It was a familiar scene in Davos Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum took place in January: many men around the table and relatively few women. (Women represented only 18 percent of total delegates.)
What was a bit different, though, was the focus on the increasingly urgent need to achieve gender parity in organizations worldwide. CNBC reported that not only was the corporate gender gap among the top three hot topics discussed by the delegation, but the subject was also recognized as one of the most tweetable, generating 10,000 tweets during the conference.
With the idea behind gender-balanced leadership--which I call Integrated Leadership-- receiving growing support internationally and more men on board about the benefits of gender diversity at the top ranks, we need to keep the momentum going by taking action through tangible solutions. Dialogue is useful but only to a certain point--it's time to get off the dime and convert these good intentions into reality.
Here are a few things that individuals and companies can do to help bring Integrated Leadership to their organizations sooner rather than later:
- Leverage the power of men. When it comes to inclusiveness, men are in a prime position to help influence a company's culture for the better. One reason is that having a higher percentage of men in the leadership ranks enables them to play a significant role in advancing women into leadership. In fact, some studies indicate that 20 percent of men in organizations are ready and willing to support or champion the development and advancement of their female colleagues into leadership roles--we just need to ask them and invite them to be part of the solution. To that end, women can invite and coach men to become male allies, sponsors, and mentors. Organizations can provide men with the tools and training they need to better understand their unintentional biases that hold women back in talent reviews and keep them from advancement opportunities. While we all as human beings have biases, it is important for men to address their own biases with intention and take a more inclusive approach toward leadership. If not, they may inadvertently hold women back from promotional/growth opportunities or discourage women from speaking up to share their views and leadership attributes.
Bottom line: it's time to move beyond mere window dressing and begin taking action to achieve gender parity. It's the 21st century, and our leaders and organizations need to wake up and start leading in the direction that they say they want to go.