Human Resources Management Articles on a variety of HR topics, Diversity and inclusion, leadership and more, offered by the Red Shoe Movement

Iris Bohnet Promotes Changing Design Over Mindsets

Iris Bohnet, is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, the Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy Schooland author of What Works: Gender Equality by Design. Don’t miss an equal parts insightful and inspiring interview!

An indisputable leader in the field, Iris Bohnet is a behavioral economist who combines insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations.

She has helped companies and governments across the globe use behavioral design research to de-bias how we live, work and learn. We had a chance to meet her at a recent conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Iris Bohnet at Council on Foreign Relations

Iris Bohnet at Council on Foreign Relations

Red Shoe Movement—At the recent Women and the Lawconference at the Council on Foreign Relations you mentioned that you are hopeful about the state of the gender equality conversation despite the fact that we keep talking about the problem when there are already very well researched solutions. Where does your optimism come from?

Iris Bohnet—My optimism is based on the demands that I see for the solutions. I did not see this 10 years ago. Back then, we didn’t have evidence about what worked. And we didn’t have a demand from companies and governments from different countries asking for help with these interventions. However, let me qualify my optimism because I fall prey of what we call selection bias. I’m responding to organizations that are reaching out to me. So, this is a self-selected group of organizations interested in this issue, and it’s not a representative sample of companies in the U.S. But by now I’ve worked with 50-100 companies around the world. Apparently, there’s enough movement in the space for all these companies to reach out and ask for help on this issue.

RSM— What are some good practices for women who don’t work in HR who wish to contribute to de-biasing their organizations?

IB—Let’s start with people who are not in managerial roles. Everyone can be a micro-sponsor. Everyone can play the role of watching out for micro-inequities or -aggressions. For example, if you make a comment in a meeting and then it’s repeated by John, I could bring this fact up easier than you can. And hopefully I can do it with tact and not in an adversarial manner. That’s an example of micro-sponsorship. I can thank John for building on your comment and then, bring the discussion back to you so that you can own it. And it can be done by women and by men. Everyone can pay attention to these patterns of exclusion.

When you have a managerial role you have more responsibilities in leading meetings, giving feedback during appraisals, and offering people opportunities to grow. Women may not be sent to leadership training or not offered a higher salary because they don’t ask for it as they fear backlash. Unfortunately, feedback is fraught with bias. Women and people of color often get less useful feedback. Managers can check that they help everyone grow. The best predictor of people’s satisfaction with their job is a good manager, so they have a great role to play every day.

Iris Bohnet award winning book

Iris Bohnet award winning book

RSM—Of all the interventions you propose in your book, which ones have you seen consistently implemented successfully?

IB—Probably the one picked up most is the debiasing of language in job advertising. It’s easy to do because HR doesn’t have to reinvent their practices. It’s an ad-on to what they are already doing.  The second advantage is that is a no-brainer because organizations want to cast a wide net and attract a wide range of talent. This intervention is not costly.  You can develop your own algorithm or work with one of the start-ups such as Applied or Textio offering the tool, and the system then does the work.

RSM—Do you see a major shift in gender dynamics as Generation Z enters the workplace? How do you think the current dynamic will change or not?

IB—I truly don’t know. I haven’t studied this generation specifically. It appears from surveys that both men and women are more interested in work-life balance. They have more demands about the time they spend outside of work. They are looking for self -fulfilment and self-realization. The younger generation asks a lot about purpose at work. The meaning of what they do is important to them. This will likely impact gender dynamics but we don’t really have the data yet to show how.

Iris Bohnet on gender equality design

Iris Bohnet on gender equality design

Advice by Iris Bohnet on reaching men

RSM— What do you say to men who are “tired” of all the gender equality talk. The pushback of the #MeToo movement? It seems to force women to once again, protect men’s feelings before their own.

IB—It depends on the men. I’d say there are two categories. On the one hand you have those men who care but are tired because we’ve talked about it for so many years, they’ve gone through diversity training programs, they’ve seen their companies implement leadership programs for women and still don’t see a change. To them, I’d say, we’ve done the wrong things. We tried to change mindsets or women. What we’re doing today is different than what we’ve done so far. Our approach is based on research, it’s new and different from what we’ve done before. It builds on evidence of what works.

On the other hand, there’s the category of men who don’t care and don’t think we have a problem. People who love homogeneity and are comfortable with people who look like them. This is a bigger problem and it requires a different approach. This group needs less talk and more action. These are people who don’t want to move from A to B. They are comfortable in A. For them, we need to look at a social movement. Figure out how to promote change even when people don’t see that gender inequity is real and a violation of human rights.

RSM—For many years, we’ve all looked at the business case for inclusion and encouraged women to bring up the metrics to conversations around this topic. Do you believe that’s still the best approach to get an organization to get behind inclusion at the highest levels of decision-making? Or have we arrived at a place where you can answer “it’s not just good business is the moral and ethical thing to do to support 100% of your talent”?

IB—I think we need to use both approaches. We always have to talk about human rights. But the business case is helpful. But even the two approaches together are not enough. There is a third piece that we need to add: We have to help people follow their virtuous intentions. It’s like healthy eating. We can make the case that it’s good for you to eat healthily but even if you believe that eating more vegetables is the right and the smart thing to do, it doesn’t happen automatically. We have to help people work through their intentions in a practical way. You have to debias systems and not start by debiasing mindsets. Eventually, good behavior changes mindsets. But it takes time.

Iris Bohnet sharing about gender equality by design

Iris Bohnet sharing about gender equality by design

Iris Bohnet’s suggestions for best inclusion practices

RSM— If you had to recommend one best practice for fostering gender inclusion in an organization, what would it be?

IB—I don’t think there is the one silver bullet that will solve all our issues. And which one you start with depends on where the organization is in its journey. If an organization is at the beginning of its journey, I’d say measure. Understand what’s going on before you throw money at the problem. Who are you hiring, what are the pay gaps, who’s leaving, what’s the climate? What doesn’t get measured not only doesn’t count but it also can’t be fixed.

RSM— If you had to recommend one best practice for women to reach the highest levels of decision-making, what would it be?

IB—Build a support network inside and outside your organization. People who lift you up and help you navigate the system. It should include mentors, sponsors, friends. And make sure you also have a support system at home. Don’t try to do this alone.

RSM—What do you think of our #RedShoeTuesday campaign?

IB—I like the idea a lot! The red shoes are a signal —the more people wear red shoes the more others will wear them. That’s just human behavior. I like that it’s something visible. My biggest concern is whether enough people own red shoes. (Laughs.) Maybe, you have to decrease the barriers to entry a bit and allow people to wear anything red, a scarf, a hat, a tie. But the idea is great. I often say: seeing is believing!

A Female Leadership Conference Unlike Any Other!

It’s an experience. We aim for guests to leave with a sense of self-discovery they hadn’t expected. With new insights about their own career journeys and contacts who can be an integral part of those journeys. That’s what our female leadership conference is all about!

This past November marked the seventh annual RSM Signature Event, a day-long female leadership conference geared to a mixed audience, unlike anything you’ve seen. The vibe, the energy, the intense interaction never fails to turn the day into a memorable, shared experience.

Group picture at RSM female leadership conference

Group picture at RSM female leadership conference

What’s different about the RSM female leadership conference

From the beginning we built this event on three principles:

  1. We all have something to teach and something to learn from each other at all times, therefore, there wouldn’t be a distinction between “speakers” and “audience.”
  2. Audience and organizers would co-create the content of the event.
  3. It would be a mixed audience. Women and men, all backgrounds, a wide range of roles, ages and abilities from college students to the C-Suite.

True, this is not an easy feat to achieve. And it’s much harder to maintain your principles when people who only know traditional female leadership conferences constantly ask you to adjust your model. Yet, year after year we persisted, tweaked and improved our delivery, and here we are. With a hyper successful event that never fails to surprise and to teach each one of us something new and unexpected.

A female leadership conference that involves all stakeholders

Female Leadership Conference unlique any other

Female Leadership Conference unlique any other

One of the aspects that strikes participants from the get go is the wide range of career stages and backgrounds of attendees. It’s by design. Our method only works when you have people at every experience and hierarchy in the organization, the most diverse the better. So it’s a very unique opportunity for an analyst or a recent college grad to sit at the same proverbial table as a senior vice president or Chief Marketing Officer and give each other advice. It’s an exchange that enriches them both and leaves them with an entirely new perspective on what’s possible.

Engaging leaders in two distinct roles

Executives get to practice a different role at the RSM female leadership conference

Executives get to practice a different role at the RSM female leadership conference

It can be a challenge to engage leaders in a learning model that requires that they wear a different hat than they are used to. We interview our keynote guests, and they interview the audience. We ask executives to play the role of Explorer, asking questions instead of providing advice. We are really lucky to count on a remarkable group of influencers at every conference who not only play along but also help us create an even better event.

Aha moments shared by guests of the RSM Signature Event

We can tell you how wonderful the event was until we turn blue in the face. Yet nobody can describe the experience better than individuals who went through it. So here are a few insightful testimonials.

Claudia Vazquez of Prudential shares her insights from the RSM Signature Event

Claudia Vazquez of Prudential shares her insights from the RSM Signature Event

“The RSM event reminded me in a very vivid way that we all have the ability to add value based on our expertise and unique strengths. That I should always find that one thing that makes me different and that is the same thing that makes me stand out from the rest. That I should continue to be bold on expressing my aspirations and be resilient on the pursuit of them!”  — Claudia Vazquez, Director, Product Management, GI/WSG, Prudential

Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Novartis, at the RSM female leadership conference

Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Novartis, at the RSM female leadership conference

“Excited, inspired and empowered by the Red Shoe Movement  panel demystifying Failure. Failure is the key to grow! So instead of focusing on avoiding failure, re-learn, re-tool and re-engage!” — Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Commercial Director Latin America and Canada, Novartis Pharma

Beth Marmolejos strikes a pose at the #RedLookBook

Beth Marmolejos strikes a pose at the #RedLookBook

“It was a transformational experience and reminder that we need to use our influence and power to support each other.” — Beth Marmolejos, Executive Advisor and IT Account Manager, Anthem, Inc.

Lorena Kuri, Novartis Oncology, at the RSM female leadership event

Lorena Kuri, Novartis Oncology, at the RSM female leadership event

“In one of the mentoring circles I was able to see the healing power of a group of women that never met before, and how they impacted someone in need. Collective love, collective, true selves.” — Lorena Kuri Murad, AD Jakavi Brand Lead / D&I Champion Latin America and Canada Region, Novartis Oncology

The extra touches that make a difference

You can’t have the words “Red Shoe” as part of your company name and take yourself too seriously. That’s why we remind people we are at the intersection of self-empowerment and fashion. The fashion piece gives us the perfect excuse to keep humor as part of the courageous conversations we inspire. A little lightness goes a long way to get men and women to work together towards a more equal future.

Farylrobin's designs for different Red Shoe Movement Signature Events

Farylrobin’s designs for different Red Shoe Movement Signature Events

As every year, we gave away over 50 pairs of red boots and over dozens of ties to participants.  Thanks to our committed partners Farylrobin, once again, many of our female guests walked away with a new pair of boots to celebrate #RedShoeTuesday. And many of our male guests took home our new Signature Tie, by our partner Cyberoptix. Now they have the perfect accessory and a specific hashtag #RedTieTuesday to take a stand for gender equality every Tuesday. You can read more about the meaning of the tie here.

Our RSM Signature Tie for #RedTieTuesday. A great way to engage your male champions.

Our RSM Signature Tie for #RedTieTuesday. A great way to engage your male champions.

We also added a little extra sweet touch. Thanks to our partner Charbonnel et Walker, fine chocolatiers to the British Crown, we put a small “handbag” of chocolate stilettos in the hands of every attendee. Mmmmm… chic, and delish!

Charbonnel et Walker stilettos gave the female leadership conference a special touch

Charbonnel et Walker stilettos gave the female leadership conference a special touch

A female leadership conference as a culminating event

Patricia Mejia of Microsoft, attended our RSM Signature Event to receive her Red Shoe Leader Award. In the video she shares how the Step Up Program helped her grow in her career and gain additional visibility inside and outside her organization.

Patricia Mejia of Microsoft, attended our RSM Signature Event to receive her Red Shoe Leader Award. In the video she shares how the Step Up Program helped her grow in her career and gain additional visibility inside and outside her organization.

Year after year we work with scores of female talent inside medium and large organizations to provide specific tools that elicit self-leadership and mutual mentoring. It’s particularly poignant to see one of our past participants win the Red Shoe Leader Award for the work she’s done to promote inclusion inside and outside her organization, Microsoft, as a result of her involvement with the Step Up Plus program. More exciting yet, to have the chance to meet her in person —she’s from Guatemala— as she joined us in New York City for the Awards Ceremony and the RSM Signature Event.

Here’s Patricia Mejia of Microsoft in her own words (in Spanish.)

So you see, it’s not just one thing that makes this female leadership conference unique. It’s a constellation of people coming together to think about the experience of participants. What they are taking away. How they are truly transformed. How they will pay it forward by impacting others with their new insights. And as that experience is a moving target, we try to always be ahead of it, offering what guests didn’t know they needed and they are so happy they found.

 

 

It’s Easier than Ever for Male Allies to Make a Statement

#RedTieTuesday Has Arrived

Starting now, it’s become easier than ever for male allies to make a statement of support of women’s career growth and be true change agents. Enter #RedTieTuesday and our new Signature Tie!

Male champions support women careers by wearing red ties on Tuesdays #RedTieTuesday

Male champions support women careers by wearing red ties on Tuesdays #RedTieTuesday

The origin of #RedTieTuesday

It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been celebrating #RedShoeTuesday for 7 years! The day when women wear red shoes and men wear red ties or socks to support women’s career advancement. A visual reminder to keep alive the conversation on how to change the culture in our organizations so that everyone has an equal chance to reach the top.

Here's the meaning of red shoes for the Red Shoe Movement.

We were ready to roll out a separate hashtag for men a few years ago and suddenly, the political climate in the U.S. made it hard to highlight a red tie as a way for men to stand by women. But our male allies persisted. They wore their red ties every week and advocated for 100% of talent inclusion both inside their organizations and publicly, in social media. They supported our initiative week in and week out with a level of enthusiasm that pushed us to take make the hashtag a reality.

So last week, at our first ever Celebrating True Inclusion Stars Awards Event, the evening prior to our 7th RSM Signature Event, our annual leadership development conference, we debuted our signature tie and our new hashtag #RedTieTuesday.

But it’s not just one tie. We actually created a collection of ties alongside Cyberoptix, the Detroit based woman-owned business, that makes these handmade beauties. We chose two different widths, three tones of red fabric, and several colors of ink so that each male ally could make a statement reflecting his style.

RSM Signature tie collection with Ampersand by Cyberoptix

RSM Signature tie collection with Ampersand by Cyberoptix

It has been a fascinating road to see how men found visually appealing ways to stand next to women every Tuesday across the globe and thus become strong change agents. We’ve seen the most creative socks, bow ties, shirts, and scarves, not to mention the number of gentlemen that confessed to be wearing red underwear! (We always take them at their word…) Having an official tie makes it easier to continue working together towards a global leap of consciousness when the proportion of men and women at the top becomes balanced overnight. And as I’ve said in the past, standing for inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but a proven career booster for men.

Male champions support women's career growth with red socks and ties on #RedTieTuesday

Male allies support women’s career growth with very creative red socks and ties on #RedTieTuesday

The Ampersand gets us closer than ever!

“In 1440, Guttenberg introduced the ampersand (&) in his first printing press. In 2018 the Red Shoe Movement introduces the ampersand on its first signature tie,” said Gustavo Carvajal, #IDEAcatalyst, on a recent post on Twitter and Instagram.

It’s the most inclusive symbol in the alphabet. We chose it because it’s the very representation of inclusion. And. Women and men. All of us working together towards the same goal. It’s one of the most simple and recognizable ways to show inclusion in any language. We selected this particular font, Caslon, because its Ampersand is abstract and artistic, turning it into a small piece of art. We are hoping it becomes a conversation starter. That men wearing the tie get asked what the symbol represents. That they have a chance to explain what it stands for. What they stand for when wearing it.

It’s Easier Than Ever for Male Allies to Make a Statement with our Ampersand Tie

Philip Klint, anchor NY1 Noticias, debuts the RSM Signature Tie

Philip Klint, anchor NY1 Noticias, debuts the RSM Signature Tie

We debuted our signature tie with Philip Klint, the Emmy award-winning journalist, writer, producer and anchor of NY1 Noticias in NYC and the EMCEE of our Awards event hosted by WarnerMedia. We then gifted ties to our Red Shoe Leader honorees —all of them strong male champions who support gender inclusion, the 7 RSM Principles and #RedShoeTuesday initiatives— as they were called to the stage.

And following our tradition, we gave away a number of ties the following day at our 7thAnnual RSM Signature Event at MetLife.

Use your tie to start culture-changing conversations and actions

Clearly, #RedShoeTuesday and #RedTieTuesday are excuses to have relevant, culture-changing conversations.

Here are a few questions you could ask your female colleagues any Tuesday:

  • Is there anything I could do to help you achieve your career goals?
  • Is there any particular person I have access to that could help you?
  • Is there any meeting you are interested in that you think I could arrange for your participation?
  • Is there anything I may be doing that may be interfering with your career opportunities so I can do less of it?
  • Is there anything I may be doing that is helping your career opportunities so I can do more of it?
Red Shoe Leader Award honorees receive a Signature Tie

Red Shoe Leader Award honorees receive a Signature Tie

Here are a few simple actions you could take to help level the playing field for everyone in your organization.

  • Offer equal chances to women and men to present at meetings so they gain equal exposure.
  • Make sure men and women take turns to do the support activities around meetings and events. (Reserve rooms, deal with logistics, prepare folders and takeaways, etc.)
  • Change your after-hours get together to lunchtime so more female colleagues can attend.
  • Praise female colleagues publicly highlighting specific achievements.
  • Make soft introductions for your female colleagues in person and via email to valuable contacts. Focus on their achievements and hard skills rather than on effort.
Don't miss these key diversity and inclusion strategies!

Most importantly, join us. Whether you wear our Ampersand tie or any kind of red tie, let’s celebrate together next Tuesday, and the next. Wear your red tie to work and use it as an opportunity to become an even stronger change agent. Share your pictures, thoughts and the effect your red tie had in your environment using our #RedTieTuesday. Nothing happens until you join this conversation.

5 Tips to Stay Cool Under Pressure When Things Don’t Go as Planned

What happens when the worst November snowstorm in history hits New York City on the inaugural day of your leadership development event? You roll with it baby! Here are a few insights on how to stay cool under pressure when things don’t go as you planned.

The snow had already piled high on the ground and was falling at a fast clip as my team and I were arriving at the WarnerMedia building in Columbus Circle. We tried to keep our boots out of the puddles that were quickly forming in the sidewalk while keeping our heads down to avoid messing up our hairdos. It wasn’t easy.

The worst snowstorm to hit New York City in November had caught it unprepared. And of course it had to fall on the day when we were hosting “Celebrating True Inclusion Stars” with a Cocktail Reception and an Awards Ceremony. It was the evening before our 7thannual RSM Signature Event and we were honoring leaders who had won the Hall of Fame and Red Shoe Leader awards during 2018. Guests were coming from Europe, Central and South America, Canada and the U.S. Thankfully, the out-of-towners had arrived right before the storm. The biggest problem for most people was to get to the venue from their hotels and homes.

As you can imagine, we were bombarded by messages from people being stuck in the highway, or without a cab. And from executives to honorees to our team members who had a role in the event who couldn’t make it.  It was one of those moments when your patience and trouble-shooting skills are sorely tested. One of the opportunities to truly practice your executive presence.

Cynthia Hudson welcomes the Red Shoe Movement audience to Awards Ceremony

Cynthia Hudson welcomes the Red Shoe Movement audience to Awards Ceremony- A great example of someone who knows how to stay cool under pressure.

Insights on how to stay cool under pressure

1Have a back up person for every key player

As can be expected when you put together a major event, last minute challenges are the norm. The day before the Cocktail Reception, we almost lost our EMCEE who wasn’t feeling great. As we anxiously searched for a replacement (and luckily found one) he called back to inform us he was doing better and was pretty sure he’d be fine for the next two days. But the truth is we hadn’t even thought about having a stand-in for our EMCEE. Big mistake. You should treat your leadership event as theater producers treat every play. They have understudies at the ready for each main actor.

Some of the male champions at our Awards event #RedTieTuesday

Some of the male champions at our Awards event #RedTieTuesday

2Train every member of your team to play more than one role

Some of the most important “losses” we experienced as a result of the storm were in our own staff. We didn’t learn about these absences until the very, very last minute as they were trying to reach our location and got stuck for several hours on the road. So a decision needed to be made right then and there to tell them to turn back and go home safely while we reassigned their responsibility to someone else. Now, how can you do this if nobody else knows the task at hand? We had a large team who knew what the event needed to look like, and what was expected of each person. Everyone had a general idea of what the others were responsible for. So it was relatively easy to delegate the roles to different people on the spot.

Audience at Celebrating True Inclusion Stars

Audience at Celebrating True Inclusion Stars

3Script as much as possible

I don’t mean to suggest that you should micromanage the team. But when you put together a leadership development event or any other kind of event, there are certain key aspects that need to be scripted. From the remarks everyone in your team will deliver, to the flow of the event, to the bios of key participants, and so on. The more you can put into writing the easier it becomes to provide the script to someone that has to quickly stand in for someone else.

Ilya Marotta, EVP, Engineering, Panama Canal, receives Hall of Fame award

Ilya Marotta, EVP, Engineering, Panama Canal, receives Hall of Fame award- In charge of the Panama Canal expansion, Ilya led for years this massive infrastructure project staying cool under the most intense pressure.

4Use humor and engage the audience

Resorting to humor when things don’t go as planned is one of the best tactics to stay cool under pressure. Being transparent about what’s happening and what’s wrong fosters empathy and as a result builds patience. It helps you get people to cut you some slack.

As the storm delayed some of our honorees, we had to shift the order in which they were being asked to come up to stage to receive their award and say a few words.

The slides had been prepared with the AV department as a PDF, however, and they could not be shifted from their original order. So, we went around changing the name signs on the seats to keep straight the order in which each honoree was supposed to go on stage. But we couldn’t change the order on the slides projected on a movie-size screen. We had to play with the clicker moving the slides back and forth to find the right honoree. As this job fell on me, I made fun of the situation: “Moving back in time, we now call x” or “And now, we enter the time machine again and we move forward to y…” Making the audience part of the joke helps to keep things light and irons out any wrinkles in your perfectly planned presentation.

Even one the directors of our event, Teresa Correa,  opened up the Award Ceremony by saying that the snowstorm showed the power of the Red Shoe Movement to give guests a true New York City experience.

Marcelo Fumasoni, global HR leader, Novartis, receives Red Shoe Leader award

Marcelo Fumasoni, global HR leader, Novartis, receives Red Shoe Leader award

5Be present with those who are present

When it comes to putting together a large event, there’s a common reaction when something happens (like a snowstorm) and not all the people who had confirmed their attendance can make it. I’ve been in many a conference when the organizers spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about those who didn’t come. The truth is that you should have the best event for those who did. And rather than spending time disregarding the audience you have, you should always be gracious, and grateful to them for showing up. That’s what we always do and this time was no different. Although, surprisingly, we hit the numbers we were hoping for, we could’ve had a lot more. We acknowledge the unsuccessful efforts others had made to join us and left it at that. The rest of the evening was focused on making our guests have a wonderful time.

Yes, this post is about a professional event and a snowstorm. But many of these tips work for any other kind of situation when you need to remain cool under pressure.  When you have a seemingly impossible deadline, when you’re faced with any type of work-related crises or with the upcoming holidays. Preparing for it, using humor and rolling with the punches is a strategy that always works in your favor.

Gladys Bernett, USF, Ciudad del Saber, Panama, receives Red Shoe Leader Award

Gladys Bernett, USF, Ciudad del Saber, Panama, receives Red Shoe Leader Award

4 Key Diversity & Inclusion Strategies from Leading Companies

Looking for truly effective strategies to take your organization to the next level? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Here are 3 diversity and inclusion strategies from leading companies that you can readily try.

Key Diversity & Inclusion Strategies from Leading Companies

1Engage your ecosystem

At a recent Red Shoe Movement event for Novartis Mexico, where the company engaged its entire ecosystem.

At a recent Red Shoe Movement event for Novartis Mexico, where the company engaged its entire ecosystem.

The view from the front was inspiring. Participants were actively sharing their “ahas” and their best practices. A senior executive from the host company recognized publicly that although his organization was very committed to inclusion, they could still do more to de-bias the interview process. An HR leader realized that by not taking advantage herself of her company’s flexible work policies she was sending the wrong message to everyone below her. The director of a leading consumer products outfit expressed how positive it was to hear solutions that were working well for other companies and to have a space where they could share best practices.

Welcome to what it means to involve your entire ecosystem in conversations about diversity and inclusion. Not just your own talent. But also your suppliers, competitors, professional associations in your sector, clients, media, government, civil society, and others.

The above stories all come from a recent Red Shoe Movement event we did for Novartis in Mexico. It was a breakfast at a wonderful venue — La Hacienda de los Morales— where executives and directors from organizations that are part of Novartis’ ecosystem were invited to attend. The topic? “Tips and Tricks to Foster Inclusive Workplaces,” something that, if it’s really going to work, requires involvement from all players in society.

A leader in the space, this Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company, has been setting an example for a long time. In the last three years, we’ve conducted events like the one in Mexico in several countries in Latin America. By listening to the needs and suggestions of doctors, patient advocacy groups, medical associations, university programs, industry colleagues, their own talent, and the community were they operate the company is able to constantly innovate its inclusion practices.

Now, just as important as it is to reach out and connect with your ecosystem, it is to remain humble and open to comments, suggestions and new ideas even when they initially sound counterintuitive. Take the opportunity to create cross-sector partnerships and explore new ideas together. What’s the worse that can happen? That you solidify your network?

2Enlist committed male champions

Embracing male champions is a key D&I strategy of leading companies.

Key Diversity & Inclusion Strategies from Leading Companies: Engage male champions

It’s immediately evident when diversity and inclusion is truly weaved into an organization. You see male executives who openly support initiatives to develop and promote 100% of the talent.  As a result, women have a career projection all the way to the C-suite. These are male champions who don’t just act as executive sponsors of a Women’s ERG event but who are actively involved in sponsoring individual women. They do everything in their power to provide relevant exposure, air cover when needed, and to influence policy changes when they see practices that impact women in a negative way. (Here are 10 behaviors men can implement to accelerate female representation at the top.)

Best in class companies have male champions who believe diversity and inclusion is a business imperative and act like it. (For us it’s easy to spot them as they wear red ties/socks every Tuesday to show their support for #RedShoeTuesday!)

3Once alerted, change the policy or benefit to impact everyone fairly

Ultimate Software only needs one associate to request an accommodation to review their policies. What does your company do?

Ultimate Software only needs one associate to request an accommodation to review their policies. This is a key D&I strategy. What does your company do?

“We only need one of our employees to bring up the need to modify one of our policies to accommodate their particular situation to make a policy change,” Jody Kaminsky, Chief Marketing Officer at Ultimate Software shared with me recently. The example had to do with parental leave. “When one of our associates came to us and told us she was adopting a child and that our parental leave contemplated only biological parents, we immediately changed our policy to include adoptive parents as well.”

That’s an admirable way to conduct business. Putting your talent first and having a healthy aversion to red tape.

Unfortunately, I’m sure you have as many examples as I do of companies that drag their feet whenever they get a request for an accommodation (usually from a woman) and when they grant it, it’s always as an exception to the policy. Seldom do they stop to think: “Hmm… I wonder how many others we could benefit if we made this part of our standard policy.” Because for every person who has the guts and patience to fight to get a benefit that they are not “entitled to,” there are many, many more out there who prefer not to bother. Whether it is for fear of putting themselves on the spot or for the lack of the energy it takes to fight these fights, they just don’t pursue it. (And perhaps, that’s exactly the goal of the organization: To fulfill as few of these exceptions as possible. In the long run, this is bad business, though.)

Not long ago, a client shared with me one of these sorry stories. She had accepted an executive position in Brazil with a Fortune 100 company. As part of her package, she received a company car. The only caveat was that her driver wasn’t allowed to drive the car, which meant she still had to run errands and pick her kids up from school and drive them to school activities. What good was it to have a company car if she couldn’t have her driver alleviate her from these tasks?

It took her three long months of relentless fighting to get the company to accept her terms. But did they make that the new policy? Nope. So the next female executive faced with a similar situation will be forced to jump through the same hoops. Or perhaps she’ll turn down the job because the organization is making it too hard for her to take it. And then the company will probably lament that, “women don’t like to move.”

Send a clear message to your talent. Whenever approached by someone who asks for something that’s not part of your benefits or policies yet, review the benefits and policies. Don’t see it as a one-time accommodation. See it as an opportunity to improve your retention and a great way to attract top talent.

What else works in D&I according to leading companies

4Engage your workforce with a larger community

Become part of a larger community to inspire your talent to own their careers and support each other's growth.

Become part of a larger community to inspire your talent to own their careers and support each other’s growth.

If I’ve learned something in the last few years it’s the power of being part of something bigger than myself. The enthusiasm that our #RedShoeTuesday initiative elicits has been humbling. Discovering people who have been having red shoe parties in Silicon Valley, book clubs in Mexico, Tuesday after hours in Spain feels nothing short of miraculous. And your organization can tap into that level of energy by simply implementing the 7 RSM Principles and inviting everyone to wear their red shoes, ties and socks on Tuesdays in order to keep up the conversation about inclusion. It’s using a visual reminder to avoid letting go of the topic so that together women and men in your workplace can figure out how to level the playing field for 100% of the talent. All while being part of something that goes beyond your company. Something that connects you with the outside world.

Here’s why it works:

  • It’s fun.
  • It’s contagious.
  • It’s a community that offers mutual support so for every action, there’s an exponential reaction.
  • It gives everyone ownership over their careers and the power to help others in theirs.
  • It invites everyone to be responsible and action oriented. To do something every week about making the workplace a better place to work.

Granted, there are a lot of diversity and inclusion strategies you should explore. But these three are sure winners ready for you to implement right now. And they come with the backing of some of the leading companies in diversity and inclusion.

Ready to try them?

Best in class companies engage male champions with inclusion programs

Best in class companies engage male champions with inclusion programs