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Strategies to Build a More Inclusive Workplace Culture

In my last post, I shared reasons why it’s important that inclusive cultures become the norm rather than the exception, both in corporations and the world. An inclusive culture, as defined by the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University, involves “the full and successful integration of diverse people into a workplace or industry.”

BBI adds that while an inclusive culture encompasses a commitment to workplace diversity, it is not limited simply to basic representation. Instead, according to the Institute, “it indicates a climate in which respect, equity, and positive recognition of differences are all cultivated.” At the same time, the social and institutional response to various differences should pose no barrier to the positive employment experience of any particular group.

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Making an Inclusive Culture the Norm

If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have noticed the topic of inclusion coming up more frequently, particularly in political circles. In a speech earlier this month on the 2015 national security strategy, National Security Advisor Susan Rice emphasized the importance of helping countries in transition become more inclusive societies, as well as promoting equality here at home.

“We believe everyone should be able to speak their minds and practice their faith freely,” said Rice. “We believe that all girls deserve the very same opportunities as boys. We believe that all humans are created equal and are worthy of the same love and respect—including our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters. These beliefs are fundamental to who we are.”

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Looking Back, and Ahead, at Women’s Leadership

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2014, let’s pause and reflect on some highlights we’ve seen in women’s leadership development this year:

  • There was a groundswell of dialogue based on an article in The Atlantic that revealed new findings on the link between success, confidence, and genetics. Authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman made the point that confidence can be acquired and the gender confidence gap—which leads to women considering themselves less ready for promotions and more likely to underestimate their abilities than men—can be closed. SHAMBAUGH’s research indicates that women can reprogram confidence levels by understanding the three pillars of confidence: brain science, belief systems, and targeted development.

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The Importance of On-the-Job Learning for Women

How much time do you spend learning on the job? If we look to the standard “70:20:10 ratio,” we might think that we spend a lot more time engaging in on-the-job development opportunities than we actually do.

A new report from DDI and The Conference Board called Global Leadership Forecast 2014/2015 gives us the breakdown of actual time spent on formal learning and learning from others versus on-the-job learning. It turns out that 70:20:10 (which represents on-the-job learning, learning from others, and learning from formal development, respectively) doesn’t mirror the way leaders are really learning after all.

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The Missing Link: Moving Beyond First-Level Solutions to Women’s Leadership

It has been a hectic but exciting fall packed with travel and speaking engagements at executive forums and conferences nationwide. At these events, I’ve continued to explore with companies this perennial question: “How do we attract, retain, and advance women leaders?”

My most recent talk engaged top executives from Fortune 500 organizations who are responsible for talent development, or play a key role in talent recruitment while running a significant part of their organization. Most if not all of these well-known organizations have invested significantly in their high-potential women and have developed programs to support women leaders.

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Why Aren’t More Women Landing Board Seats?

Abercrombie & Fitch recently nominated four new independent director candidates to the company’s board—all of whom are women. Their election would make 33% of Abercrombie’s board female, which is around twice the national average. While an increasing number of corporate boards give lip service to diversifying their ranks, the latest Catalyst Census showed the U.S. weighing in below eight other countries, with only 16.9% of women on boards in corporate America. Less than one-fifth of organizations had one-quarter or more female directors in both 2012 and 2013. One-tenth of companies had zero women on their boards. What’s more, for the past two years, less than a quarter of companies had three or more women serving jointly on their boards.

Over the years that Catalyst has been charting these trends, there has been little to no increase in women’s board participation, making Abercrombie’s relatively high percentage of potential female board members stand out all the more. Could Abercrombie’s bold move put pressure on other organizations to do the same? From a business standpoint, every company in the nation would be smart to follow suit. A separate report from Catalyst that examines The Bottom Line revealed Fortune 500 companies that had three or more women board directors in at least four of five years significantly outperformed companies with zero female board directors. The former firms experienced an 84% better return on sales, 60% better return on invested capital, and 46% better return on equity compared to the latter.

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Which Tech Companies Are Ahead of the Curve in Women’s Leadership?

As we’ve seen from a flurry of media reports over the past few months, tech companies are beginning to “out” themselves for lack of diversity. Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and LinkedIn are among a growing number of tech firms whose voluntary disclosures on demographic data reveal industry trends of a workforce that’s still primarily male and white—especially at the executive levels and in actual technology jobs. (See “The Genie Is Out of the Bottle for Silicon Valley: Lack of Diversity.”)

Based on SHAMBAUGH Leadership’s research, which includes working with a number of tech organizations as well as other industries, a number of identifiable factors lie behind these concerning trends. Outdated and non-inclusive cultures, poor relationships with managers, and a lack of mentors and sponsors have all contributed to the industry’s apparent failure to appropriately recruit, advance, and retain women and minorities.

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The Genie Is Out of the Bottle for Silicon Valley: Lack of Diversity

As the U.S. technology sector has boomed, women and minorities have largely been left behind. This is what’s clear in the wake of recent disclosures on workforce demographics from a handful of tech companies.

On June 25, Facebook became the latest tech giant to publicly release its demographic data, which indicated that men represent nearly 70% of all global employees. Worse yet, of the 31% of women in the company, a mere 15% work in jobs that are actually technical. (Women hold 47% of non-technical jobs.) When it comes to the top of the pyramid, although Facebook boasts COO Sheryl Sandberg, more than three-quarters of senior-level jobs (77%) globally are held by men. Among these senior-level executives in the U.S., nearly three-quarters (74%) are white, leaving just a quarter of the pie for everyone else (19% are Asian, 4% Hispanic, 2% black, and 1% two or more races).

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Your Deeper Dive Continues

In my last post, we discussed the importance of examining the mindsets and underlying issues within a corporate culture to understand “why” things are the way they are—particularly when you’re dissatisfied with the speed of transformation within your company. If you’ve made significant investments in diversity training and leadership development initiatives yet the results are still lackluster, you may need to take a “deeper dive” to find out what’s really happening beneath the surface.

Let’s revisit the conversation I had with a CEO who was concerned about these issues and wanted to have a better understanding of his organization’s “executive conscience.” While he’d had some breakthrough thinking about how bias toward traditionally male decision-making styles could be holding women back in his company, the CEO asked for another example of the influence that mindsets have on corporate culture.

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