Five Actions to Promote Gender Diversity at Your Company

While the number of women in leadership positions has certainly risen over the past five years, the fact is that women are still largely underrepresented at every level.

The biggest obstacle women face to move up within a company’s pipeline usually occurs during the first step up to manager. Women’s progress in the workplace is constrained by a “broken rung,” resulting in more women getting stuck in entry-level positions and fewer women being promoted to management level. If the broken rung is fixed and an equal number of women as men are placed in management positions, we will add one million more women to management in corporate America over the next five years.

But how can you effectively promote gender diversity at your company? Jess Huang, Alexis Krivkovich, Irina Starikova, Lareina Yee, and Delia Zanoschi of McKinsey & Company researched steps you can take to help increase the number of high-ranking female employees at your company.

Set a Goal   

This may seem like an obvious task, but it’s surprising how many companies fail to establish set goals related to gender diversity when hiring. That’s why it’s important to assign a specific target for the representation of women you want to see at all levels within your company’s talent pipeline.

Once you have set these goals, be aggressive in your pursuit of them. It’s understandable to become preoccupied with other responsibilities and let certain things fall to the wayside. One way to prevent this is to publicize your bold goals, which will help keep you accountable.

Consider Diversity When Promoting

Lack of diversity in management positions can become a systematic problem. When there are no women leaders, it’s less likely that women of other levels will be promoted to senior positions.

Research shows that having even just one or two women included on a diverse slate raises the likelihood that women will receive more high-level positions. Therefore, when you are planning promotions at any level, take some time to carefully consider the current talent pool that occupies positions of power in your company.

Provide Unconscious Bias Training

As much as we want to believe that we are never guided by preconceptions, the fact is that unconscious bias plays a large role in determining who is hired, promoted, and left behind within a company.

Providing unconscious bias training is an effective way to nip it in the bud before it affects the trajectory of someone else’s professional career. It’s particularly useful to require this training for employees who participate in entry-level performance reviews because candidates tend to have shorter track records early on in their careers, and may be affected by unfair assumptions based on gender about their future potential.

Clearly Define Evaluation Criteria

In order to prevent unconscious bias from making its way to your company, you must ensure that you have useful processes in place. To do so, be sure to set clear guidelines for evaluation criteria before any review process begins. 

The type of tools used during evaluations should be made to gather objective information. It also goes without saying that all candidates should be evaluated using the same criteria, with no exceptions. Consider bringing a third-party into the room to point out potential bias and promote objective decision-making.

Build Strong Skill Sets

To foster an environment of success among your female employees, give them the tools and training necessary to build management-related skill sets. Prepare them for high-level tasks, so that they will be ready to take on a new role when a promotion appears.

Make sure these programs are readily-available, and encourage your team members to take advantage of them. When female employees have strong leadership skills, more women will take on superior positions, and gender diversity at your organization will continue to grow.

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You can read more about Women in the Workplace 2019 at McKinsey & Company.