On May 1-2, 2018 in New York City, at the Conference Board’s 14th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, over 150 leaders came together to share stories, strategies and research on what it takes to activate change leaders – women and men – on gender parity. Among those sharing their experiences were Alex Gorsky, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Johnson & Johnson; Christine Duffy, President, Carnival Cruise Line; Ron Marshall, Chief Executive Officer, Claire’s Inc.; Teri Plummer McClure, Chief Human Resources Officer and SVP, UPS; and top executives from MetLife, Hasbro, Ingersoll Rand, Intel, the CIA, and the WNBA, among many others. Conference insights included:
- Research shows that even when they support gender parity, men will often avoid conversations about D&I because they feel it’s not their place to say something. The right framing, however, can help make them better advocates.
- Having women in top executive positions and on the board will give your company a competitive advantage – which is why some investors have started to push for diverse boards.
- Solid metrics are needed to build an effective diversity and gender parity strategy, because assumptions of where the challenges and bottlenecks are located can be wrong.
- Traditional Employee Resource Groups can be remade into true business partners and forces for change.
- Reverse mentoring, “Hidden Figures” sessions, and #MeToo conversations are among the powerful tools available to share stories, develop leaders and allies, and keep the conversation going.
Moreover, women leaders from a huge array of sectors shared their leadership journeys, with advice that included:
- Be yourself. If you got the seat at the table, it’s because of who you are, so don’t suddenly try to become someone you think they want you to be.
- Call men out on their bad behavior. One woman who works in technology said that during a meeting, a man said the exact same thing she had said, as if he hadn’t heard her. She told him, “I just said that.” She said that while he disliked being called out publicly, it’s much less likely that he’ll do it to another woman.
- Take on new assignments even if you don’t think you’re ready; don’t wait for other to give you an opportunity – seek it out.
- Don’t be afraid to call for change – in how roles are defined, how parents are supported, and how talent is recruited.