Gender Equality | To What Extent is L&D Responsible for Building a Gender Balanced Culture?

To What Extent is L&D Responsible for Building a Gender Balanced Culture?

As the UK’s Gender Pay Gap reporting deadline passes for the second time, the headlines are predominantly that little has changed. And change it must, if businesses are to better represent their customer base, drive innovation, and benefit from the best talent.

At the current rate, the World Economic Forum estimates it will take 61 years to close the gender pay gap in Western Europe. The UK government has said the new regulations need to be in place for 5 years before “we will be able to properly evaluate the impact." So what should businesses be doing to accelerate progress? And on whose shoulders does this complex, and highly emotive, workplace issue sit?

A new approach to building a gender balanced workplace.


1. New approach: Inclusion as a leadership issue

    Status quo: Diversity as an HR issue

Diversity doesn’t necessarily equate to inclusion. It’s inclusion that brings success. By focusing on inclusion first, diversity will be able to emerge. This elevates D&I above compliance and makes it an integrated part of doing business rather than an overlay that is easy to deprioritise.


2. New approach: Engage and empower everyone in your organisation

    Status quo: Focus on ‘Women in Leadership’ programmes

Employees of all genders need to develop their leadership skills and demonstrate inclusive behaviours if we are to see real change. By focusing on women, it implies a deficiency with women being leaders – whereas it’s the culture that needs to be changed to allow people to step outside the ‘masculine stereotype.’ Long-term change will only occur by looking at the pipeline of leaders; giving as much attention to individual contributors and first-line leaders, as high-potentials or senior leaders who are often the focus of ‘Women in leadership’ programmes.


3. New approach: Re-define what makes a good leader in the Digital Age

    Status quo: Favour ‘masculine traits’ in leadership ideals

Tomorrow’s leaders need different skills – collaboration, empathy, inclusivity – yet we still prioritise confidence and charisma, often to the exclusion of any other attributes. It’s time to re-define what makes a Leader in the Digital Age. Anyone, of any gender, who doesn’t fit the leadership stereotype misses out on leadership roles or selection for High Potential support.
Businesses ultimately miss out on a vast amount of talent and are poorer as a result – for example, according to BCG, “companies with above average diversity within their management teams have innovative revenue of 45%, versus 26% with below average leadership diversity.” “To experience a significant jump in innovation revenue, leadership teams need to be at least 20% female.”


4. New approach: Adopt a team-based, environmental focus that allows individuals to create change

    Status quo: Expect individuals to change

Behaviour and culture change will only last if the environment encourages the new behaviours. People need support to understand how to create the right environment for gender equity – as there isn’t yet one approach that can be universally applied, we need to teach the right leadership traits and get teams to determine how to apply them, in order to drive their sustained application.

As a leadership development company, we feel that we are not only responsible for observing and reacting to changing business landscapes, but for driving a change which is ethically right and will help our clients to succeed. Join L&D and HR peers on our LinkedIn Group and ask us for a copy of our leading a gender balanced culture learning journey.

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