First Reference company logo

First Reference Talks

News and Discussions on Payroll, HR & Employment Law

decorative image

Fostering a culture of gender diversity through human capital practices

gender diversityIs your organization using the best human capital practices to harness the value of gender diversity at senior leadership levels, including on boards and executive committees?

In anticipation of International Women’s Day 2017 #IWD2017 (Wednesday, March 8), this article references McKinesy & Company’s reports: Women Matter 2016: Reinventing the workplace to unlock the potential of gender diversity work and  Women in the Workplace 2016 in order to highlight the impact of gender diversity at senior levels, to show the continued global gender and human capital optimization gap and to summarize some of the ways in which human capital practitioners can lead gender diversity in their organizations.

Gender diversity correlates with organizational performance

Research has continuously shown that there is a correlation between proportional gender representation at senior leadership levels, in particular on executive committees, and organizational performance. Gender parity has been shown to correlate with increased sales revenue, more customers and greater relative profits. The studies are careful not to equate the gender parity correlation with causation, but this correlation has been demonstrated over multiple organizations, over time, and is also correlated with superior talent retention performance of both men and women. (Women Matter 2016, 4)

International Women’s Day 2017—We have a long way to go for gender parity at senior leadership levels

Did you know that in Western Europe and in the US women make up only 17% of Executive Committees?  In Western Europe, women make up 32% of Corporate Boards while in the US, women make up only 18.7% of Boards (Women Matter 2016, 4). In Canadian TSX–listed companies, women represent 13% of Boards and 12% of the total number of Director positions as reported by Osler in their Diversity Disclosure Practices 2016: Women in leadership roles at TSX-listed companies.

In addition, the talent pipeline metrics of 132 companies studied by McKinsey & Company show that based on hiring and promotions at senior levels, fewer women moved up the pipeline to become senior leaders, with only 19% of C–suite level positions were held by women, despite the fact that women were present in entry level roles at 46% and at manager level roles at 37% (Women in the Workplace 2016, 5). Globally, enabling women and girls represents the single biggest opportunity for human development and economic growth, however a recent the World Economic Forum report states that it may take another 170 years to achieve gender parity in the workplace!


“No country has achieved gender equality in the workforce without first narrowing the gender gap in society” (Women Matter 2016, 4). Many cultures have longstanding gender biases and structures that impact the pace of change that an organization can implement. These include, to mention only a few,  the definition of leadership and the balance of work in the home. However, despite ongoing societal gender gaps, many organizations are striving to be on the leading edge of optimizing gender diversity within human capital in their organizations.  Companies that can lead in the optimization of their human capital hope to also lead the market in other ways. For many organizations, this is not an add on corporate social responsibility platform, but rather this is a part of a vision for economic development and growth, for sustainable human capital practices and for long–term talent retention.

Sustainable human capital practices for gender diversity

Get CEO and management buy–in for gender diversity and inclusiveness practices.

Any corporate wide gender diversity initiatives that don’t have full CEO and senior leadership buy-in will be undermined at various levels without this support. Use your human capital competencies as a creative activist and a strategic positioner (2016 HR Competency Model:  Round 7—David Ulrich combined with information from organizations such as McKinsey & Company and the World Economic Forum to facilitate leadership buy–in. Show how gender diversity will correlate to corporate success for your organization.

Position yourself as a culture and change champion and enable other leaders in your organization to do the same

Create impact stories and narratives to help communicate the “why” behind any new corporate wide initiatives. Use data, statistics and real gender metrics from your own organization to help show the story. Ensure that you target individual teams and locations—not just corporate level communications. Consider having a roll–out that shares information, data and stories, with a small (or large group) of leaders from all different levels before the implementation of any formal policies and procedures. Involve staff in audits for gender bias in your organization and come up with solutions together. Cast a vision for gender diversity as one of the core values in your organization to create an environment of inclusiveness.

Implement persistent programs, policies and procedures

Change won’t happen overnight. Some of the changes may take up to three years to have an impact, especially as it relates to the talent pipeline. Below are a 10 ideas for specific policies and procedures. Many more are referenced in more detail in Women in the Workplace 2016, which was a joint effort of a long–term partnership between and McKinsey and Company to give companies information to help facilitate gender parity and female leadership in the workplace.

  • Engage in active recruitment of female candidates to ensure a diverse pool of candidates for each position; require a similarly diverse pool for internal promotions.
  • Regularly review and audit recruitment, promotion and performance reviews for gender bias.
  • Have a broader definition of leadership styles for men and women.
  • Set gender diversity as one of the overall strategic goals of your talent sustainability program.
  • Use clear and consistently applied criteria to evaluate performance.
  • Hold senior leaders accountable for their performance relative to gender metrics in their department.
  • Ensure equal access for men and women to senior organizational leaders through a gender aware mentoring program.
  • Train managers on gender bias in hiring and performance reviews.
  • Train all staff on gender biased language and behavior.
  • Have work life balance flexible options for men and women.
  • Create female networking opportunities within your organization.

Are you an HR professional or a senior leader in your organization? Use this information to #BeBoldForChange on International Women’s Day 2017! Put gender on your agenda!

Follow me

Marcia Scheffler

Human Resources Generalist at Wawel Villa
Marcia Scheffler, M.A., CHRP Candidate is a Human Resources Generalist with M.A. working full-time as a Senior HR Officer. She is interested in the intersection of human resources theory and current best practices in HR. Read more
Follow me

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are currently closed.