How To Create An Awakened, Inclusive Workplace

By Catherine Bell

Having an inclusive workplace with more women and minorities is good for business. The more inclusive the workplace, the higher-performing and more innovative it tends to be. It also makes sense to get as broad a perspective as possible when leading an organization. Plus, it feels better to include people.

THE BLEAK PORTRAIT Inclusive Workplace with Catherine Bell Awakened Company

Despite all we know about why we should include women fully in the workplace, the picture for women is far from rosy. Globally, the women’s labor force participation rate (the percentage of women employed or seeking work) decreased from 52.4 percent to 49.6 percent between 1995 and 2015. The odds that a woman will participate in the labor force remain almost 30 percent less than those for a man. Women earn 78 percent of what men earn. Women hold only 12 percent of the world’s board seats, and only 4 percent of CEOs of S&P 500 companies are women. Women are more likely to be appointed to a board that has witnessed a decline in performance, and thus have a decreased likelihood of success as a result. When women do attain senior positions, they experience more stress, less job satisfaction, and fewer rewards, which further decreases their likelihood of success and limits their promotion opportunities. Female leaders are held to more rigorous standards and are more likely to be red than their male counterparts. Men tend to apply to positions if they believe they meet 60 percent of the eligibility requirements, whereas women apply only if they believe they are perfectly suited. In addition, when women act in a manner inconsistent with gender stereotypes, they are evaluated less positively and are more likely to be punished, both formally and informally.

This data is depressing. We can do better.


Here are some steps we can take today to foster greater inclusivity in our organizations. Remember, a more inclusive workplace is a better-performing workplace.

  • Become aware of our biases. The bleak statistics make it clear that everyone has deep-rooted perceptual slants — it’s just human nature. It’s better to own and be aware of these biases (see right) than to pretend they don’t exist.

  • Ensure that women are on the hiring list. For every job you have available, check that your shortlist of candidates includes women. Remember that women tend to apply only for jobs they feel perfect for. Women: lean in to not being a 100 percent fit for the job and be willing to take a risk with an application. Hiring managers: stay aware of this tendency as you evaluate applicants. Hiring female candidates may require some deliberate sourcing. (See more about recruiting for diversity on page 14.) Be aware of the bias toward hiring women leaders in challenging times, and hire women leaders in good times too.

  • When hiring, be sure to pay fairly. Make offers based not on what someone is currently making but rather on what constitutes fair compensation. Look at salary surveys to ascertain appropriate compensation packages.

  • Consider letting employees determine and manage their own hours — especially senior leaders. Give people control and show you trust them, and magic happens. My consulting firm has had unlimited vacation for years, yet we have never had to let someone go for taking too many holidays.

  • Create mentorship programs for both men and women that highlight female leadership and celebrate transformational leadership. Men who participate will be more likely to see females as leaders, and women who participate will have more opportunities to become leaders.

  • Demand that females be present and equally represented at all levels of organizations. This is especially important for CEOs and board members.

Inclusivity is going to require a reset of our system to one that’s more awakened, open, and adaptive. We need to see inclusivity in leadership across society, from the political sphere to religious organizations to private equity to how entrepreneurs are funded. Ultimately, working together differently, we can awaken an inclusive workplace. Remember: increase diversity, increase organizational performance. It’s up to all of us — including you.

This article appeared in Issue 8 | July/August 2016

Issue 8 is all about women and leadership (with plenty of material for readers of all genders). We feature interviews and profiles of inspiring leaders like Kat Taylor of Beneficial State Bank, shareholder advocate Natasha Lamb, Energy Excelerator's Dawn Lippert, award-winning architect Sarah Wigglesworth, Brook Eddy of Bhakti Chai, Kiverdi's Lisa Dyson, and more. You'll also find even more how-to stories than ever before, including how to recruit a more diverse workforce, learn to disappoint people without hurting your career, and survive a capital raise.

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