It’s Time to Focus on Gender Equality

Everyone in the organization benefits from a gender-equal culture

Published in CSP Daily News

Sarah Alter, President and CEO

You’ve seen them in the industry—maybe even in your own company. Too often, efforts to create a gender-diverse and inclusive workplace stop at stand-alone efforts that check off “the gender equality box,” such as one-time diversity workshops or employee resource groups attended only by women.

While these efforts may raise awareness of the barriers women face, they rarely create sustainable change.

At NEW, we believe in a “top down, bottom up” approach, which emphasizes the need for a company’s top leadership to strongly advocate for policies and programs that help everyone in the organization benefit from a gender-equal culture.

Commitment Is Key

Rick Gillis, president of Young’s Market Co., a NEW partner company, understands the critical role he plays in closing the gender opportunity gap and developing female leaders. “The facts are indisputable,” Gillis recently told me. “Gender balance and overall diversity are critical to any organization’s long-term success.”

Nothing, he says, has more of an effect on a company’s performance than leaders taking personal responsibility for supporting the recruitment, development and retention of a talented and diverse workforce, one that truly represents their customers and the communities in which their employees work and live.

“Erasing decades of conscious and unconscious bias and behavior must come from the highest levels of the organization,” Gillis says.

While proud to say Young’s Market Co. is committed to equal pay for similar jobs across the organization, Gillis recognizes the company has more work to do. “We’re on a relentless mission,” he says. “We’re making meaningful progress and will continue our journey with vigor, determination and commitment.”

C-Suite Checklist

Here are some top-level strategies to create significant organizational change:

Make gender equality a strategic business imperative. C-suite leaders must publicly advocate for women’s leadership in their company and the industry. Gender parity should be a routine topic of discussion when reviewing business plans and success metrics. Team leaders throughout the company—not only in HR—should be held accountable for gender-diversity and inclusion goals.

Create a company culture that values gender equality. Even the strongest message supporting women’s leadership will ring hollow if C-suite leaders don’t model inclusive behavior and allow for safe, open dialogue. They are in the best position to put an end to bias and harassment and hold others accountable for following company policy and for their workplace behavior.

Uphold gender-neutral policies that are consistent, flexible and fair. Practices should include equal pay by job title, family-friendly policies that help drive gender equality and support systems that enable family care.

Ensure open access to all jobs. Company leaders should make certain women and men are equally enrolled in talent development programs and considered for the line roles that lead to senior executive positions.

Be transparent with talent data and progress toward gender diversity goals. Leaders should set companywide goals and targets by function and business, and incentivize managers to meet those goals. Company gender-diversity scorecards and benchmarks should be used and the results shared with team leaders. This will promote progress inside and outside the company.

Top executives’ strong, vocal and consistent commitment to gender diversity and inclusion will help talented women achieve their best—and help you achieve bottom-line results.

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women. Learn more at