How to Motivate Leaders to Champion Gender Equity
Last week I had the privilege of participating in the inaugural The New York Times New Rules Summit. Two hundred leaders across industries came together to identify how to create inclusive, equitable workplaces that empower women. One of the key topics that came up over and over was how to motivate male leaders to drive gender equity in a transformative and impactful way.
In all of the discussions, across men, women, functions and industries, it was clear that no one approach works for every organization. There was also a lot of discussion about how the business case has been well established, that in and of itself it will not solve the problem, and we need to take new approaches to make real change happen.
So how do we do it?
Option A: Appeal to a Sense of Social Justice
Men who are most likely to get engaged in creating greater gender equity at work have an innate orientation toward social justice. Men with this orientation are good to start with if you are trying to drive change across a leadership team. Wade Davis II, UN Women Global Champion for Innovation, believes that to motivate male leaders you have to make it personal and awaken them to their own empathy on this issue. Creating and identifying stories they relate to will create the “a-ha” moments that make gender equity a personal mission. Then they can use storytelling to rally the broader organization around the vision.
Option B: Use the Benefits Case to Highlight Competitive Opportunity
There is a ton of data available on the benefits of gender equity and inclusion - using it differently is the big opportunity here. Making the data specific to competitive opportunity in terms of how to gain market share, secure and retain major talent, and innovate to drive more revenue than competitors can be a major motivator. This has the added benefit of establishing a set of metrics for the company to track itself against and sets the stage for leadership’s accountability to make real progress.
Option C: Instill Fear
Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of TaskRabbit, Belinda Johnson, COO of Airbnb, and Aileen Lee, Founder of Cowboy Ventures, talked about how fear of being shut out of opportunities can be a real motivator for behavioral change in traditional male circles, particularly in the investment community. Forcing commitment to actions, not just behaviors, and using measurement against them for decision-making can be a catalyst for new behavior. Leveraging the power and clout of analyst, journalists and social media heavies can also apply pressure for change. No one wants to be outed as a leader who actively keeps women out of opportunities.
Option D: All of the Above
Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, says he is clear and specific about his expectations of his leaders in terms of creating equal opportunities, provides real-time feedback when he doesn’t like what he sees, and then if they still do not perform discusses implications to their bonuses. Carrot then stick essentially. He expects the change in behavior because it makes good business sense and it is the right thing to do. He is also willing to fire clients for bad behavior toward his people. That sends a powerful message.
Whatever option you choose, the actions, language and measures all need to fit with the culture or they will fall flat. That is the only way to drive real, sustainable change at all levels of an organization.
Photo with Fearless Girl statue, courtesy of State Street Global Advisors