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Five steps to an inclusive organisational culture for women

As strides toward gender equality progress, the journey to foster inclusivity within organisations remains ongoing

London, UK – 16th April 2024 – Over the last few years, great strides have been made to overcome the challenges faced by women in the workplace. Across FTSE 350 company boards, 40% of roles are now held by women. Representation at the highest levels is improving massively, yet LinkedIn data shows that women are facing numerous barriers when it comes to taking the first step into a leadership position.

In the ongoing quest for inclusive organisations, fostering a company culture that empowers and supports women is crucial. This benefits not only individual employees but also contributes to the overall success and innovation of the organisation.

Here are five essential steps on how organisations can  develop an inclusive culture for women.

1. Addressing gender disparities in leadership

To bridge the gender gap, organisations can consider implementing diversity initiatives, such as women in leadership programmes, offering coaching to female employees at all seniority levels, and reevaluating promotion policies. When companies implement such initiatives, 57% see improved business outcomes and nearly 75% report increased profit by 25%. Implementing gender-neutral hiring processes, avoiding gender-biased language in job descriptions and incorporating blind hiring can also contribute to a more equitable selection process.

“Change takes time. The gender balance in senior roles may not yet be equal, but professional women have more power than they realise. As more women become leaders, they will bring their compassion and empathy skills to the workplace and prove their considerable worth.”

2. Destigmatising parental leave

Combatting traditional stereotypes, particularly around care-giving, is crucial for fostering an inclusive culture. Parental leave policies should be designed to give families the flexibility to choose who takes leave, considering the needs of both parents, while also acknowledging that women may need specific health considerations.

“In a post-pandemic era, policies regarding flexible working are more common. It’s important to look out for the mental well-being of every individual. Organisations can support parents through keep in touch days, inclusive health insurance and paid parental leave. Adopting a culture of flexibility will lead to healthier, more productive employees.” 

3. Re-evaluate feedback methods

Stanford University research found that in performance reviews of both men and women in tech, women were more likely to receive negative feedback. Ensuring that performance reviews reflect diversity goals is essential as it’s often hard for women to receive accurate feedback, which can then have an impact on their career trajectory. Women who act against feminine stereotypes can be judged as too assertive or aggressive, while men who demonstrate the same behaviours are often seen as exhibiting leadership skills. This type of feedback will prevent women from improving in the workplace and can limit their chance of promotion.

“A single minded approach to performance reviews not only discriminates against women, but also harms any employee who excels in non-traditional skills like empathy, kindness and curiosity”.  

4. Using coaching to overcome gender biases

We all have biases that we are not aware of. These unconscious biases often hinder progress towards gender equality. Some biases can prevent women being seen as equals, especially in industries where women may be under-represented. Despite these perspectives being unconscious, organisations can utilise coaching to educate employees to recognise and overcome them. 

“Coaching can provide individuals with a safe space to examine their perception of others. By encouraging authentic and non-judgemental exchanges during a coaching session, employees can change how they interact with their seniors, peers, and junior members of staff. Over time, this can have a positive ripple effect on the organisation’s culture.”

5. Fostering women’s leadership development

Implementing women in leadership programs that focus on negotiation skills, enhancing personal influence, and addressing specific challenges faced by women in leadership positions can also have a profound impact.

Coaching women and their managers throughout various stages of employment helps counteract imposter syndrome and connects an individual’s work-life to their broader life outside of work. Research has found that women are more likely to downplay their skills and abilities even when they are performing as well as their male counterparts. This confidence gap between men and women is a barrier to women’s advancement in the workplace. Once women have self-confidence, they are able to bring their authentic self into work, have faith in their skills and are able to develop their strengths successfully.

“What does it mean to be self-confident? Being able to act in agreement with your own values and feel confident that you are going to achieve the results you want. This type of self-efficacy is essential in increasing performance.” 

Creating an inclusive company culture for women requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing leadership development, destigmatising policies, and education on gender equality. By taking these steps, organisations can contribute not only to gender equality but also to enhanced creativity and innovation.

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