The results are in and they are dismal: Women hold a mere 8% of the highest-paid positions in Canada’s top 100 listed companies, according a 2016 report by global executive search firm Rosenzweig & Company. While that figure may seem dismal, it is in fact almost double the 4.6% recorded in 2006, the first year Rosenzweig studied women in executive positions. The change may be slow, but things are changing, and executive gender parity is becoming a priority for many organizations. Gender intelligence expert Barbara Annis, CEO & founder of Gender Intelligence Group, and Richard Nesbitt, former COO at CIBC and CEO at the Toronto Stock Exchange, believe that gender diversity at the top not only benefits women — it correlates with better financial performance. Their recently released book Results at the Top: Using Gender Intelligence to Create Breakthrough Growth is the first of its kind written primarily —though not exclusively — for men. The book explains why it’s essential that men be involved in guiding more women into leadership positions for change to occur. “While many male leaders around the globe are aware of the value [of women in leadership], what the vast majority don’t know is how to engage and be supportive in advancing women. [We] aim to show them exactly why organizational performance is better, what works and what doesn’t in advancing women in leadership, and how to make a difference,” says Annis. The following excerpt from Results at the Top outlines the steps organizations can take to improve gender parity at the top.
As we mentioned at the onset of this chapter, there are nine levers, or initiatives and actions, crucial for bringing about change and transforming cultures — what we identify as gender-intelligent organizations. These key elements reveal and correct the many forms of systemic bias. They infuse Gender Intelligence into the leadership style of its executives and managers and into the culture of their teams. The levers reach far into the organization’s functions, processes, and systems and result in higher levels of recruitment, engagement, retention, advancement, and productivity. In the following sections you will find a brief description of each.
Treat women in leadership as a compelling business case that even the most cynical observer can buy into. Making Gender Intelligence a strategic imperative of the organization brands the advancement of women a top strategic priority because of its positive impact on the bottom line of the company.
Conduct gender-intelligent leadership 360s or embed Gender Intelligence into the company’s 360 evaluations. Create annual leadership reviews with embedded Gender Intelligence criteria and provide Gender Intelligence leadership coaching for leaders.
Analyze the hiring practices of the organization for unconscious bias in sourcing, recruiting, and interviewing. Provide the insights and tools to HR interviewers on how to hire gender-intelligent men and women and provide those same tools and insights to managers of business units looking to hire based on an explicitly or implicitly stated set of criteria.
Create gender-intelligent meritocracies where the performance standards are based on how men and women uniquely think and act to be truly performance-based and reflected in evaluations, promotions, succession planning, and candidate leadership training and development.
Internally, portray women leaders in various roles, not just as role models for women, but for male leaders as well. Externally, communicate that the organization encourages and supports young women considering careers in the industry. Organize annual media-attended gender diversity summits with speakers, suppliers, partners, and so forth that declare the intent of the organization and the quest for gender-diverse talent.
Using engineering and technology as an example, develop an internship program for women pursuing engineering degrees, inspiring and empowering high school girls interested in STEM — then intern them into the organization during their college years. Use social media to attract women in middle management who are currently in the industry and looking for a more collaborative and inclusive working environment.
Focus on training for women that identifies and removes any potential pitfalls, such as how to be more self-initiating in navigating their careers; declare their abilities; speak to their potential and not just experience; and practice less self-scrutiny. Measure the satisfaction level of targeted women who participate in the training.
Promote Gender Intelligence training for managers to deepen cultural change. Leaders, in particular the CEO and executive committee, must walk the talk and guide by example. Such leaders show greater congruence between intentions and behaviours.
Recognize that clients want to be seen as gender diverse and want to know that their industry partners are also focused on gender diversity. Discover how Gender Intelligence can enhance client-facing efforts. Train both men and women in gender-intelligent selling and client relationship-building.
Once an organization has adopted the levers as guiding principles, it becomes easier to (1) identify the usual sources where one may find bias in the plumbing, and (2) create ways in which companies can change their practices to a more gender-balanced approach.