In my previous blogI shared some tried and tested ways that help senior leaders to get into the shoes of women. Once they can see what it’s like for women, and they can see that women are excluded in their organisation too, they are much more likely to see the need for action. That’s exactly what nudge theory is all about. There are many more ways to nudge and get support from senior leaders for gender diversity. So how else can you stir them into action using nudges? 

More nudges to get support from senior leaders for gender diversity 

1. Make leaders responsible

Appoint leader as a champion for gender balance. Ideally, appoint a leader whose department currently doesn’t hit the numbers. Recently I interviewed a senior manager in a panel discussion and he told me this had happened to him. He instantly realised his own department didn’t look good and set about finding ways to change it. He read the right books, visited the right conferences, asked around for help and within a year had appointed a number of women in his team. This – in fact – changed the culture of the team for the better, and results were improved. He told me he had now truly become a great champion for gender balance.  

2. Show the gender balance leadership shadow

Interview employees on what they see, hear and observe about the commitment to the gender balance of senior leaders within their organisation. Then sit with the leader and ask how they think they are doing in with regards to gender balance. Next feed back the responses you have collected. This works well if a leader believes they are really supportive of gender balance.

With your executive board, develop a joint hypothesis on the culture of the organisation. Then test the hypothesis in focus groups, ideally with an external facilitator. This can be a great test of where leaders think they are vs reality.  

3. Address the fear of ‘women taking over’ 

Show a slide with 100 figures male + female  make the difference visible e.g. by a slightly different colour background for men and women. Show a second slide with 10 or 20% more women. Ask them what difference they see between the 2 slides. Often they don’t see a difference at all. This helps leaders realise that a 10-20% increase is barely noticeable and that there will be plenty of opportunities for men left.  

4. Show up the bias of leaders themselves 

There are plenty of ways to do this that are typically used nowadays in most unconscious bias training sessions. Here are 2 ways that are particularly useful for boards and executive teams:

  • Show a slide with all high potentials, ask: ‘how many do you know by face and name?’, next take out all faces of men. Ask: ’Now how many do you know?’ Usually, they recognise many in the first slide and very little in the second one. This is particularly useful when your leaders are convinced that they are leading a meritocracy and advocate for people equally. 
  • Show pictures of the company communications including website and brochures. Conduct an analysis of all news items, speakers at events, commenters on the intranet and so on. Then illustrate differences and conclude who is visible and who is not. In most organisations, you will find men dominate these communication areas, and this is a great way to show the communication bias in the organisation 

5. Make sure things happen 

Of course, nothing happens when there’s no accountability. Ask leaders to make a commitment, read it aloud in a meeting, and allocate time to feedback in 3, 6 and 9 months.  

So why not give it a go? Try some new ways to get support from senior leaders for gender diversity in your organisation. I would love to hear how you get on! Do share your stories with me. What did you try? What worked for you? 

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.

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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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