Inclusion – an imperative for gender parity

How to hire more female executives? And – even more important – how to create a culture and context for women to remain successful? Business leaders, more and more, stress the importance of having more female executives in top layers of organisations. They foster that believe. However, only a few of them really know where to start.  And at the current pace, it will take at least another 10 to 15 years to get to more gender balanced boards and executive teams. Therefore, the call for quota is getting louder and more pressing. However, quota are often a quick-fix and do not tackle the deeply rooted issues, which can only to be solved over a longer period of time. We should start with making the transition from Diversity to Inclusion.

From diversity to inclusion

How to create a context for companies to become more inclusive? Building an inclusive work environment, changing a companies’ culture is a cumbersome process. According to the Oxford dictionary ‘Inclusion’ is defined as:

“The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure”.

The top layers are formed and structured according to certain norms and values that are deeply ingrained in a system that is mostly exclusionary. Changing this, requires an introspective approach of all of us. Acknowledging your blind spots, bias and what does not go well in your organisation is a must. And to become aware of your actions, behaviour and what the effects are on your direct environment. Both in your organisation and how that resonates in society.

A company is like a human body. If the internal world is sick, the outer world will show.

A company is like a human body. If the internal world is sick, the outer world will show. If you are conditioned and biased, your scope will be limited. And your judgement will be based on images and non-facts.

Multifaceted scope of leaders is a prerequisite

Leaders need a multifaceted scope in order to cope with the fast paced and complex external world. The ability to connect with societies, clients, customers, potential talent is an imperative for future success. Having an inclusive culture and having a social purpose go hand-in-hand. The inner-world and outer-world are interconnected both from a personal and a company perspective. The stronger the relationship(s) the higher the returns.

An inclusive culture and a social purpose go hand-in-hand.

Self-awareness is an imperative for building Trust-Transparency-Accountability as a solid core. And as a starting point to align Strategy-Culture-Workforce. Acknowledging and seeing the toxic elements and the dis-balance in your system, in all its forms, is a first step. Then getting rid of these toxic elements is another step and in the real world this is the most difficult one. If you want change, you must break through the status quo. This process of alignment is a long and cumbersome arduous process. But once in place, there will be an inclusive context, an environment where everyone thrives regardless of gender or culture.

What to do, in parallel to changing culture change

In parallel with changing your company’s culture, here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Board members are key sponsors of attracting, retaining and developing female talent; their voice and support must resonate internally and externally.
  • Monitor and safeguard balance in male-female behavioural patterns. Start with top management for they are role models.
  • Build pipeline of female talent by proactive introductions aligned with succession planning.
  • Draft a re-entry strategy for (young) mothers.
  • Build bias-free performance management system to safeguard equal pay and career advancement.
  • Create a process of tailor made one-to-one succession planning for female talent with a long-term focus and active involvement of senior management.
  • Build female career acceleration programmes.
  • Execute solid data management; start building soft and hard data to measure progress over time.
  • Build both Social and Financial accountability kpi’s into performance- and career management.
  • Make ‘insider groups’ visible and deconstruct them, to enhance real inclusion.

An inclusive mind is able to transcend duality

Adnan Basaran


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