Blog Post

4 Actions Leaders Can Take to Improve Gender Equality

Heidi Spirgi

Chief Strategy and Growth Officer at Cornerstone

On September 24, DIAL Global – a community for Diverse Inclusive Aspirational Leaders – hosted the DIAL Global Summit, a virtual event covering topics related to diversity, inclusivity, and belonging.

I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion on Advancing Gender Equality: Demanding More with Kari Daniels, CEO, Tesco Ireland, and Bina Mehta, Partner at KPMG, and moderator Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient.

Below is a brief overview of the topics we discussed on how we all can take proactive and impactful steps to advance gender equality in the workplace.

Steps you can take today to improve gender equality in organizations

Gender equality is a fundamental human right yet, despite progress, women are underrepresented in leadership, receive unequal pay for equal work, and are targets of physical and sexual abuse. The panel discussion was an unequivocal call to action for all leaders to demand more from our organizations – and from ourselves – to make gender equality a reality.

Fostering a culture of belonging is important. As Shelley Zalis mentioned during the panel, belonging is a feeling; diversity and inclusion are tactics. So, how do we create a sense of belonging where everybody feels welcome and included?

It starts with making diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) a strategic priority. When executives make it a strategic priority within their individual teams, it cascades.

Be deliberate

Deliberate actions create a more inclusive environment. At Cornerstone, we look at our meetings to ensure they have diverse attendance when key decisions are being made. If we don’t have enough senior female leaders, we make room at the table for other women to join the discussion. Setting an expectation that meetings are inclusive of both genders – at all levels – makes an unconscious impact.

Be flexible

In the COVID-19 era, it’s important to recognize that we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat. While our business in 100% remote, COVID-19 has presented challenges in all aspects of our lives. This is especially true for working parents, and women in particular. We can’t let this moment in history undo years of fighting for equality for women in the workplace. Grant permission for your employees to be transparent with their family requirements and allow them to adjust their work schedule to accommodate their new roles as teachers or caregivers. But to do this effectively, leaders have to walk the talk. Talk about your family, model the behavior that you are encouraging your employees to display, and help them balance the demands between work and family.

Be transparent

Be transparent and trust your employees - it enables them to thrive. Working from home and living at work is a juggling act, and you have to trust that your employees can handle their responsibilities or encourage them to ask for help if they are struggling.

Be a role model

Cornerstone has an official mentorship program that matches junior employees with senior executives. Create a safe place for women to grow, learn, and ask questions. This is an area of focus for Cornerstone in 2021 and it is my personal commitment to not take my foot of the gas for DE&I.

2020 has been a catalyst for change

A global pandemic, social unrest, economic uncertainty and more has left individuals and businesses grappling for a sense of what we used to know as normal. While the DIAL Summit focused specifically on gender equality, there is an opportunity for leaders at all levels to build and support diverse and inclusive work experiences for all people, regardless of age, race, or gender.

To that end, Cornerstone is committed to prioritizing DE&I in our organization. We’ll be sharing more about our action plan and the future of DE&I at Cornerstone in upcoming posts from a broad range of voices within our organization.

But it doesn’t stop with us. We’re committed to helping other organizations too. It’s why we created Cornerstone Cares, a free website filled with online learning content about topics that are exceptionally timely, critical and evolving day by day. Cornerstone Cares provides information, resources, and best practices to help you learn, adapt, and support others in recognizing and mitigating unconscious bias, how to prioritize self-care and manage stress, and much more.

Visit Cornerstone Cares today to access timely, essential training resources to help you and your people learn, grow and evolve.

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