Gender Inclusion Awareness to Action

Over the past few years, we’ve seen some significant progress in gender diversity in the workplace. However, the mark of a successful business is understanding that there’s no room for complacency regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). While events like International Women’s Day provide important focus, genuine change requires making DE&I a priority every day of the year by embedding it into everyday business practices.

To keep the momentum going and make sure we don’t lose the hard-won progress that’s been made, organisations must recognise that inclusion is an ongoing process and needs to be intrinsic to their culture. That means adopting a more interwoven approach, rather than simple standalone events – for example, making inclusion an integral part of all training, ensuring the entire employee lifecycle is free from bias, allowing non-linear career paths, and creating equitable career accelerator programmes for diverse groups to help make inclusivity a constant priority. On top of that, actions like rewriting job ads to be gender-neutral and providing inclusive recruitment training can make a huge difference in diversity initiatives.  

Gender inclusion is necessary for businesses aiming for innovation, resilience and a deeper understanding of their customer base. However, the path to achieving this inclusion can seem daunting. Where do you start? And how can you sustain meaningful progress?

1. Make inclusion a part of your company’s DNA

It’s easy to run events around diversity on special occasions like International Women’s Day and assume the box is ticked. Without sustained progress and focus, events that were once designed to empower and celebrate, lose authenticity and become more of a check box style event. To make a lasting impact on gender equity and inclusion, we need to make sustained changes to how people think and behave, allowing people to feel comfortable speaking up without fear of penalty.

As Joanna McCrae, DE&I Client Solutions Director at PageGroup, puts it, “Fostering inclusion involves a shift in mindset. We must empower and upskill our people regularly, if we want to make everyone feel part of the conversation, to achieve true equity for all.”

Consider running diversity programmes with the same cadence as other kinds of training, with regular courses and refreshers across the business. Also, encourage employee resource groups (ERGs), which can empower intersectionality of women by providing a safe space to connect, share experiences and support one another. Conduct employee engagement surveys to make sure staff have forums where they can speak up and be heard. “We need to encourage and prioritise these activities, recognising them as being just as important as an employee’s day-to-day responsibilities,” notes Joanna McCrae. 

2. Ignite change from the top down and use allyship to see it through

Senior leaders play a critical role in setting the tone and driving gender equality forward. When leadership fully embraces and commits to these efforts, it sends a powerful message to the entire company.

However, enlightened leadership alone is not enough. To sustain long-term change, allyship is needed across the business. That means encouraging everyone, regardless of gender, to actively support and advocate for women and gender-inclusive practices. As well as setting an example, leaders must empower and encourage all employees to challenge bias and champion diversity.

“Allyship by senior leaders will help with culture change and help set the tone of an organisation’s behaviour.” States Joanna McCrae, “Creating clear lines of what is acceptable behaviour which will lead to all employees standing up/calling out the behaviours without fear of ‘rebuke and reprove’, and move your organisation to an inclusive workplace.”

Harvard Business Review notes that allyship is about being accepting, taking action, having humility. Each of which contributes to a whole value that is greater than the sum of each alone. Acceptance is the foundation, of which Action with ones self can start, and lastly Humility allows one to listen more than speak when in discussion of such issues.

3. Champion women through sponsorship and mentorship

Sponsorship and mentorship initiatives provide critical support and guidance to women at all levels, helping them overcome challenges, hone their skills and climb the career ladder.

Sponsorship is all about senior leaders using their influence to advocate for high-potential women, opening doors to leadership roles. Mentorship, on the other hand, involves providing advice and support to help women develop their expertise.

To make these programmes effective, identify talented women and pair them with leaders who can champion their growth. It’s not about one-off training sessions or a quick chat over coffee. It’s about ongoing career development opportunities and regular check-ins to ensure women get the support they need.

Joanna McCrae makes the vital point that this is a win-win for the business. “Not only does this nurture women throughout their careers, but it also helps senior leaders tap into the incredible talent within their ranks.”

4. Introduce inclusive policies and benefits

To attract and retain top female talent, you must go beyond surface-level commitments to gender equity. Introduce policies that address the unique needs and experiences of women, such as support for Women’s Health, child loss, surrogacy and menopause. Make sure your maternity policy is comprehensive and competitive.

“To build gender equality and inclusive practices into the business, leaders must act with intention,“ adds Jess Timelin, Senior Operating Director – Finance, Treasury, Tax, and In-House Advisory, at sister brand, Michael Page. “Making sure you consider all your employees’ needs with policies and practices is the key to inclusivity.”

With firsthand experience after the birth of her first child, Alex Beckwith, Head of Operations at Page Outsourcing notes “I’m a huge advocate of flexible working, not just for mothers, but for anyone. It has allowed me to grow as a leader and have open conversations with individuals in my team about working flexibly, ensuring my team feel comfortable to be their authentic self at work."

How Page Outsourcing can help your business keep gender inclusion at the forefront

At the heart of Page Outsourcing’s mission is a deep commitment to championing gender inclusion within the workforce. This commitment is brought to life by our global DE&I Client Solutions Teams, who offer meaningful change through a range of services that support gender inclusion, including:

  • DE&I audits that provide clients with an accurate picture of gender succession planning
  • Attraction campaigns for women with focus on entry, middle or senior leadership positions
  • Creating inclusive interview panels by providing panellists with gender and intersectionality awareness
  • Inclusive recruitment training for hiring managers covering a range of topics, including unconscious bias and inclusive language
  • Brand perception through the writing of candidates’ communication packs, job descriptions and job adverts
  • Sourcing candidates differently through our network of charities and associations
  • Employee engagement surveys that bring actionable data to the forefront of the business

Case Study: Increasing gender representation in Data & Analytics

For Unilever, diversity and inclusion is a core value, they wanted to boost gender representation within their UK, Indian, Brazilian and Singaporean workforces, they turned to Page Outsourcing.

The process started by carefully analysing Unilever's job advertisements, using a gender bias decoder to promote the use of neutral language. This was then supplemented alongside salary benchmarking, competitor analysis and market research to pinpoint the best ways to attract top female candidates within the market.

To expand reach, targeted LinkedIn campaigns focused on women in data were launched. Recognising the potential of candidates who might need further development, we created a talent pipeline programme to provide the necessary training for individuals to excel in Unilever roles.

The results have been impressive. To date, 69 professionals were hired, with women representing 58% of shortlisted candidates and 59% of overall hires. Plus, 12% of these hires were internal moves, showcasing a commitment to career development.

In short, this illustrates how the right expertise, combined with dedication to diversity, leads to significant, measurable improvements in gender representation. You can read the full case study here.  

Invest in inclusion, reap the rewards

The path to gender equality in the workplace is not always easy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Companies that prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion gain access to a broader range of talented individuals and experience increased innovation, better decision-making and stronger financial performance. It's time for businesses to turn words into action and take practical steps to make gender diversity a consistent focus throughout the year.

If you're ready to take your company's gender diversity initiatives to the next level, reach out to the experts at Page Outsourcing. We can help you develop and implement strategies to attract, retain and support top female talent, creating a more inclusive and successful workplace for all.

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