As women assert their solidarity throughout society, companies are recognizing their impact on economic decision-making.
More organizations are compelled to do business differently—and better. Consider that U.S. companies spent $8 billion on diversity training. For too many, however, that’s where the corporate exercise has stalled.
In the rush to teach employees about unconscious bias, internal communicators and HR directors focused first on measuring perception changes and participation rates in activities such as workshops, surveys and special events including Women’s History Month.
At the current pace, the World Economic Forum predicts it would take 208 years for the U.S. to achieve gender equality.
Undeterred, women in communications are now driving ambitious responses to gender inequity. They include several first-time female CEOs at major PR agencies, as well as Kat Gordon, who leads The 3% Movement to spur the hiring of more women as creative directors, and Lindsay Kaplan, a former marketing executive who co-founded Chief, a new venture offering peer communities and workspaces.
In the push for parity, such bold moves are often underpinned by powerful grassroots efforts.
Here are three ways that communicators of any gender can take charge to collectively transform the culture of business—for their clients and themselves.
1. Ask tough questions.
Communicators must prove that an organization’s business purpose is carried out by leaders who go beyond mere words. Amid a climate of #EqualityCantWait and corporate reporting along U.N. sustainable development goals (SDGs), it would be wise to anticipate tough questions from employees, clients, investors and other stakeholders:
Is executive compensation linked to performance metrics that challenge those at the top to be directly accountable for responsible practices?
Are rewards for the highest paid (often chief officers or business owners) connected to their own decisions on future hiring, pay scale and growth strategies that impact underrepresented employees?
Full transparency from those in positions of power can show they are engaged as individuals—and not just slow-motion cheerleaders for diversity. For instance, SheEO is a global community of investors who select women-owned ventures that align with the SDGs, what it calls “The World’s To-Do List.” [Disclosure: The author is a SheEO investor/activator.]
Fixed-asset tracking innovator Nadine Cino, CEO and co-inventor of TygaBox Systems and the forthcoming TygaTrax, earned her spot as one of SheEO’s U.S. ventures because of proven results in upholding SDG 12: responsible consumption and production.
2. Reframe the business opportunity.
Immersive research on the effectiveness of mentoring and professional development for women at one technology company found that efforts produced skilled, more confident female employees—but did not fix structural inequality. Individuals can learn to adapt. However, institutional customs and rules must also be scrutinized.
To turn promises into policies and action, communicators are obligated to point out crucial flaws in their leaders’ growth planning. One of the biggest? Neglecting women’s insights.
Missed opportunities abound when there is not full representation from those with fiduciary responsibilities—women and men—to help an organization thrive. What good is a strategy formed by your problem-solving team when it is not at full strength?
3. Follow the smart money.
Businesses must become smarter and more inclusive in appealing to women as buyers. Female consumers drive $20 trillion in purchases. On the B2B side, Korn Ferry reports that “women hold about 50% of all managerial and professional positions in the United States and account for 41% of employees with authority to make purchasing decisions.”
If you don’t include women in developing gender-intelligent business strategies, someone else will.
Take a cue from three former Golin executives who established Have Her Back Consulting (HHB) to advance the female perspective for more equitable business outcomes. They formed HHB after mobilizing their previous employer’s call to action, which was led by one founder, Caroline Dettman. The independent venture is backed with a minority investment from Golin-parent Interpublic Group.
Communicators, are you willing to support the real deal—or simply a poor imitation—in gender equity?