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5 Steps to Improve Gender Diversity at Your Company

Since 2015, McKinsey has published their annual Women in the Workplace report, which is the most comprehensive, annual study on the state of women in corporate America. According to the 2019 report, women are underrepresented at every level, and gender diversity declines as you move higher up:

  • Only 34% of Senior Manager and Director roles are occupied by women
  • Only 30% of Vice President roles are occupied by women
  • Only 26% of Senior Vice President roles are occupied by women
  • Only 21% of C-Suite roles are occupied by women

In this article, you will learn five steps that your organization can take to improve gender diversity at your company. First, let’s emphasize why diversity is so important.

Why Is Diversity So Important?

Diversity is not only a social and moral cause. Research has shown that a more diverse workforce is also correlated with higher employee engagement scores (since employees perceive the company to be fairer), along with greater profitability. For example, consider the following statistics from McKinsey’s 2018 “Delivering Through Diversity” Report:

  • Companies in the top 25% for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to have greater profitability.
  • Companies in the top 25% for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.
  • Companies in the bottom 25% for both ethnic/cultural diversity and gender diversity were 29% less likely to have greater profitability.

How to Improve Gender Diversity

Men greatly outnumber women for leadership roles in corporate America. While gender diversity is improving in many companies and industries, there is still a long way to go. Here are five steps that your company can take to improve the gender diversity of your workforce.

Step 1: Analyze gender diversity at each level.

Measuring gender diversity across your entire organization is a step in the right direction, but it’s not sufficient. You also need to measure gender diversity at each level of your workforce. There is typically a significant drop-off in gender diversity as you move higher up in an organization. Identify when and where gender diversity starts to break down for your company.

Step 2: Analyze and improve your recruiting processes.

If your company finds that it lacks gender diversity, your next step is to identify the sources of the problem. There are probably a variety of reasons why a lack of diversity exists within your organization. For example:

  • Is your company only searching for candidates through male-dominated referral networks or talent pools?
  • Is your company using arbitrary job requirements that might unfairly disqualify women from consideration for certain roles?
  • Are your company’s career pages, job descriptions, or interview processes somehow turning off female candidates?

Be honest about the sources of the problem. Then, develop personalized solutions to improve your recruiting processes and to build a more diverse talent pipeline for the future.

Step 3: Hold every leader in your company accountable.

According to research by McKinsey, only 55% of North American companies (across all industries) hold their senior leaders accountable for progress on gender diversity. Diversity is not just the responsibility of a single leader (i.e. the Chief Diversity Officer) or a single department (i.e. the HR department). Every leader in your company should be held accountable for building a diverse, inclusive culture.

Step 4: Establish diversity goals for recruiting, hiring, and promotions.

McKinsey’s research has also found that only 35% of companies actually establish gender diversity goals for employee representation. Start with goals for recruiting, and require that hiring teams, internal recruiters, and third-party search firms identify, contact, and interview a diverse slate of candidates for each open role. In addition, establish diversity goals for hiring and promotions as well.

Step 5: Establish a diversity mentorship program.

Greater gender diversity begins by hiring more females into your organization and by creating a culture that embraces all kinds of workplace diversity. Then, your company also needs to invest time and resources to help women develop and advance their careers.

McKinsey’s research has found that women receive less support from managers than men do, and women also get less access to senior leaders than men do. A diversity mentorship program is one practical way to address these challenges. For example, consider Cisco’s Multiplier Effect program, in which leaders in the tech industry pledge to sponsor a diverse person. The goal of this program is to build a diverse pipeline of top talent at every level and in every industry.

P.S. Looking for more help with your company’s executive recruiting efforts?

Download my free eBook below, or contact me directly to schedule a call.

About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for innovative sports, fitness, and wellness companies. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and, and he is the author of two books and over 250 articles on career management, peak performance, and executive recruiting.

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