Boost your career by becoming a gender diversity champion


“Wake up. This is a really important issue. It’s important because all of the research shows conclusively that diverse businesses are more in touch with customers, better connected to their workforces, take better decisions and generate better returns for shareholders.”

The words of Fujitsu Chairman UK & Ireland, Michael Keegan, echo those of countless business leaders wishing it to be encumbered on all managers, across every organisation, to champion diversity and inclusivity in their workplaces.

With much work to be done to bring about gender parity, there’s no excuse for not playing your part long you reach those loftier positions you aspire to. The great news? Becoming a gender diversity champion can single you out as someone determined to make a difference. And whether you’re already a leader, or an aspiring manager, you’ve the power to make a difference today.



That there is a workplace gender imbalance in every country in the world is a well known fact. Less understood is the extent of the problem (watch the video below in which members of the public respond with shock when they learn that gender parity will take 117 years at current progress rates), or why taking action is about more than simply ‘doing the right thing’.

The facts amount to a robust and undeniable business case for gender diversity. Organisations with greater gender balance are 70% more likely to have captured a new market in the last 12 months and are 45% more likely to have increased their market share. There’s a human benefit too: employees with inclusive leaders are 81% more productive, 84% more motivated, 86% more creative, 79% more collaborative and 81% more engaged and loyal – all factors which reflect wonderfully on the leader in question.<supi Read as widely as you can around the topic of diversity and inclusion to form your own points of view.</sup



As distasteful a thought as it may be, each of us has implicit people preferences. They might be based on gender, race, age, culture, religion, sexuality, disability, educational background or a whole host of other factors. Harvard University’s online test can shine a light on your own unconscious biases, but simply knowing them isn’t enough. Make a plan to ensure you aren’t acting out your biases in any recruitment processes you’re involved with, how you treat those around you, who you choose to – and not to – connect with, mentor or sponsor, or how you approach 1-2-1s and performance evaluations.

Declare your intentions to be non-biased and demand the same of those around you, calling out unacceptable behaviour.




As you work through recognising your own biases you will inevitably begin to see how groups – whether in the workplace or wider society – naturally tend to stick to their own kind. “The more we expose ourselves to words and images that challenges our biases, the better. If you only work with creative people, you might be challenged by technical types. That’s an exaggerated example,” says Pippa Isbell, but it’s essential you “adapt your style of working with different groups, so that you’re more inclusive”.

Consciously network outside of your ‘own group’. Remain open to the new people you meet along the way, absorbing everything you can learn about backgrounds and experiences that differ from your own, seeking to gain more of an understanding of the motivations of and the challenges faced by others. Remember though that no one individual should be considered a ‘representative’ of their group.



Do you know if you’re being paid fairly or how your salary compares to that of peers with similar levels of experience and value? If not, it’s time to find out. Check job advertisements, talk to recruitment specialises, reach out to people in your network and check in with your HR department regarding pay scales. If you think you’re being under-rewarded, do something about it. Following thorough preparation, request a pay rise based on objective criteria, calling on all your powers of negotiation. “Leave your emotions at the door,” cautions Pippa Isbell. “Make a strong business case and argue it as you would for a third party.”

As well as taking a stand against the gender pay gap with regards your own salary, managers should be mindful of any imbalances within their own teams. Build your team members’ competence when it comes to knowing their worth and negotiating for more, supporting their business case by always applauding successes on merit.




Flexible working may not be something you desire right now, but at some stage in your career it might become crucial to your on-going success. And as a manager, it’s highly likely that at some point in your working life, a direct report will approach you about flexible working options.

Arm yourself with knowledge: first check what the law says in your corner of the world; second look into your own organisation’s policies, uncovering examples of successful flexible working plans and how other managers deal with requests.

Whether you’re asking for yourself, or on behalf of someone on your team, preparation is key. Make a strong business case, be resolute if it’s absolutely critical to your needs, and don’t take “no” for an answer: if the first door is slammed in your face, find out what it would take to make it a “yes”, and adjust your plan accordingly.


Top tips from Pippa Isbell:

  • As an inclusive leader, don’t pretend to be ‘colour blind’ or ‘gender neutral’ – accept your own biases and work at eliminating their impact on your workplace behaviours.
  • Commit to getting to know others outside your ‘own group’ as a means to recognising the difference and valuing the unique perspectives and contributions of all people.
  • Have candid conversations. Problems arise from sweeping issues under the carpet, so if you sense something is amiss, challenge it head on.
  • Take courageous actions: call out inappropriate remarks or conversations.
  • Be vulnerable and open to learning: If you’re unsure of something, admit your ignorance and ask the question to find out how you can or should be dealing with a situation.



[i] Opportunity Now/Business In The Community


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