Four steps to an effective gender equality strategy

Gender equality

Roxanne Ratcliff, senior business partner CR diversity and inclusion at Burges Salmon explains why companies that are gender-inclusive in executive teams are more profitable than companies that ignore gender equality

We all want a better reflection of gender diversity in our businesses and leadership teams right? Even if you are immune to the rhetoric the research is clear and compelling; companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in their executive teams are 21 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile (McKinsey, 2018).

So how do you develop a gender equality strategy that is effective and engages everyone? Our experience from developing our Gender Action Plan, which led to us being named a Times Top 50 Employer for Women for two years running, highlighted the following:

Do your research: There is plenty of research out there providing guidance on business strategies for gender equality. But do you understand the local context and challenges within your own organisation? What varies by department or role level? How do your people feel supported (or not)? The first step in the development of our Gender Action Plan was a firmwide piece of research on gender balance, careers, behaviours and processes. Through qualitative and quantitative data we were able to understand the key themes at a firmwide level whilst also providing material for detailed briefings to department heads on the local actions needed.

Make it accountable: Meaningful change won’t come without focus. Build diversity and inclusion into the performance objectives of your leaders and this will ensure the agenda stays in their eye line. All our partners have D&I as part of their objectives and at leadership level our Managing Partner is responsible for testing our talent pipeline and pushing back to departments if those coming forward do not reflect the gender balance.

Harness the collective: Once the building blocks of a strategy are in place, harness your people to develop and strengthen your policies and processes. Set up a gender balance ERG (ideally not an exclusively women’s network, gender balance needs input from all genders) and use it as a focus group and ideas hub for change. Our gender balance network BBalanced has, for example, been actively involved in the development of our trust-based hybrid working principles and are drawn in and consulted regularly to ensure our approach to hybrid working continues to develop and reflect the needs and experience of our people.

Feedback: Keep up the comms around your actions – based upon your research – and provide space where your people can challenge you on your approach. We run an annual gender balance webinar where we report back to the entire firm on our progress and stats. This includes a Q&A where our people can ask , anonymously if desired, what we’re doing and state what they want to see. Slots at our AGM and partners conference also help to reinforce the importance of gender equality to the whole firm.

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