According to Business Insider and Wall Street Journal Reports, women now make-up 20% of the corporate board seats for publicly traded companies, in comparison to 15% in 2016. While it’s good to see this number trending in the right direction, this progress is not nearly enough. Women hold 60% of post-graduate degrees, make up 51% of all college graduates, and represent half of the US population, yet women only comprise 15% of executive-level positions. This is despite the fact that research shows that financial performance improves when women comprise at least 30% of senior leadership. So why aren’t more companies promoting women to senior levels? The problem could be that company culture lacks what leadership expert Susan Hodgkinson calls a Dignity Mindset.
As part of my PR class at UAB, I recently reviewed research from Hodgkinson’s book The Dignity Mindset: A Leader’s Guide to Building Gender Equality at Work to surface some important themes and tips on gender equity in leadership.
1. Be a Dignity-Driven Leader
It is imperative that our business leaders constantly evaluate belief systems that may contain bias and negatively impact their organizations. That requires a long and hard look in the mirror and close examination of recruiting, hiring, promotion and compensation practices. The success of an inclusive organization depends on everyone in the company being treated with the same level of dignity and respect throughout the employee lifecycle.
2. Refresh Your Approach to Talent Acquisition
Let’s get rid of the myth that there is a scarcity of talented professional women to apply for positions. With women making up 51% of the college-educated entry-level workforce, and 40% of middle managers, the problem could be how companies recruit, retain and promote women. Widening the search pool will increase the number of job candidates. Artificial intelligence can be a quick and effective way to scout talent from a wide array of sources. Hiring managers should also be aware of gender differences in the hiring process. Women are more likely to opt-out of applying if they don’t meet nearly all requirements, while men will apply if they meet 60%. Female recruiters can also help fill the gap. Research has shown success rates increase by 130% when female recruiters reach out to women candidates.
3. Take Trust to the Next Level
Research shows that fewer women feel direct management “has their back.” How can managers resolve this problem? The first step is to recognize that everyone has equal value and fundamental human needs. Good leaders are aware of every employee’s basic need to feel they belong, that their work makes a difference, and that their manager is genuinely concerned with their success. The result is increased trust, innovation, and profitability for the organization.
4. Consider an “Inclusive Institute”
To achieve gender equity, organizations can implement what Hodgkinson calls an Inclusive Institute: a framework to create awareness of unconscious bias, education on keeping societal conditioning in check, and training on empathizing with employees facing extra challenges based on gender, race, sexual orientation, disabilities, cultural identity, and age. Such a framework can provide a blueprint on ethical ways each employee should be treated.
5. Handle Conflict with a Dignity Mindset
Conflict is unavoidable, yet necessary to handle fairly and factually. Addressing conflict in an ethical manner helps organizations avoid toxic emotional relationships between team members. Handling conflict with a dignity mindset helps shift the conversation from a “blame game” to empathetic resolution.
Alivia Moore is a Public Relations student at UAB.