Women’s leadership advancement is stuck. For the past 20 years, we have had the same conversations about how to “fix” women to help them advance in the workplace. We trot out yearly programs, host quarterly lunch-and-learn events, and tap high-potential women for leadership programs. The problem is that these efforts are not driving progress, and we do not need to “fix” women. We need to fix the culture of most organizations. This takes active male engagement and advocacy. Why male engagement? Because men still make up 85 percent of senior leadership in most companies. And to drive true male engagement, you need a head-and-heart connection.
This is not to say that companies don’t understand that they have a problem. Most senior leadership teams today acknowledge the importance of recruiting, advancing, and retaining talented women and minorities. The problem is they have only conceptualized the idea. Most lack an operational strategic plan that is executed with a sense of urgency. This is the “head piece.”
We need to talk daily in business terms. Your diversity strategy is not “nice to do”— it is a “business imperative.” There are three reasons to implement a strategic diversity plan today.
1. Grow revenue—reach new consumers and markets
2. Improve operating profit—with the right talent mix, actively engaged, productive, efficient, and innovative
3. Enhance company reputation—become a brand and employer of choice
Once you have an integrated strategy, you can set goals, measure results, drive the strategy down into the organization, and hold people accountable. This is the business piece and the head piece. Sadly, even after doing all that work, it is only 75 percent of the equation.
To truly engage men to act with a sense of urgency on a daily basis takes a personal connection. This is the “heart piece,” and for most men, it comes with realizing the responsibility they have as the father of a daughter. Believe it or not, most men never make the connection between their daughters and the women they work with. I tell women this all the time, and they look at me like I’m crazy. At the start of the day, we put on our armor and go to work. We compartmentalize our lives and, believe it or not, rarely think about family.
In my keynotes I tell a story about most boomer fathers.
My generation of men—young boomers—endeavored to be good and supportive fathers. We supported our daughters at soccer games and dance recitals. We raised independent and strong girls. We ensured they went to good colleges and pursued a career. Yet, the reality is, when our daughters enter the workplace, they will make just 78 cents to every dollar a male makes for the same kind of work.
Without knowing we are doing it, we stop advocating for the most important person in our lives at a point when we can make a difference. If we do not advocate for women today, our daughters will face the same biases and pay gaps in the future. We will have failed our daughters.
A rock-solid integrated business plan is necessary. Active male engagement is critical. That’s how we will reignite women’s leadership advancement today.
This is why I have created The Father of a Daughter Initiative. This simple opt-in program provides men with 10 things they can do every day to become stronger advocates for women and their daughters. You can download it at ywomen.biz.
Jeffery Tobias Halter is a leading male expert on engaging men in women’s leadership issues and the author of WHY WOMEN: The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men. Twitter: @YWomen