Five steps to implement gender equality at your company, helping women to become stronger in leadership roles.

A quick Internet search for “women in leadership positions” reveals that the majority of the content refers to the low percentage of women in management roles, the importance of increasing this proportion and the hardships that they face.

While discussing the challenges and benefits of gender equality is crucial for increasing awareness, the goal of this Insight article goes far beyond this. Shedding light on the progress made towards that goal not only encourages future generations of women, but also recognizes the merit of each successful woman.

All too often, women face a bottleneck during their careers.  For example, a survey conducted by LinkedIn across its users in the USA found that the gap between the percentages of female employees and of female leaders within the same sector was relatively constant from 2001 to 2007.  From 2008, though, we began to see a subtle yet progressive narrowing of that gap. This may well be due to a more diversified renewal of leadership following the high number of dismissals during the 2008 financial and economic crises, as well as the emergence of several organizations and associations focused on gender equality, such as the organisation UN Women which was founded in 2010.

Regardless of the reasons, the fact is that companies with greater diversity in their leadership positions achieve improved financial performance. Offering fair and meritocratic conditions to attract and promote women and men ensures that companies benefit from those advantages when competing for talents and simultaneously helps to improve the quality of their decision making. The growing participation of women in leadership positions proves that female empowerment is not only an aspiration but also a reality.

How are women gaining strength?

The characteristics typically associated with the female gender have recently gained value in the job market. This is true regardless of gender: men can have ‘feminine’ characteristics and vice-versa. Interpersonal relations, resilience and sensitivity, often seen as examples of those ‘feminine’ qualities, are increasingly valued.  This is attributed primarily to the changing values of new generations in society, who seek a purpose, increasing the exchange between people, and demonstrate increased sensitivity to more human topics, such as diversity.

Both female and male leaders who can adapt their attitudes to this trend achieve greater success in terms of inspiring young and engaging teams, leveraging more consistent results for organisations. It is an indisputable fact that female professionals are becoming more valued and recognized by their peers and superiors, promoting their professional advancement.

Furthermore, actions to raise awareness and others focused on empowering women not only affect society’s overall perception of women, but also women’s own perceptions of themselves. “Exchanging experiences with other women during my career helped me see my own potential and take control of my professional growth,” said Visagio Partner and Board Member, Ana Paula Langsch.

How do we get there?

Visagio has found that there are five steps for successfully developing gender equality within a company.

1. Sponsorship by top leadership – Everyone for the Cause
Top leadership must be responsible for promoting and guiding gender equality across their company. It is only with the genuine interest of both female and male leaders that it will be incorporated into the company’s culture and processes, and adopted by all employees accordingly. Having a formal agenda item or a committee that gets members of top leadership to debate the topic and monitor indicators will guarantee better results.

2. Monitoring indicators – What is not measured is not controlled
Organisations need to regularly measure indicators associated with gender equality to identify where there are issues and to track the improvements made. Once measured, the results are then used to develop actions to increase understanding, close gender gaps and resolve wider problems. Examples of these indicators include:

  • Ratio of genders during hiring phases
  • Ratio of genders by level
  • Ratio of genders on the Board
  • Average promotion time by gender
  • Differences between performance assessment results for women vs. men
  • Differences in the assessment average per criteria for women vs. men

3. Attracting and developing women – Together, we are stronger
A subset of the necessary actions must be those aimed at attracting, retaining and developing women. As a strategy for attracting women, companies must position themselves as a brand that promotes equality. For instance, this can be achieved by:

  • Conducting recruitment and selection seminars targeting female recruits
  • Using videos to provide gender equality awareness, such as to disseminate policies, through company intranet sites
  • Hosting forums to debate gender equality topics
  • Implementing mentoring programs to encourage women to seize the opportunities that are dominated by men while also engaging the organisation as a whole toward this cause.

By having more women progressing their careers and taking up leadership positions, we create role models that inspire other women to pursue the same course.

4. Combating Unconscious Biases – Recognizing to Include
The pathway towards developing a more inclusive and diverse work environment requires us to question our own prejudices when we make decisions. It is important to review recruitment and assessment policies, and implement training about unconscious bias for men and women so that we can challenge stereotypes, basing deliberations on meritocratic criteria.

5. Flexible Environment – Adapting to New Realities
Companies must adopt more flexible work policies so that their employees – both men and women – can balance their professional and personal obligations. The part-time and home-office work models are examples of practices that can be adopted, as well as instituting flexible working hours that encourage individuals to manage their commitments accordingly.

Actions to promote the stronger role of women in the workplace are highly associated with the inclusion of gender equality agendas in companies and the implementation of a true culture of meritocracy.  The results that a company obtains by developing female leaders extend far beyond gender equality indicators: developing those leaders fosters a plurality of thinking in decision making and inspires the entire team through a real demonstration that everyone has the same opportunities.


About the authors

Ana Paula Langsch is a partner from Visagio, with experience in organizational restructuring projects, management model implementation, processes engineering and strategic planning. Has developed projects in companies in the energy, mining, oil & gas, education, retail, health and construction industries. She is one of the leaders of the Gender Equity Committee at Visagio.

Giovanna Nogueira is a partner from Visagio, specialist in management model’s projects, process engineering, organizational restructuring and shared services center implementation in companies in the mining, oil & gas, financial, manufacturing, mobility, paper and telecoms industries. She is one of the leaders of the Gender Equity Committee at Visagio.

Marcela Pinto is a partner from Visagio, with experience in supply chain management projects, development of decision support system, management model and shared services center implementation in companies in the mining, financial, manufacturing and oil & gas industries. She is one of the leaders of the Gender Equity Committee at Visagio.

Monique Mattos Vimercati is a partner at Visagio, and is currently part of the Australian office team, supporting the group internationalisation. Her areas of expertise are project and change management, and majority of projects she supported are related to processes improvements and transformation, including the development and implementation of automation tools and systems, in mining and oil & gas sectors.