We have been researching what strategies work when organisations want to create a more inclusive culture. As part of the research we spoke to CEO’s and senior business leaders, as well as HR directors, and heads of diversity and inclusion. We also carried out a survey of the experience of men and women in the workplace. We used our Success Profile methodology which helps to identify the difference that makes a difference in moving to a more gender diverse and inclusive culture. The full results and the model which we created will be shared in our book Brain-savvy Wo+men which will be published in October but we wanted to share with you a little of what we found on Inclusion given it is such a hot topic in business right now.
In our research, there was one area we found which was both important for success and which many organisations struggled with. And that was getting middle managers engaged and skilled at inclusion. One of our survey participants, a male in the transport industry said there was a need to “Address the culture of middle management staying in their safety zone.”
Most of the senior women we talked to pointed to their manager as a major supporter of or a major block to their progress. One participant said, “If your manager isn’t aware and interested in the challenges and the nuances of gender stereotypes it’s better to move on.” According to our research participants, middle managers make or break a gender initiative. And its key for two reasons:
Managers who are focused on creating a more inclusive work environment know how they can ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute and their contribution is acknowledged. And that includes the middle managers’ contribution to strategy and gender. Focusing on this population accelerates change.
Most of the organisations we spoke to focused their inclusion efforts on senior leaders, of course role modelling from the top is important but it’s not going to get past the “perma frost” of middle managers unless there is action taken. We only found one organisation, in Australia, systematically taking action with this group. How are you doing on this? We would love to hear your comments.