Have you tried to get support from Senior Leaders for Gender Diversity but failed? You are not alone. I regularly meet HR professionals or senior women who tell me they absolutely love the work I do to create gender balance. They are keen to do more in their organisation, and often have actually tried to do more. But sadly they can’t find a way to get support from senior leaders.  

Of course, there is quite a range of techniques and ideas you can try to get support from senior leaders Recently I have been reading up more on nudging theory though, and on how to use nudges to influence senior leadersI would love to share some of my insights so you get inspired to try some new ways to get support from senior leaders for gender diversity in your organisation.  

Now may not be the time, as the leaders in your organisation may be busy with the survival of the business. But now is definitely the time to prepare and get organised, so that when the moment arises, you are ready for it. Or perhaps you can even find a way to link your nudges to the current situation! Check if women are impacted differently than men. Check if women and men respond differently or need different support? In that case, now may be exactly the right time! 

What is nudging and how does it work?

Nudging is the idea that you don’t tell people what to do, but instead, nudge them in the right direction so they independently choose to do something.  

See, before anyone takes action, they need to be convinced that there is a need for their action. Just to illustrate that; most people didn’t see the need for virtual meetings, so they never really got around to learning how to run them. COVID-19 lockdown measures made the need super clear, so now everyone is learning quickly.  

So how can you create a situation where senior leaders feel the need for action on gender balance? It’s all about creating that emotional connection with the topic. A great way of doing that is to help leaders get into the shoes of women. This can have two effects: 

  1. They really feel the exclusion and; 
  2. See exclusion is happening for real in their own organisation.

How you could get support from senior leaders for Gender Diversity by helping them to get into the shoes of women  

  1. Find a way to humanise the data and numbers you have from an audit, e.g. results from focus groups, engagement surveys and/or exit interviews. Use quotes or small case studies in your report to bring the data to life.  
  2. Plaster quotes with actual feedback on the wall in a board room, so leaders see the quotes when they come in. It’s guaranteed to start a conversation. Questions you could ask as a facilitator include: ‘Where may bias impact our decisions? Where can we see bias in our culture?’ This can especially work well if you have only been given a short time slot on the agenda.  
  3.  Collect short scenarios of real experiences by under-represented groups, e.g. from your Employee Resource Groups. Ask random employees to read the scenarios aloud as if it was a script. You could do this at an event, meeting or a board meeting.  
  4.  Give your board real-life scenarios to read. Then discuss those scenarios, with questions such as: ‘Do we have a systemic problem?’, ‘What do we as leaders need to do differently?’, ‘What will I do differently?’. 
  5.  Find ways to share stories of women. Reverse mentoring is a very effective way of doing that. Alternatively, ask a number of women in different positions to write a blog about their experiences.  
  6.  Invite top women as lecturers (e.g. top women in tech roles, top female fighter pilot, or top female mountaineer). It could show leaders it can be done. And it could raise understanding of what it’s like to be in that position and what issues someone like that may face. 
  7.  Ask leaders to share their own diversity/exclusion story.

Get going!

It takes guts, but all those ideas have been tried and tested by D&I champions in other organisations to get support from senior leaders for gender diversity. I know they really work!  

I found the examples above in the book ‘Inclusion Nudges Guidebook‘ by Tinna C. Nielsen and Lisa Kepinski.  You can find out more about their brilliant initiative to gather and share more inclusion nudges on their website.

In my next blog, I will share more ideas on nudges to Get Support from Senior Leaders for Gender Diversity.  To be continued…

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Author: Inge Woudstra

Would you like to know more or have a question? I am always happy to have a chat to discuss your needs. Why not drop me a line or pick up the phone? Call me at 01372 457 907 or Just contact me to discuss your requirements by e-mail.

I can help you recruit, retain and advance women, and typically work with organisations in tech and engineering.

Or just check out my book 'Be Gender Smart - The Key to Career Success for Women'

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