The key to tackling gender imbalance and increasing diversity at all levels in the workplace is creating an environment that is supportive and engaging for everybody.
That’s the number one guideline for creating andreaping the benefits of more inclusive leadership, Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe told the audience at Insight Studio Oct. 27 in a lively conversation with GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving moderated by Karen Tillman.
Both Klawe and Irving have transformed their organizations into leaders in gender equality, promoting advancement for women at all levels, from students to department chairs and interns to the board room.
“It’s about inclusion, not parity, not quotas, not exceptions,” Irving elaborated.
And that inclusion leads to better business results, from creating better products to boosting the bottom line, both speakers avowed, sharing several powerful examples.
The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, with support from lead sponsor Mindbody and supporting sponsors Cuesta College, City of San Luis Obispo’s Economic Development Program and Express Employment Professionals, hosted the event as part of its Insight Studio business education and inspiration series.
Straight from Irving and Klawe, here are five ways your business can get in on the Inclusivity Advantage.
Revise hiring and evaluation processes
A few small changes can dramatically increase your chances of hiring qualified women, both leaders noted. Include creativity, teamwork and communication along with technical qualifications in job descriptions to attract more female candidates. Make sure there’s a woman on the interview panel, and avoid adversarial-style interviews.
“These things are easy to do and not expensive,” Klawe said.
Evaluations often focus on what was accomplished without considering how, Irving said, providing the example of someone who procrastinates and causes stress on the team versus someone who plans and communicates well. That can end up rewarding men, who tend to be more results-focused, sometimes at the expense of process, Irving said, without capturing valuable performance by women, who tend to better incorporate process.
GoDaddy promoted 30 percent women this year than the previous year after changing their review process to include process, said Irving, noting the new system evaluates not just skills but values.
Make space for less experienced voices
It’s common for more experienced employees and students to “take up all the air time,” Klawe said, crowding out input and questions from those who might feel intimidated or just be newer to the game.
The solution could be as easy as taking vocal employees aside, acknowledging their value and asking them to give others a chance to contribute, Klawe suggested. Or look to other methods of making sure you hear from a variety of voices.
Help employees understand the context of a task or project: how it fits into the big picture and why it matters.
As an example, Klawe brought up a class in which women were particularly struggling. They added an element showing how the learning could be applied, and not only did the gap between women and men disappear, but all students performed better.
Watch for unconscious bias
We all have them, Irving said, men and women alike. Learn to recognize when biases crop up so they don’t influence your decision-making, he advised.
Gender bias training can increase awareness of the problem, but don’t consider yourself cured after one session, Irving cautioned. It takes regular review and focus to change our own thinking and behavior.
Demystify the path to success
Be explicit about how employees can earn promotions and move up through the ranks. Women, especially, often feel they are in the dark about how to break into the higher levels, both Klawe and Irving said.
Don’t assume that women interested in bigger roles will ask for them; instead, schedule regular reviews of progress toward promotion with employees.
“Women won’t ask for a promotion if they’re 80 percent qualified,” Irving asserted. “Men will if they’re just 30 percent qualified.”