Companies Getting Gender Equality Right

Gender Equality Best Practices:  Learn From What Good Looks Like

I get this question a lot – you promote equality in the workplace – who is getting it right?

The answer, very few.  Yes, things are improving.  Nearly every company over 2,000 employees has a diversity and/or inclusion leader.  Some even have diversity as a top three performance goal and are measuring diversity.  That’s progress.  Yet, there are very few examples of what good looks like to model the path for companies wanting to improve, but do not know how.  The statistics are stagnant, with women still hovering around 5% of Fortune 500 CEO’s and 20% of board positions.

So, who is getting it right?

I will offer a few of my clients as case studies of positive gender equality – JP Morgan Chase and Salesforce.  This spring, we had the honor to facilitate a “Men as Allies” discussion with Working Mother Media.  Their primary sponsor was JP Morgan Chase.  I have never seen men so vulnerable as their senior leaders.  They admitted to past mistakes, personal challenges, and why they choose to support women today.  And, they have almost successfully closed the gender pay gap sitting near perfect at 99% today.  Their Women on the Move initiative outlines clear ways allies can help women taking only 36 minutes/week.  They call it – 30-5-1 – 30 minutes a week for coffee, 5 minutes a week recognizing women, and 1 minute sharing their successes.

Salesforce’s CEO has been active in defending LGBTQ rights and pay equality.  Mark Benioff’s recent 60 minute interview is powerful, and very vulnerable.  He admits he thought they had it all right, that their culture was inclusive. And, found that he was wrong.  For white male CEO’s out there, he shows them it is okay to admit when you are wrong and has a blueprint for others to follow to achieve pay equality.  Two specific strategies Salesforce does well is there must be a diverse candidate in the hiring pool to conduct an interview and a diverse person must be present in every meeting.

Although Starbuck’s and Uber both have had recent mistakes, they also offer lessons to learn from.  Starbuck’s is one of the first companies to achieve pay equality by race and gender.  They have been measuring the gaps for 10 years and have successfully closed the gap.  In the face of racism, they doubled down on diversity training and committed to unconscious bias training for all of their 175,000 employees.  This will not alone solve their problem.  Being certified in unconscious bias, I know it is a series of events that produces positive change, not a one and done training program.  They will need to revisit this just as they did the pay gaps and measure it to succeed long term.

And, Uber has reoriented its diversity initiatives in the wake of the #IamSusanFowler story.  Far from perfect, they acknowledge the bro-culture and made some tough decisions about their leadership team.  They since have had open discussions about gender equality and have invested in their women leaders to help close the gaps.  You can learn more about Uber in our podcast episode with their former women’s initiative leader.

Diversity is a journey, not a destination.

You are not alone.  Even those deeply committed to diversity are frustrated by the lack of diverse candidates applying for open positions. They are not getting it 100% right 100% of the time.  No one is.  That is why we need to be forgiving of our leaders.  Be receptive to their vulnerability.  Let them admit to their mistakes.  That is how we learn.  Like I say, if we are waiting for a company to get it right, we will be waiting a long time.  Those that are vulnerable, refuse to play it safe, and take baby steps, will win the fight for equality.

Gender equality is a tough conversation, but it does not have to be.

That is why we have the Five Questions to Get the Gender Equality Conversation Document.  This is not easy.  This is the tough stuff leaders have to do.  Engage with your team.  Have a dialogue.  I promise you will not regret it.