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5 steps leaders should take to increase the role and value of women in their workplace

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09-03-2015

The vast majority of CEOs responding to a McKinsey survey noted that hiring females is essential to “getting the best brains.” Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Despite increasing awareness of this issue, meaningful change remains agonizingly slow—less than 20 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and on average, women earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

Real leaders require their teams to establish systems and cultures that reward women and men equally, thereby encouraging women to focus on contributing, instead of fighting against out-of-date biases. Real leaders understand that expertise and contributions—not your sex—is what wins the race.

Here are five critical steps leaders need to take to increase the role—and value—of women in their organizations:

1. Make the commitment. It sounds basic, but chief executives need to understand—and accept—that their organization’s bottom line will be enhanced by including women in policy-shaping forums and decisions.

2. Make the commitment count. Tie executive compensation to the active inclusion and advancement of women—simply meeting a quota is not enough (and in fact, is counterproductive).

3. Encourage and mentor women. The fact is that more women take on the combined role of breadwinner and caregiver than men, and organizations need to accommodate that—or they will ultimately suffer the loss of some great talent. Women want tough assignments, and in my experience, are often better than men when it comes to collaborating.

4. Check male egos at the door. Consciously or unconsciously, the “old boys” network is alive and well. Organizations must adopt a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination (and not just against women). Instead of celebrating the behavior that still exists on Wall Street, it needs to be wiped out.

5. Recognize women’s unique contributions. Most of the women I know and have worked with have been better at multi-tasking than men (myself included), and reach consensus faster and with less contention than most men. It’s no coincidence that more female United States senators have co-sponsored bills and reached across the aisle to get things done than their male counterparts.

Organizations need to realize that leadership requires extra innings. Not all games are decided in nine innings. Excelling in business requires a real team effort and leveraging the talents of everyone involved, regardless of their position within the organization—or their sex.

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