I have participated in a number of great events and programs focused on sharing insights, advice and strategy for dealing with unique challenges facing women, especially businesswomen. Unfortunately, the majority of these events and programs are typically led or attended by women.
Making greater strides in advancing women requires changing the way we approach diversity and inclusion-related issues. We must do our best to engage and cultivate more men who are in positions to make critical decisions such as hiring, promotions and strategic financial investments in woman-owned businesses and philanthropic initiatives.
Moving the needle
While there has been progress toward gender equality, achieving greater progress often feels like moving a slow train. The same disappointing statistics are repeated like a broken record year after year about the need for more work on diversity in corporate boardrooms and nontraditional career fields for women.
Surely, the lack of more substantial progress signals we must be more strategic, creative and collaborative. Companies that “get it” view barriers to inclusion as critical business issues.
More than 85 percent of individuals entering today’s workplace are women and minorities. Women and men must work together to ensure that everyone is contributing to the growth and competitiveness of their organization in today’s economy.
A comprehensive approach
One company that is making great strides in involving men in the advancement of women as a business strategy is Cardinal Health. Since 2012, its Women’s Initiative Network has involved male leaders in women’s conferences — and engaged them in key conversations about equal pay, diversity and work/life integration.
Cardinal Health also has appointed a male executive to be its “gender partnership” advocate to help lead the way for other men to support female employees.
There have been many positive results from Cardinal’s comprehensive approach to inclusion, including the significant rise of women in leadership. There are now 329 women in director roles, up from 262 in 2010.
Doing our part
As part of the Smart Women Awards program Smart Business is doing its part to engage and recognize male advocates through the Guy Who Gets It award. This award provided community members the opportunity to nominate men who have a great track record of investing in and supporting women through volunteerism and exemplary community and business programs.
Award winners and finalists will be recognized at our annual Smart Women Breakfast, which also recognizes specific achievements of inspiring businesswomen. Our goals include not only recognizing award honorees, but also using their stories and strategies to inspire others to think and work in a more inclusive way.
How do you find “guys who get it?” Start by looking around you. You may find them by simply extending an invitation for them to participate in a program or conversation. This seemingly small gesture has the potential to address many of the issues and concerns you have about diversity and inclusion and the overall success of your organization in a more strategic and effective way.
TaKeysha Cheney is a Vice President of Business Development at Smart Business. Smart Women shares advice and achievements of local businesswomen, inspiring male advocates and effective women’s programs.