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International Women’s Day – let’s move this from an event to a culture!

With the growth of the #MeToo and the #TimesUp movements, I think these are timely reminders of just how far we still have to go in creating businesses and environments where not only women feel safe, but also where they can thrive.

Throughout my career, this has been a hot topic, there have always been initiatives to encourage women, and there have been targets set for promoting women. Although there were improvements, these initiatives always fell short, and this is because that’s exactly what they were – just initiatives.

Temporary, often isolated actions designed to increase the number of women in the organisation or leadership positions.  They were not organisational cultural changes designed to make permanent, long-lasting changes.

To do that you need to do more, you need to address many areas of the business, covering the full employee life-cycle starting with recruitment all the way through their career development.

Speaking with Tina Hsiao, Chief Operating Officer at WePay, a Silicon Valley-based fintech company recently acquired by JPMorgan Chase, I asked her about her career, her rise through the ranks in Fortune 500 and start-up environments, and what she sees as the key drivers to creating an organisation that is attractive to women and allows them to reach their full potential.

Here are five things that Tina sees as necessary to create a culture that not only allows women to thrive, but will also help you attract top female talent, and help your entire organisation improve.

It all starts with recruitment. 

If you can’t recruit enough women into your organisation then it doesn’t matter what else you do, you’re not going to succeed.

You need to make sure that your recruitment process isn’t biased against women.  Make sure that your job advertisements are gender neutral and that encourage women to apply.

Get rid of the unconscious bias, or thinking that women can’t do this job, by having blind assessments. Get participants to undertake testing where their gender is unknown, and they are judged just on the results.

Once you have found your ideal female candidate make sure that there is diversity on the interview panel, and when inviting back for a second interview make sure there is an opportunity for the candidate to speak with a senior woman manager. This will allow them to see that progress is possible and also to learn what it’s like for a woman working in the company.  This approach will not only allow you to find good female candidates it will also encourage them to join by having them interact with a strong role model.

Treat Men Equally

What? Treat men equally? I thought this article was about creating an environment that would encourage, empower and expose women to better opportunities. It is, and one of the challenges women face is having to deal with maternity leave and raising children. By giving men paternity leave, not only does it de-stigmatize maternity leave but it puts parenting on a level playing field. Allowing both men and women to have the opportunities to be both successful and raise children.

Focus On Outcomes Not Attendance

Raising a family and having a successful career is a difficult balancing act, especially if your bosses are more interested in seeing you in the office than they are about the results. We currently live in a world where flexibility is key; we have the tools and technology to do many jobs from anywhere. By creating flexible work schedules that focus on results, not attendance, this allows women to participate and contribute equally, and also get the best out of them.  By focusing on results, this takes away another unconscious bias around if you can’t be here you can’t contribute, which just isn’t true anymore.

Allow People To Be Their Authentic Selves

As there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is more than one way to lead. Many of the traditional models of leadership are male orientated, and by asking women to lead in this way can actually weaken their contributions. Be open to diverse approaches and different styles, allow people to be their authentic selves, the best versions of themselves as this will allow them to achieve their best results. This also allows them to act as role models to others, which will encourage them to lead too.

According to Tina, taking this approach has really had a positive impact, she told me “One of the WePay values is ‘Be Authentic’. We coach and performance-manage based on this value. Overtime, this has allowed us to promote a more diverse group of leaders. As a result, we see that ~32% of our Directors, VPs & above are now women.

Offer Stretch Opportunities 

Don’t assume that having a family means that people are not available or interested in taking on new challenges or stretch goals. Offer them, provide support and let the people decide whether or not they want to take them.
I remember one of my previous bosses having a talk with me about a role, and he explained one of his reasons for giving it to me rather than a female colleague was because she had two very young children and probably wouldn’t want to put in the extra effort that this role would require.

It’s not managements job to decide that people are not interested in roles. If they have the right skills, right attitude then offer them the opportunity. Let them turn it down, or explain any support that they need to be successful. Don’t let your unconscious bias decide for them.

As the war for talent goes on, if your company makes itself unattractive to 50 percent of the working population you are going to make it difficult for you to survive, let alone thrive.

Gordon Tredgold

Gordon Tredgold is a leadership transformation expert ranked #25 in Global Gurus Top 30 leadership gurus for 2019. Over his 25-year career Gordon has led teams of 1000+ staff in Fortune 100 companies, delivered operational cost savings of $350m and transformed delivery (from <35% to 95 %) and service levels (from 57% to 99.7%). A critically-acclaimed author, Gordon's latest book, FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Drive Success and Achieve Results, was a finalist for Management Book of the year 2017. He is a regular contributor for Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune and Business Insider and an international keynote speaker, recognised by Inc. Magazine as a top 100 leadership expert and speaker. Gordon works with organisations to transform culture, drive results-based leadership and rapidly accelerate organisational growth and performance.