Pamela Culpepper is co-founder of Have Her Back Consulting and the former chief global diversity officer for PepsiCo. Views are the author's own.
Today's headlines continue to show that employers — despite the best of intentions — still don't have the right programs in place to create equitable workplaces. We've all seen the stories on companies that have made some great strides in the diversity and inclusion space such as Nike, Google, CBS and more, but have been called out when not living up to the promises they make.
The reality is that making the workplace equitable with greater female representation in leadership and boards, pay equity and other important policies and procedures won't happen until leaders take a hard look at the traditions and systemic behaviors that have sustained the slow or no growth progress toward the desired outcomes.
But there are three things companies and leaders can do to move beyond good intentions and build company cultures that enable all women to thrive.
1. Audit your workplace
What internal policies and practices do you have in place that perhaps unintentionally serve as barriers to advancement and belonging? Identifying and retrofitting sacred traditions that stand in the way of progress is a must. Consider the golf outing with clients: Does that limit how women can be represented in out of office experiences which are vital to building relationships?
Consider maternity and parental leave, too. While you probably have a policy in place, is it one that does not penalize new moms when they come back to the workplace? Are they inundated with volumes of emails upon their return and stressed with having to do more just to catch up? Are they returning to their previous job and on track to advance at the same pace?
Many companies are embracing job sharing even as a temporary move to give returning parents the ability to hit the ground running and move forward as opposed to having to play catch up in hyper speed. Creating policies that ease the ability of moms to return to the workforce shows that you recognize this challenge and have a solution to making it work.
2. Broaden your frame of reference
Allow for what you don't know and can't see to shift the burden of proof away from the women seeking change.
#MeToo opened the flood gates of awareness of workplace harassment; as we look at the two-year mark from some of the most visible examples, women who came forward are finding that the repercussions of their bravery has left them penalized in the workforce.
What systems have you put in place to enable and support staffers who have legitimate claims and cases. And more importantly, how are you, as a leader, adopting, sharing and living the values and vision that make equality in the workplace a priority?
3. Mind the gap
Be vigilant in ensuring your external and internal brand and company positions align. More and more, the business world is being called to act. We saw it with the recent announcements from the business roundtable that companies need to be accountable to more than just shareholders. The public agrees and is looking for the action behind the words. People are protesting in loud and large volumes and social media is amplifying these voices.
CEOs and the other C-suite leaders may have good intentions but unless these values and beliefs are operationalized within their organization and carried through by management, it will not work. The resulting actions from good intentions must be embraced by those closest to the workforce to drive real change.