[How To Diversify Your Team] – Tip #6 Promote Them

by | Aug 14, 2023 | All, Women in Leadership | 0 comments

I haven’t written a line in far too long and it’s time to pick up the pen again!
Today, I’d like to talk about promoting women.

The principle is not very different from “Tip #1 recruit them”, but this time the work is done internally, within the company.

Promotion techniques vary from company to company, and even if it’s not intentional, some of them disadvantage women.
We have already established that most women will only apply for a position if they are sure they have all the required skills. So, by definition, a company that advertises open positions will see far fewer women applying than a company that identifies and suggests the position to potential candidates directly.

I was sent to China by my company in 2014, where I became the manager of an 800-person factory and… the only woman on the entire management team. When I arrived, the managers were all very proud to explain to me that half of the engineers they were recruiting were women engineers… Until I told them “50% in recruiting, 0% in even entry-level management roles. And you’re proud of yourselves? You’ve built a glass ceiling of reinforced concrete and you’re proud of yourselves?” Complete silence in the room. What I found disturbing was the fact that they were truly proud of their numbers and that at no point did they think there might be a problem.
When I left three years later, half of the management team was female, and the number of Chinese nationals at the helm had also grown considerably.

The method used to increase the proportion of women in management is very similar to the method used for new recruitment. It involves identifying candidates who are not usually on the list for a potential promotion because they are too discreet, even though they are competent. Those who have difficulty following tip #5 (Let them talk) and do not speak up during meetings.

The technique of applying a quota to candidacies, which requires a minimum number of women in the nominations, works very well.
And I use the word “require” on purpose. If the required diversity is not there, I block the recruitment process. Everyone quickly understands that I am very serious about this, and that not following the rule is not an option. People get very creative with this constraint.

But that is not enough, it is also necessary to be willing to innovate, and by this I mean accepting someone who does not fit the usual leadership criteria. The skills generally sought in a manager are often those valued in most men: authority, self-confidence, strength of character. It is therefore important to go against the unconscious biases that we have and promote people who may have less of a “typical manager” profile on paper (man or woman) but are action-oriented, and will deliver the expected result and more. Leaders who will not hesitate to show their weaknesses and share their doubts with their teams. Take a chance on non-standard management styles.

The good news is that these promotions will quickly create virtuous circles, creating role models that will allow more women to take up management positions.
It is important to clarify that increasing the number of female candidates on the starting line does not mean doing positive discrimination. It is just a question of allowing women to participate in the race. The final selection will be based on criteria such as the profile and talent of the candidates.

Experience has shown that companies that have gone down this road only just manage to promote an equal number of women to men in percentage terms, so all this does is level the promotion system and make it more equitable.

I would also like to discuss the protection bias, which plays an important role in the allocation of jobs. This is a variant of paternalistic sexism, wherein by protecting women, we keep them in a position of dependence.
The principle is that if two positions are available, one will often be more difficult than the other. Almost systematically, the woman will not get the position with more responsibilities. It is interesting to note that this is done to “help” the woman and give her more chances to succeed. There are so few women who reach management positions that we don’t want to risk losing those who do.

However, the perverse effect of this decision is that when the next promotion arises, we will favour the candidate who stood out by managing difficult situations; not the one in a less complex position, whose work will be less valued. This is a collateral effect that creates a real barrier to the progression of women, despite having the best intention in the world! Admittedly a good intention, but one that has more harmful effects than good.

It is within every company’s reach to obtain parity in management teams, thus allowing for the promotion of competent people and more diversity in the management styles. Companies and their employees will be better off, we all have something to gain!

Magali Anderson.

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