We’re all by nature lazy. Every single one of us. Even marathon runners. A study by the University of College London demonstrated that humans tend to choose a path of least resistance unless increased awareness is used to achieve something greater or to do what is right. For example, runners apply awareness, set goals, measure progress, and consistently make healthy choices when they train for a marathon. It is through conscious effort that they find success. The same is true for the drive toward gender equality: conscious effort is needed to achieve the desired result. We can apply the same four steps to drive a gender equality agenda as a runner would to complete a marathon.
1. Be Aware
Applying conscious effort to a diversity and inclusion program requires bringing awareness to unconscious bias. Awareness is the first step. It can be triggered with practical strategies like delivering mandatory diversity and inclusion training, creating a culture where questioning default behavior and groupthink is safe, and treating a gender equality agenda the same as any other change management initiative.
2. Set Goals
Although a topic worthy of debate, quota setting, and disruption are required to achieve gender equality in an accelerated timeline. Setting a quota will challenge the ‘but I just want the best person for the job’ programming, because it will create discussion around what the best person for a job really looks like. Creative solutions stem from open dialog, so by setting quotas, and allowing the conflict to surface, teams have an opportunity to identify and implement strategies to combat the issues.
3. Measure Progress
Measuring success will depend largely on the goals that are set. The goals will be unique to each organization and will differ by industry. For example, a software firm may set the lofty goal of hiring 40% female computer science graduates into entry-level software development positions. Since only 30% of math and computer science graduates are female, aggressive hiring techniques which appeal to women will need to be designed. A few examples of measures for this goal include: percentage of female applicants to female-friendly job ads vs. to traditional job ads, percentage of women interviewed who pass the assessment criteria vs. men, percentage of women hired into entry level positions vs. men, and percentage of women thriving after one year vs. men. These are measurement examples for one goal; similar principles can be applied to determine measurements for other goals. The benefit of measuring progress is having the chance to better understand the reason behind the result and adjust strategy as required.
4. Be Consistent
I love the quote ‘Practice makes permanent’. The slight difference between that and ‘Practice makes perfect’ is the key to consistency. There will be targets that aren’t met and female candidates who don’t work out. Perfection is not the goal. If we keep our focus on making progress, then we can learn from our failures and identify new success tactics.
Achieving gender equality is a marathon not a sprint. It is a big change that requires ongoing conscious effort. We can either be the marathon runner who had to have open heart surgery to motivate healthy choices, or we can use awareness to challenge our default programming when it comes to gender bias. Maintaining the status quo is the path of least resistance. But is choosing easy the right thing to do for our collective future?