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Change the Game: The leader’s route map to a winning, gender-balanced business

This book does what it says on the tin, it is ‘ The leader’s route map to a winning, gender-balanced business.’ It is written by a very well qualified and experienced author, which, for me, makes her arguments and ideas compelling and authoritative. The book is well organised and laid out with logical titles and themes, so works as a reference book as well as an informative read. I like the fact that the book is current, it is written in 2020 and the author mentions Covid, Brexit and Black Lives Matter.

The book has two main parts. The first part is a comprehensive explanation of the issues around gender-balance and why all leaders need to take notice and action. The chapter headings are : 1 The business benefits of balance: Don’t settle for less ; 2 Inclusive leadership: Create a winning business; 3 A burning platform: Now is the time; 4 Slaying the dragon of positive discrimination. Dispelling myths and creating legends; 5 Overcoming barriers and handling resistance: Inspire, inform and reform; 6 What men can do: Sponsors, advocates, mentors and allies; 7 What women can do: Trailblazers, real models, grower and lifters; 8 Find your purpose and reason for being: The wider impact on the world.

My favourite chapter is 2 which makes the essential link between gender, diversity and inclusivity and the point that gender-balance alone won’t lead to results. For example, in the convenient summary (there is one for each chapter), the author says ‘.. companies already reaping the benefits of female representation are led by bosses with inclusive leadership characteristics. They have created cultures and designed working practices to secure the optimal contribution of all team members and to actively avoid exclusion.’

Another section I found particularly useful in this first part of the book is the section in chapter 5 that encourages readers to prepare a 5-minute pitch – a compelling talk that sets the scene and explains what changes are needed. An example is given, with the intention that it would be changed into the readers own authentic words.

Myth-busting is a general theme of the book which is interesting and useful. I was personally encouraged to see that the author highlights doubts about unconscious bias training, as I have always wondered if it is really effective.

I could give many more quotes as there are many nuggets of wisdom throughout the book, my highlighter was in constant use. However, it is not all theoretical, it is a real practical guide, and this is where the second part of the book comes in as it answers the question ‘ so how do we do that ?’ with real-life and hands-on examples, solutions and case studies.

The chapters of the second part of the book are set out as a 6 step action plan:
Step 1: Know your data – Be accountable for progress;
Step 2: Reach out to new talent pools – Find new sources of skills;
Step 3: Recalibrate for inclusion – Design for productivity not presenteeism;
Step 4: Welcome in the women – Recruit equitably;
Step 5: Pull women through the pipeline – promote proportionately;
Step 6: Hold on to your investment – Maintain the balance.

Again, lots of nuggets of wisdom. One of my many favourites is the suggestions for meeting protocols (Step 3) ‘… its essential to include everyone in the discussion, using effective chairing and meeting protocols that enable all to be heard and outlaw interruptions and stealing the limelight. Coupled with this should be the awareness that those being interrupted or ignored are likely to be women or people of colour who are a minority. Video meetings help because they eliminate seating positions*, everyone is equally visible and everyone can be heard.’ Another of my favourites is in Step 4 ‘Don’t confuse experience with expertise’ which makes the point that many women may not have the years of experience often demanded by recruiters, but more relevant and objective examination of their performance e.g. by work sample, transferable skills, understanding of the context and challenges, could show that they have all the skills and potential to fill the job right now. ‘Requiring the candidate to have stayed years in a job is effectively showing preference for a plodder.’

*’People chose their seating position relative to the boss and their own perceived status

The final part of the book is the smallest but still very important chapter that encourages the reader to be a game-changing leader and to leave a lasting legacy.

In summary, this book is a comprehensive walk-through all the issues around gender-balance and a really practical guide on how to take action. It is an excellent source book for HR directors as it provides explanations and theories along with action plans that will provide that all important ‘strategy to implementation’.

I am sure that some of it may be confirmation of what many HR Directors already know, but I am also sure that everyone can learn something from this book. I do recommend it as an inspiring reference book, and also as a thought-provoking and substantial read.

Published by Practical Inspiration

Amanda Lomponda, HR Consultant

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