There is ample evidence that placing more women in leadership roles is the right direction on your firm’s path to improved business results. For example, according to a Peterson Institute for International Economics study, elevating the level of female participation in leadership roles to 30% can return a 15% increase in profitability. Achieving gender balance is not only the right thing to do socially, it’s the right thing to do economically.

In my previous post, I described the characteristics of winning leadership teams and how critical gender balance is to their success. However, instilling gender-balanced leadership won’t happen on its own. Firms must take proactive and deliberate actions to establish gender balance.

Driving gender balance

Creating and sharing targets is the first step in the process of getting to gender balance in leadership, and throughout the organisation. Doing so drives accountability. After all, what gets measured gets done.

A number of European countries (such as Iceland) have taken the larger step of establishing regulatory targets and mandates for gender parity, and that has been an effective strategy in creating a more equal workplace. Firms can partner with government in this effort.

It’s important to mention that, because men currently hold the bulk of the leadership positions, their participation in driving gender balance in leadership is critical to success. As the majority decision-makers (outside of jurisdictions with legal mandates), the decision to deliberately balance leadership composition is, by and large, theirs to make. Women must also continue to champion themselves and one another as leadership candidates.

Human Resources professionals play an important role in all of these efforts through ensuring their organisations have a formalised plan for instituting gender balance and reporting on progress. HR also carries the responsibility for nurturing a culture of inclusion and supporting women on their path to greater participation in leadership. Lastly, there are mindset barriers to overcome. Everyone, across the organisation, must understand and promote the case for gender-balanced leadership. It’s simply good business.

Gender balance at Accenture

Accenture has taken the call to action for gender-balanced leadership seriously and literally, having committed to a 50/50 gender-balanced workforce by the year 2025 and 25% female managing directors by 2020. The company is helping itself achieve this target and setting a model for others through the following actions:

  • Sponsoring career advancement among senior women
  • Committing to transparency by publishing its targets
  • Fast-tracking in-demand skill development among women
  • Collaborating with other businesses and government on gender equality issues

As HR specialists, you can help your firm engage in similar efforts to ensure gender parity at all levels and better performance across the business.

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