How To Create An Awakened, Inclusive Workplace

bunsundesigns July 5, 2016

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. 


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 ous standards and are more likely to be fired 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.


Take the first step toward changing the stats by starting to notice these well-proven biases in yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for them; know that they are just human nature. But when you make the unconscious conscious, you can be part of the change.

ATTRIBUTION ERROR: the tendency to give undue emphasis to internal factors such as personality instead of external factors accidental to the situation when evaluating another person’s behavior. Example: I assume you didn’t meet your sales targets because you are lazy, rather than because the economy hit a slump this quarter.

SIMILAR-TO-ME EFFECT: the tendency to favor people who are physically and professionally similar to oneself. This effect has consequences during interviewing and hiring, during performance evaluation, and even in choosing whom to mentor.

HALO EFFECT: the tendency to use global evaluations to make judgments about specific traits. Example: I assume that because Jim is attractive and a star athlete, he will also be a great engineer.

FIRST-IMPRESSION ERROR: the tendency to give undue emphasis to our first impression of someone. When combined with stereotypes about a particular group of people, this can lead to powerful, unfair negative perceptions that are hard to change. Example: I assume that because you come from an economically disadvantaged area and you speak with an accent, you are less intelligent and educated than I am.

Catherine Bell is the author of the revolutionary new business book “The Awakened Company.” She founded BluEra, an executive search and team transformation company that was recently on the Profit 500 list and is a best workplace. She has worked around the globe from the UK to Cuba. She has an MBA from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, a Sociology degree from Western University is certified in the Enneagram, is a yoga instructor, and is currently on the board of the Distress Centre.

Equity and Inclusion / Stakeholder Capitalism
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