We all want to work in an environment where people are treated fairly. A place where we feel our voice matters equally, without being dismissed because of our age, gender, or race. But how can we make this dream a reality in companies that have been operating in a different mode for decades? How can you take the first steps to disrupt the current culture dynamics and help your organization pivot to become a more inclusive, equitable environment? Where do you start?
And how do you find the time to be a catalyst for all of this and still do your day job?
It all comes down to eight big, bold moves.
Big Move #1: Model inclusive leadership.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Start local, grow global”? The same goes for an inclusive corporate culture. Start local, and take a hard look at the relationship behaviors in your organization. Which behaviors deliver the best results for everyone? Being humble? Sharing power? Being cooperative and accessible? Does your team thrive when people are flexible, take advice from those on the ground, or when they share accountability and feedback? Someone has to connect these dots; this is your opportunity to step in and be a role model.
Big Move #2: Take control of your growth and development.
Every year, organizations carve out a finite piece of their budgets to invest in high-potential training and development programs aimed at “building the bench” of future leaders. Learn as much as you can about how your company invests in leadership development (for non-managers and managers), then set up coffee meetings with someone in HR and potential mentors in other departments. Map out the developmental opportunities you believe are worth your time, and proactively discuss what the benefits will be to both you and your company.
Big Move #3: Engage your employee women’s network.
Women’s employee networks are an underestimated engine for fueling wide-scale change in our mission for equality. These voluntary, employee-led groups—made up of individuals who join based on common interests, backgrounds, or demographic factors—have been around for decades and currently exist at 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Use them as a tool to increase the talent pipeline of women, and to foster relationships and a stronger sense of belonging and community.
Big Move #4: Lift as you climb.
Paying it forward by intentionally devoting time to mentoring younger women is absolutely critical to creating change within the business world. Even in the earliest stages of your career, it’s possible (and beneficial) for you to be a strong role model for girls and women who will follow in your footsteps. Making time for mentoring will nourish your spirit and remind you of the larger impact made possible through your individual success.
Big Move #5: Ignite an industry-wide conversation.
The conversation about achieving gender parity and building a more inclusive workplace culture is one that everyone in your organization (and industry) needs to be having. Make your voice heard about the importance of different styles of leadership, flexible work options, and diverse paths up the corporate ladder that can contribute to the success of your company.
Be the spark that ignites these conversations between women and men.
Big Move #6: Accelerate to equal representation.
It’s not enough that women make up more than half the workforce; we need to hold positions at the highest levels of every organization, community, and nation. So what can you do? Start with your own team and create specific goals for achieving 50-50 representation. If you are a team leader, become more intentional about succession planning and recruiting. Discuss this goal with your team and engage their support and accountability. If you are an individual contributor, meet with your manager and explicitly state that equal representation is an important value to you. Ask how you can help leadership expose more women to your team, department, and company, or how you could help with recruitment and outreach.
Big Move #7: Get pay straight.
How do you know whether gender pay equity is affecting you? Do your homework and assess your market value. Research your employer and the industry to uncover the pay ranges for the skills and expertise women could bring to the role. Do the legwork that’s needed to understand how financial rewards are calculated and distributed in your company. This requires reading anything made available to you at your current level, scheduling an appointment with HR, and engaging in open discussions with your manager.
Big Move #8: Advocate behind closed doors.
When are key decisions made about “who has potential,” “who gets promoted,” and “who is not ready”? In talent management discussions and formal performance reviews. Typically, HR and the management team are present with a senior leader, and these meetings are a regular occurrence at large, more traditional organizations.
Our big goal as women is to get in that room. Earn a seat at the table by becoming a manager or a key maker of talent decisions in your organization. Then you can be a strong advocate for ensuring that these discussions are conducted with a balance of men and women who have an equal voice in handing out promotions and determining people’s potential.
Being brave and pursuing bold moves is core to creating the equitable work environment we all deserve. Use these moves however they serve your life and career goals. It doesn’t matter which move you make or in which order; what matters is that you do something. Choose one move that you will invest time in over the next month, and get started. Soon, the momentum will take over, and you will feel the urgency to keep going.
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