FORBES: 15 Ways Your Firm Can Shift Its Culture To Truly Become Gender-Equal

As published in Forbes.

Gender inequality remains a serious problem for businesses. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2015, women earned approximately 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Leadership positions remain unbalanced, too.

Companies looking to embrace diversity gain competitive advantages, like access to a larger pool of skilled staff and a wider set of perspectives, both of which directly increase business opportunities. Improvements in staff morale mean more ideas are generated and more work is done, improving the lives of both employees and the people who use the company’s services.

Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss how you can shift your corporate culture toward gender equality.

From top left to right: Lori Darley, Lori Manns, Barbara Safani, Jared Lafitte, Suzi Pomerantz, Jessica Miller-Merrell, James Lopata, Sheri Nasim, Maureen Metcalf, Ross Blankenship, Edyta Pacuk, Jenn Lofgren, Tmima Grinvald, Taylor Jacobson, Susanne Biro.

All photos courtesy of the individual member.

From top left to right: Lori Darley, Lori Manns, Barbara Safani, Jared Lafitte, Suzi Pomerantz, Jessica Miller-Merrell, James Lopata, Sheri Nasim, Maureen Metcalf, Ross Blankenship, Edyta Pacuk, Jenn Lofgren, Tmima Grinvald, Taylor Jacobson, Susanne Biro.

1. Start With Diversity Training

Do the basics first: diversity training. Understand the value of differences, including the brain science which further substantiates that value. Examine the unconscious biases and the lost opportunity to the organization when certain voices aren’t heard. Ensure equity in advancement opportunity and equal pay. Find fun ways to raise awareness. Commit to making substantive policy changes. – Lori Darley, Conscious Leaders LLC

2. Foster An Inclusive Environment

Business owners must focus on an inclusive company culture for both genders. When one gender is excluded from important roles, projects and positions, it affects morale and company culture. Everyone must feel there is a leveled playing field. Gender equality should be enforced at every level of the company, fostering an environment of inclusion so both genders have equal opportunity. – Lori Manns, Quality Media Consultant Group

3. Recognize Different Needs

Once companies start treating people as individuals with different needs, equality can be achieved. Realize that people are motivated by different factors. For some, it will be money, while for others, flexibility. Get to know your staff to uncover what’s important to them and create reward systems that make them feel valued and keep them engaged. – Barbara Safani, Career Solvers

4. Make It About Ideas

Organizational culture is behaviors rooted in beliefs, priorities, traditions, attitudes, expectations, convictions and passions. These are ideas, and ideas are gender neutral. Business owners can start to foster a culture of gender equality when they do two things: focus on utilizing the best ideas regardless of their source and intentionally provide an equal platform for communicating those ideas. – Jared Lafitte, Lafitte Coaching.

5. Flip The Advantage

There’s a blindness in organizations regarding gender equality. Leaders think they’re treating everyone equally and are not consciously aware if gender privilege is at play. Promote a shift by noticing which gender has the advantage in any situation and intentionally flip that advantage. If there’s a task or opportunity where women have an advantage, notice it and encourage men to participate. – Suzi Pomerantz, Innovative Leadership International LLC

6. Communicate And Demonstrate Your Position On Gender Equality

It’s important for business leaders to come forward to discuss their company’s position on equality within the organization, internally through regular communication methods and with training, but also as a part of the larger brand and outward facing communication. Organizations should work with other companies to help drive changes in the communities where employees live. – Jessica Miller-Merrell, Workology

7. Emphasize The Competitive Advantage

Organizations that cultivate diversity and inclusion, including gender, realize three competitive advantages: They attract and keep quality talent, they relate more authentically to more customers, and they can apply more varied experiences to growing opportunities. Seeking equality without a link to corporate goals engenders resistance. Align equality with your bottom line for greatest success. – James Lopata, InnerOvation

8. Look At The Make-Up Of Top Leadership

Culture shift starts from the top. If your board and executive team is male, pale and stale, ask yourself if your leaders truly represent the diverse needs of the genders, races, and generations of your workforce and your customers. If not, check out sites like Catalyst Corporate Board Resource and Women’s Forum of New York to find well-qualified women leaders. – Sheri Nasim, Center for Executive Excellence

9. Take Visible Actions

Culture is the sum total of the agreements between owners and employees. Walk your talk. Take visible actions and talk about why this action supports the organization’s success. There is great data to support the value both genders bring to the workplace when in the proper proportion and working together respectfully. Reinforce the strengths of both and encourage teamwork. – Maureen Metcalf, Metcalf & Associates, Inc

10. Have Diverse Leaders In Your Organization

Unfortunately, real gender equality won’t just happen. If you want to create an organizational culture characterized by gender equality, then you can’t just promote the idea, you need to promote your people. Having diverse leaders in your organization will communicate your cultural values more than a simple values statement will – Ross Blankenship, PhD, Bespoke Partners

11. Use Different Leadership Styles

Focus the development of women on their communication (persuasion and showcasing their analytical and strategic thinking), and help them delegate more. Highlight what successful men and women have in common. That should shift your organizational culture and give more visibility to smart women leaders. – Edyta Pacuk, MarchFifteen Consulting Inc.

12. Invest In Female Leaders

If there is to be gender equality, it’s really simple: Business owners need to invest in developing female leaders, hire women and promote them. It’s about behavior, not talk. As a business owner, your accountability in taking action speaks greater volumes than any other internal company initiative. – Jenn Lofgren, Incito Consulting

13. Balance Out Promotions

Identify talent from both genders and ensure they are promoted and compensated at every level of the organization. Make sure the next promotions are for deserving individuals of the less fortunate gender thus far. Provide opportunities for professional and personal development specifically to employees of the gender who had the lower hand so far. That will ensure future balance. – Tmima Grinvald, The Round Well

14. Ask, Then Take Action

Ask women what they want, and take action. Given the long legacy of male-centric work cultures, go into the process knowing that it will require change and experimenting with ideas that may not instinctually resonate. That’s what it feels like to be stuck in old ways of doing things. Change demands courage. – Taylor Jacobson, Focusmate

15. Collectively Talk About Current And Ideal Culture

Culture is created by us all. Thus, collectively, talk about the current culture and the ideal culture. Then, strive to live the ideal fully. Celebrate actions that are consistent with it and have the appropriate conversations (or take the appropriate actions) with those rooted in the past. Culture change is slow, but it is not immune to conversation and persistence. – Susanne Biro, Susanne Biro & Associates Coaching Inc.

About the Author

Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.

For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.

Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at


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