From One CEO to Another—It’s Time to Get Focused

6 min read | Kelly Primus

LW: From One CEO to Another—It’s Time to Get Focused

Time for a reality check about “Closing the Leadership Gender Gap”—something every CEO should strive for in their organization, but few actually get right (or get it done!). And while you’ve probably been talking about becoming a more inclusive and diverse company for a while now, have you ever really asked yourself why you’re no closer to closing that gap than you were ten years ago? 

No doubt you’ve signed the pledges, had the conversations, read articles like this one from the WSJ, and had the best of intentions, but let’s be honest—what have you really done? 

The reality is that we’re halfway through the nightmare that is 2020 (thank you, COVID-19), and it’s time for CEOs to get focused. It’s time to make diversity a business imperative, not something you pass off to HR and then hope for the best. Building a diverse and inclusive company isn’t like turning on a light switch. You MUST do the gender dynamics work. The success of your company depends on it. That’s the reality.

When you think back to the beginning of the year (pre-COVID), when you were talking with your leadership team about D&I goals, budgets, and strategy for the new decade, it’s probably safe to say that many of those goals and promises you committed to, got derailed because so much has changed. It’s time now to refocus. We recently talked about some of  those missed promises in a blog post and we’ll be addressing specific actions in a monthly blog series for the second half of the year that will culminate with a Gender + Diversity Playbook for 2021 and beyond.

In the meantime, let me offer you some advice, from one CEO to another. These are five things you can do, right now, that will help close the leadership gender gap along with the obvious—your commitment to bring more women and/or people of color into your organization’s leadership. 

Do These 5 Things and You’ll Get Results: 

  1. Hold your leadership team accountable

    Require senior leadership to sponsor and mentor high potential women in the organization. Let them know their financial reward will be impacted; make them accountable through their own performance reviews, salary increases, rewards and bonuses. 
  2. Executive commitment to, and sponsorship of, women’s advancement—advocating for the business case

    Make sure your leadership demonstrates their commitment to bring more women and/or people of color into leadership roles with an engagement and retention strategy (mentoring & sponsorship). This is not HR’s problem. Leadership must demonstrate their commitment to do it by advocating for women and people of color, putting them into the mix for promotions, and making sure they’re part of their own succession plans. 

  3. Educate your leadership to reduce the negative impact of gender dynamics on talent decisions

    The CEO is responsible for changing the culture of the organization. Start with your leadership team by conducting a gender dynamics program to educate them; generic diversity training isn’t as powerful as concrete, research-based education on gender dynamics that impact talent decisions. Then cascade that training down a level or two. 

  4. Remove gender-biased language from HR tools

    As CEO, you must hold your CHRO responsible. Demand the CHRO has put into place a process to remove all the gender-biased language from HR tools and policies—everything from job descriptions, performance reviews, company policies, etc. To avoid gender-related constrictions in the talent pipeline, Leading Women works with CHROs to analyze a variety of systems for gender-bias and develop long-term strategies for expanding your talent pipeline. 

  5. Make sure when you recruit any open positions, you include women and multi-cultural candidates

    Demand that HR and any outside recruiting firms offer up diverse candidate slates for any open positions. Many of the most successful and diverse companies do this. It works.

For decades now, Leading Women has been conducting research around the globe. We’ve tracked research on over 15 mindsets about women and men, careers and leadership, and we’ve examined the concrete ways they impact talent decisions and talent development behaviors. McKinsey’s recent Diversity Matters research states “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in their executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-peer average profitability.” If that doesn’t validate closing the leadership gap as a business imperative, you’re missing the mark. And it’s time to salvage your 2020 misses.

I’m available to have a conversation with you, or anyone on your team, who is trying to figure out a plan for your organization. Leading Women is a Top 10 Leadership Development/Training Coaching Company, and we’ve successfully helped Fortune 10 and Global 1000 companies with D&I strategy & leadership development, identification of culture barriers, and our Global Workforce: Building a Culture of Inclusion Program. #WeCanHelp your organization achieve its gender + diversity goals. 



Gender + Diversity Playbook:
Setting and Achieving Your Goals for 2021 and Beyond

Part 1: 2020’s Miss is Now a “New” 2030 Promise – But Will Orgs Break This Promise Too?

Part 2: From One CEO to Another—It’s Time to Get Focused

Part 3: How to Engage & Retain More Women - Top 5 Things You Can Do!

Part 4: How To Change Your Company’s Culture To Be More Inclusive

Part 5: Make Your Company Policies Inclusive by Looking at these 3 HR Tools

Part 6: These 5 Tips Will Help You Recruit More Women/Diverse Candidates

Part 7: 10 Strategies for 2021 to Help Engage & Retain Women