gender diversity action plansGender diversity is an important and admirable objective. However, it is not just a women’s issue or one that requires consideration, debates, and discussion. Setting goals is also commendable but how do we achieve them? Gender diversity is a complex societal and economic issue. Gender diversity within organizations can only be successful if leaders are serious about the issue and how to achieve parity. Effective gender diversity plans can be tied to talent management and retention efforts.

Gender Diversity in Organizations

Most organizations have realized that it is time to set goals for gender diversity. If organizations are not doing enough to hire, promote, and retain women then chances are you do not want to work in this type of an archaic culture. We require different strategies to succeed and thrive than men do. Mentorship, coaching, and sponsorship are all methods of success for women in the workplace. As I have been writing for the last few months, we are behind in leadership, government, and entrepreneurial positions. It is important for organizations to continue with action plans that encapsulate solutions to promote more women in economic life. We compose half of the workforce. By empowering women with the skills and knowledge to be successful, then not only are we advancing women but their families, society, and the economy are all enhanced as well.

Commitment to Change

For those that are committed to gender diversity, it may be personal. CEOs and senior executives that are dedicated to change walk, talk, run, and breathe gender diversity. Their passion for the topic exceeds logic and economics because it is ingrained in their personal belief systems or occasions when they felt discriminated against or observed it. Due to this, they passionately believe in the business benefits and culture in which talent can cultivate and rise. However, CEOs and senior executives cannot impact gender diversity by themselves. Achieving parity requires a committed team, HR functions, and full engagement. It has to start at the top because leading by example is vital for successful change. Implementing mentorship or sponsorship programs for female employees can be a beneficial first step because it gives women access to the knowledge, resources, and skills to increase productivity and success. Level playing fields and treating others with respect are important and can send powerful messages. While statistics may tell the story, we can strengthen the case for gender diversity by committing ourselves to good acts, such as mentorship, and constantly re-telling the narrative.

Organizational Culture and Values 

Culture and values are inclusive of what occurs within a workplace. If an organization is committed to gender diversity, it likely is not new. For example, Aetna hired their first female officer in 1926. She paved the way for all other women who came after her. This was a display of courage that was woven into the organizational culture. A good role model has the ability to inspire others, however, creating a human-centered, flexible nurturing environment is important in order for employees to thrive. Interestingly enough, some organizations do well with gender diversity by not focusing on women. Rather, they have altered the manner in which employees interact with one another. By doing so, this type of shift benefits both men and women.

Formally Creating Effective Gender Diversity Programs

So, how can we create effective gender diversity programs? We need to listen in order to hone in on the problem and correct it. The next step is to ask questions. What is it that organizations would like to achieve? While gender diversity and inclusion may be the ultimate goal, the vision of how to arrive at that differs. It is essential to account for organizational culture and values as well. CEOs and senior executives all do not have the same vision or operate in the same manner. Gender diversity plans that do not account for values are likely to fall apart as old habits slide back into place and take over. The key is to work well with people by listening, assessing their needs, and understanding the organizational structure, culture, and values in order customize the best action plan that fits each individual organization.

Human resource audits are a critical piece to this puzzle. It is important to examine hiring, promotional, and retention practices. Employee gender audit questionnaires are also beneficial because they can provide feedback and assess the range of understanding, attitudes, perceptions and reported behavior among staff in their own organization. Responses to the questionnaire serve as a baseline of staff perceptions on the status of gender equality in the organization’s programs and processes. Focus group conversations can be helpful as well. A review of the questionnaires can provide a standard for focus group conversations and should begin with a review of the results along with key guiding questions for the group to explore. These conversations can provide the basis for identifying actions that need to be taken to promote gender equality. The goal of the focus group conversations is to gain deeper insights into the survey findings and to learn more about trends in the data.

The next step is to create the gender diversity action plan. The action plan is the most critical part of the process because it needs to address the proper issues and how to correct them as well as monitoring and measuring change. This plan should build on organizational strengths that been identified within the preceding processes. The data you have gathered will identify challenges faced by the organization, and focus group conversations yield suggestions and detailed ways the organization could move forward to achieve greater gender equality. These data, suggestions, and ideas form the basis of the gender action plan. These plans typically include initiatives, strategies, and processes that will help organizations to integrate gender, minorities, and are comprehensive within the scope of diversity The desired outcome of the audit process is shared ownership to move toward a diversity-friendly organization and the action plan is used to include these ideas and suggestions from staff members.

Following-up: Monitoring and Measuring Progress

One fundamental aspect of the audit process is ensuring that recommendations in the action plan actually occur and, over time, gender parity and diversity in the organization is increased or maintained. The recommended activities, benchmarks, and targets in the action plan need to be monitored and assessed for completion and/or renegotiation. To ensure follow-up, a mechanism for a regular assessment of the action plan or an annual progress report or score card to evaluate progress toward reaching your diversity and inclusion action plan goals and targets should be created. Establishing and agreeing on specific and implicit commitment mechanisms to monitor the action plan will go a long way to guaranteeing that the audit process receives on-going support and real gender equality is achieved.

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