Welcome to my weekly Q&A feature. (Scroll down for the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions — tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. Each week I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusion.
- Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
- Inclusion: bringing others along on the journey.
Talking About Gender Equity Without Backlash
How do you bring this discussion [of gender equity] to the corporate masses without backlash?
What’s on your mind? Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of this newsletter.
Communication isn’t about what you say. It’s about what they hear. You could have the most eloquent, most bulletproof case for gender equity, but if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it…
You see where this is going.
To bring the gender equity discussion to the corporate masses without backlash, you need to get people to listen. And to get people to listen, you need to make it about them. Let’s walk through three tips to help you start (and not stop) the gender equity conversation at work.
3 tips for talking about gender equity
1. Show people how gender inequity impacts them
Gender equity is not synonymous with women’s rights. (And even if it was, you or someone you love is a woman.) Gender equity impacts everyone, including men. Somewhere along the way we developed this idea that equity and inclusion are zero-sum games. My wins = your losses and your wins = my losses.
Let’s retire the zero-sum, rah-rah women narrative so we can appreciate gender equity for the massive opportunity that it is.
Let’s retire the zero-sum, rah-rah women narrative so we can appreciate gender equity for the massive opportunity that it is. Businesses enjoy a 1% to 2% increase in revenue for every 10% increase in gender equity, and now emerging research suggests that gender equity can unlock latent productivity beyond what our current labor models forecast.
2. Seek to understand their fears and goals, then reverse engineer
Picture the individual or team you want to talk with about gender equity. Do you know what KPIs their bonuses are pegged to? What metrics matter to them? Find this information so you can use it when you open up the gender equity conversation. It’s not about gaming the system, it’s about speaking the same language.
For instance, a CEO’s job security rests on the decisions they make to:
- Keep the lights on when cash stops flowing.
- Justify capital investments when interest rates are high.
- Maintain profit margins when customers cut back spending.
The board of directors will hold your CEO accountable for these decisions, and most of the time these decisions are measured in ROI. So if you’re speaking to the CEO about gender equity, incorporate the ROI aspect into your messaging. This makes them feel understood. It also reminds them that you’re rowing in the same direction.
3. Suggest solutions instead of complaining about problems
We all have fires to put out. Don’t start new ones for your colleagues. (And please don’t imply that any current DEI efforts aren’t good enough.) Talk about gender equity on a continuum. You’re either moving further from or closer to it. Not: you either “have” gender equity or you don’t.
This is where integration comes in. Take a look at your organization’s employee lifecycle. Instead of adding more, better, shinier gender equity programs to the mix, how can you integrate gender equity into your existing talent operations? What solutions do you need to remove bias and inequity from hiring decisions? From promotion criteria? From performance evaluations?
Gender equity is a:
✅ Win-win scenario
❌ Zero-sum game
When talking about gender equity:
✅ Highlight their goals and assuage their fears
❌ Discuss your goals and fears
✅ Fixing processes with solutions
❌ Fixing people with complaints