More women in leadership has proven links to improved business performance through increased profitability, return on equity and innovation.
Our water and waste water management systems in the United States are in dire need of investment, protection, and innovation – and this industry is facing disruptive change, due both to aging infrastructure and partisan politics. Donald Trump’s recent executive order seeks to review and eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Waters of the United Sates’ (WOTUS) rule. WOTUS expands regulations from just navigable waters (waters you can float a boat on), to the smaller streams and wetlands that feed into – and pollute – our drinking sources.
As a vocal advocate for women in business – and specifically in water and energy utilities – I often get asked how men can help women achieve gender parity. Here are my tips:
- Ask your employees to take an implicit bias test.
Harvard University developed this to measure attitudes or beliefs, and interpret results using available research. Spoiler alert: I’m a self-identified feminist, and I still have an implicit association between family and females / careers and males. You can take this free and anonymous test for age, race, gender-science, skin-tone, disability, etc. here. Acknowledging the existence of bias – whether implicit or explicit – is a foundational step in helping women achieve parity.
- Have women and minorities conduct candidate interviews.
Research by Lauren A. Rivera at the Kellogg School of Management shows hiring “is also a process of cultural matching between candidates, evaluators, and firms. Employers sought candidates who were not only competent but culturally similar to themselves in terms of leisure pursuits, experiences, and self-presentation styles.” Have women and minorities participate interviews to help your organization identify the unique skills and value in a diverse pool of candidates.
- Assign your male reports to mentor women.
Mentorship is related to career progress, organizational influence, and advancement, but women face more barriers to obtaining a mentor than men. Include measureable outcomes in your employees’ annual review (e.g. turnover, career satisfaction, performance and career growth of women) – because what gets measured, gets done. Catalyst provides information on how companies can “Make Mentoring Work” here.
- Give women high-visibility projects.
A case study by Harvard Business Review found that 240 senior leaders at a technology company attribute the most-critical factors for promotion to their level is – visibility. “More than technical competence, business results, or team leadership ability – these leaders agreed – visibility is the most important factor for advancement.” Help the women in your organization and network by putting them on stretch assignments – and recognizing the results when they deliver.
- Normalize women in leadership.
Make it a priority to have female and minority representation at your key events – conferences, leadership panels, quarterly meetings, retreats, and recruiting fairs. This increases visibility of women and minorities, and repeat exposure to women at these events will help diminish implicit biases.
- Review your compensation and bonus data.
Have women achieved financial parity with men? What does your data say? Are women being fairly compensated for the value they bring to the organization in comparison to their male peers? Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency has a pay equity toolkit with tactical steps mid-level managers can take to understand and address gender pay gaps. Per the GEA, “Employers generally don’t set out to pay women and men differently, so they are often surprised to find gender pay gaps in their organization. The reality is nearly all organizations have gender pay gaps and pay inequity has the potential to undermine staff attraction, retention, engagement and morale.”
In honor of International Women’s Day, I challenge you to execute one of my ideas above. Do it and tell me about it.
As Justine Greening, UK Development Secretary said, “No country can truly develop if half its population is left behind.” We need to protect our water sources, to find economically viable ways to deliver water and waste water treatment, to anticipate and mitigate water scarcity – and we need women to do it.