bringing enough women to the leadership table.
While the Fortune panel agreed that it’s necessary for companies to completely upend their business-as-usual approach to D&I, I know from my conversations with C-level executives that top leaders aren’t always clear on what this might entail. With this in mind, below is a summary of some of the more disruptive tactics that SHAMBAUGH recommends companies use to achieve gender balance and greater success in D&I efforts:
- Make it as much about behaviors as metrics. An overreliance on numbers to measure progress in D&I representation and gender equity is a limited and flawed approach. What’s needed is to add behavior examination to the equation. As I’ve said before, actions can speak louder than numbers. If no behaviors shift among the leadership team and the company as a whole, then nothing will actually change, no matter what your data shows. So think about not just “how many,” but “what.” The first step is to focus your organizational lens on identifying which specific behaviors need to be modified (this applies to women and men alike. Next, align company culture to reinforce and support these new actions.
- Redefine your progress indicators. As your leadership team redirects away from a focus only on stats and data, it’s important to simultaneously identify the new ROI. With your focus expanded to include behavior shifts instead of just the traditional numbers approach to measuring progress in D&I, the company will need to flip its frame of reference when determining and outlining what success and progress now look like. Balance standard quantitative success measures (diverse slates and hires, promotion and retention of women) with more qualitative ones, which in addition to inclusive behaviors might include people’s personal stories, along with their perceptions of how they experience work.
- Reframe the business case. At this stage of the game, proving the business case for diversity using the traditional reasons is old news. The business case that supports the financial rationale behind diverse, gender-balanced teams has been repeated so many times that the term “diversity fatigue” was coined to describe the frustration people feel around hearing the same message over and over, with little tangible results to show for it. SHAMBAUGH thus suggests reframing the business case around inclusion, based on our research that validates its connection to high performance cultures. In short, this updated business case should center around the fact that you can’t maximize corporate innovation without tapping into a collective intelligence that harnesses the talents of both genders.
- Determine a cultural narrative. Once you’ve reframed your business case, be sure that your leadership team links it to a unique message or story that relates to the organization. Your company’s narrative should be linked clearly to corporate goals and a culture of innovation. When positioning inclusion and gender equality, the company should have a clear storyline that resonates at all levels of the company to describe why these are true business imperatives, not just a “nice thing to do.”
SHAMBAUGH partners with companies and executives to address the whole system of an organization, unlocking and leveraging the full potential of the entire company. To learn more about our trainings and customized programs in leadership development that help create inclusive, high-performance cultures, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. Rebecca is 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.
SHAMBAUGH’s Mission: We’re on a mission to develop high-performing and inclusive leaders who transform workplace cultures so everyone can thrive.
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