“We developed a very sensible manual or brochure explaining gender diversity in the workplace and some of the differences in how men and women react in specific situations,” Allen said. “Having it out there in the open helped start conversations about where there were unconscious biases in our assessment system or promotion system.”
A common talking point for the honourees was that the conversation needed to become standard across all levels and departments so that even when HR isn’t in the room, someone is still asking “Why aren’t there women on this team?” or “How does this contribute to diversity?”
Beyond just a “women’s issue”
If fixing gender diversity is only seen as a women’s issue then it’s going to be impossible to change, said Kate Broer, Partner and Canada Region Co-Chair, Diversity and Inclusion, Dentons Canada LLP.
“Some organizations are not doing enough to make every person who has authority understand how this is important to them and it’s not just the issue for women,” Broer said. “It needs to be engrained into the core of the business.”
Who’s getting the opportunities?
“The frontline manager needs to be there to make sure that all members of their teams get access to opportunities. You need to be thinking about it all the time and reminding yourself,” McCarthy Tétrault chair and CEO Marc-André Blanchard said. “Making sure everyone has access to opportunities, and that everyone gets a second opportunity – if we make a mistake that we get the feedback and the next opportunity to succeed.”
This focus on feedback and new opportunities helps foster a culture of transparency and respect, and ensures everyone gets the same chance to excel. It’s a key area where front line managers can make a vital difference by ensuring that all the people in their team get an opportunity to take on stretch assignments, and to make mistakes and improve.