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L04: Reflect on ways in which prominent business women have

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Transcript of L04: Reflect on ways in which prominent business women have

With only a small percentage of women breaking the glass ceiling within their professions of choice, there is clearly a long way to go to achieve gender equality in leadership and the workplace.

How should organisations go about helping women get there? This presentation explores several strategies for increasing the representation of women within the top branches of organisational hierarchies.

Many organisations around the world have committed to making gender diversity a top priority. However, when looking at the data, many of their employees do not feel this commitment in terms of palpable improvements.

McKinsey & Company’s 2017 Women in the Workplace report points to the following disconnect when it comes to commitment to gender equality:

• The majority of employees surveyed did not see their senior leaders taking the necessary steps to ensure gender equality.
• Only one third of participants said that their superiors communicated the importance of gender diversity to the organisation and encouraged further conversation on the topic.
• Women are still progressing at a slower rate than their male counterparts.


It is clear that organisations are in need of a comprehensive plan of action when it comes to ensuring a top-to-bottom improvement in opportunities, support, and encouragement.

How should leaders start this process? LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company (2017) recommends the following:

• Develop a persuasive case for gender diversity.
• Invest in employee training and awareness of gender issues.
• Provide managers with the resources to drive change.
• Ensure that the recruitment and promotions process is as fair as possible.
• Allow employees the flexibility to concentrate on external commitments.
• Focus on accountability and the results of interventions.



Executives displaying a real commitment to inclusion is crucial to the cause of gender diversity. Leaders can show their commitment by prioritising the development and promotion of their female staff members, and creating a strong business case for diversity in the workforce, as well as in the senior ranks of the organisation.

To help level the playing field for women in the working world, unconscious bias training should be offered to all employees of an organisation. Training in unconscious bias creates awareness of the continuation of stereotyping in the workplace, and provides employees with assistance in counteracting biased thoughts and behaviours. The same emphasis should be placed on anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training.
As noted in previous modules, being able to balance work and family is often a decisive factor for women trying to work their way up the hierarchy. Many companies continue to offer only the maternity and paternity leave required by law. Ongoing support for parents, such as assistance with emergency childcare, is also lacking from most corporates.

It therefore comes as no surprise that companies that offer supportive programmes (over and above the legal requirements) to parents retain their female employees at a higher rate.

Companies tracking gender representation targets have a greater chance of attracting and retaining their female talent by understanding where the trouble spots may lie within the organisation. Many companies track gender representation by level, but fail to measure important aspects such as growth opportunities for women.

Transparency in this regard is also important. All levels of the organisation should be able to access and comment on gender equity metrics, holding senior leadership accountable if they fail to achieve a positive change.

Many innovative, forward-thinking solutions to the current gender gap are available to organisations that make gender diversity a priority. The key is to change mind-sets, changing inclusivity from a luxury to a business imperative.

Women leaders have the opportunity to lead from the top by providing the organisation with substantial evidence that leveraging the talents of both genders leads to better business results.

Managers often play a large role in ensuring policies and procedures are in place and are being adopted on the ground floor. They are also responsible for making the daily decisions that have the power to affect women’s careers. If managers understand the scope of the problem, and are equipped with the appropriate tools, they will have the capacity to drive the ambition and career progression of the female employees in their charge.
For the sake of fairness and equality, leaders need to ensure that their organisational hiring and review processes are as consistent and comprehensive as possible. Tracking outcomes and setting gender targets is an essential part of this process.
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