Common sense — and studies — confirm that engaged people do better work and are more likely to stay. Engagement is linked with retention, productivity and profitability. Feeling different — like an “outsider” — can undermine engagement.Spending energy figuring out the rules and fitting in takes energy away from quality and efficiency. In today’s diverse workforce, leaders cannot engage everyone the same. Leaders must understand and appreciate difference to have broad engagement.
Discussions of gender diversity often involve stereotyping. I avoid that. Both men and women have and use both masculine and feminine approaches. I use prototypes to create a common understanding of masculine and feminine. I present workshops with a male colleague; we illustrate the point that we both move along the masculine-feminine continuum. Gender diversity in leadership is good business not because women have magic. It is because there is more likely to be a balance of masculine and feminine approaches. The business gets the advantages of both.
Big resolutions or goals can be overwhelming. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I learned that I could achieve a big goal (the summit) by “chunking it down” into small goals or steps. My big goal is gender diversity in the leadership levels of U.S. business. There is much progress on this climb, but we are far from the summit. Achieving it requires (a) that more women make it to the top and (b) that more businesses create inclusive cultures. Each needs to be broken down into small steps. I suggest “mini” goals for each of these outcomes.
While diversity is “the right thing to do,” it will get more support if it is also good for business. A business approach to diversity includes: (1) it is based on facts; (2) there is a strong business case; (3) it is expressed in non-judgmental terms. For example, an initiative to improve gender diversity will be based on where women are represented, turnover rates and levels of measurable engagement. The business case for gender diversity must be spelled out. And root causes for not having gender diversity must be expressed so men aren’t put on the defensive.
Gender diversity at the top will happen only if men becomes allies for the cause. Allies are most likely to be found among three types of men: (1) men who get that their businesses — and they personally — will make more money with gender diversity in leadership; (2) men who have experienced being an outsider or are close to someone who has experienced discrimination; (3) men with daughters who have a personal interest in seeing barriers removed.