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Removing the hidden barriers that can prevent women from performing and advancing at work

This week IDC received an email saying: "I have just finished reading your impressive monthly viewpoints. You certainly offer a tremendous amount of information. One does not have to guess what you may offer in service; they are filled with concrete examples. I would appreciate any additional information regarding women in the workplace that you are willing to share. Specific information regarding how women experience and view the work culture differently to men would be most helpful."

Last month, I explained the methodologies IDC uses to enable clients to determine what factors their female employees think help or hinder the organisation from being an ideal employer. The email asks what we have learnt concerning women from our work on gender issues in the workplace.

In essence, we have found that women often find the culture in the workplace to be excessively male-oriented. This results in their feeling that they are not fully involved in business decision-making processes and are somewhat under-valued. More specifically, our work on women’s issues has shown the following as principally causing a lack of progress in building a culture where women feel fully respected and valued:

Lack of leadership:

  • Diversity is not seen to be valued by senior management.
  • The leadership doesn’t set an inclusive behavioural example.
  • The leadership doesn’t clearly make the business case for diversity and inclusion.
  • Women are left with the impression that they do not fit the mould because the leadership does not articulate a vision of an inclusive, successful business.
  • A lack of positive female role models at the top of the organisation.

Inadequate talent management practices:

  • The measures of success are unintentionally biased in favour of men.
  • There is a lack of mentoring and development support.
  • Women experience stereotyping because their managers have not been trained in cross-cultural interviewing.
  • Although an organisation may have flexible working policies, women feel that they can’t make good use of these because they feel it might negatively impact their careers.

These two principal barriers to progress for women require the leadership to identify the inclusive behaviours and be coached in how to practise them. It is only when the leaders receive skilled feedback that they realise they are not practising the behaviours to the extent they thought they were. Moreover, their consistent and visible example of the behaviours provides a powerful means of driving their adoption throughout the organisation. It is also necessary to provide cross-cultural awareness training, e.g. gender, race and ethnicity differences, to those in the organisation who make performance and selection decisions.

Ian Dodds Consulting has in-depth experience of helping organisations successfully devise and implement both of these interventions.

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