• Lina Bil

HR Guide - Diversity and Inclusion Approach to Gender Parity

The World Economic Forum has found that gender parity is one of the top trends driving growth in certain industries and that “stamping out inequality can help economies make the best use of their talent” (2020).

The Deloite 2020 Global Gender Impact Report has summarized this opportunity perfectly:

The Butterfly Effect

A very small action can make a huge and lasting impact.

One simple connection, made at the right time, can change the journey that we are all on together.

Opening up new possibilities, new destinations that we could never have dreamed of.

Educate one girl and she will inspire every other girl she meets.

Give women opportunity and they will change the world.”

The Problem

Although gender parity is protected by the Human Rights, our world faces a persistent gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women (Peace Corps, 2020).

Women represent about half of the world’s population and therefore half of the world’s potential for economic growth and development; however, women continue being persistently unrepresented at all levels of political and business leadership (United Nations, 2020). According to the United Nations, “in 2019, women only held 28% of managerial positions worldwide” (2020). According to the 2017 Fortune 500 list, women still make up only about 5% of CEOs — a share that has not meaningfully grown in the past decade (World Economic Forum, 2020).

The more broad, global gender equality issues, as identified by UNI Global Union, include the following: violence and sexual harassment, greater health and safety risks, fewer opportunities for economic participation, less access to education, the wage gap, and work-life balance (2020). There is only so much we can do, as individuals and as industry. Let’s make sure we do our part!

According to the Peace Corps, the answer lies in “women empowerment” (2020). Let’s therefore explore together what that means for organizations from a human resources perspective.


The Case for Gender Parity

According to the World Economic Forum, “there is a clear, values-based case for promoting gender parity: women make up half of the world’s population and deserve equal access to health, education, earning potential and economic participation, as well as to political decision making” (2020).

Not only that, creating a positive business environment where everyone thrives makes good business sense. As Lewis suggests, equality between men and women benefits everyone (2011). Lewis goes on to write that “McKinsey & Company recently found that private sector firms with the largest share of women in top management perform best; they argued that moving from raising awareness about the gender gaps in management to implementing strategies to close those gaps is critical to private sector growth worldwide” (2011).

Furthermore, “according to the PwC’s Women in Work Index 2017, achieving economic gender parity could add an additional $250 billion to the United Kingdom’s GDP, $1.75 billion to that of the US, $320 billion to that of Japan, and $310 billion to GDP of Germany” (World Economic Forum, 2020).

PwC Canada states that “since the global #MeToo movement has heightened public awareness of bullying and workplace harassment, organizations also see managing [diversity and inclusion] as an opportunity to accelerate their people’s potential and avoid reputation risks” (Chan et al., 2018). Furthermore, the team goes on to describe the following direct benefits of investing in diversity and inclusion initiatives:

· There is a strong positive correlation between workplace diversity and increased revenue from innovation; impact which has the strongest effect for the technology industry

· Diversity and inclusion also have a positive impact on the bottom line; 85% of CEO’s who invested in diversity saw a positive return

· Transparency and corporate social responsibility attract talent, especially the forward-thinking millennial generation

Education Gender Gaps

According to the World Economic Forum, “the development and deployment of female ‘human capital’ (a way of describing the knowledge, creativity, and other measures of a worker’s value) is a critical element of global economic growth” (2020).

Unfortunately, women continue being under-represented in certain industries and occupations. “The core post-secondary disciplines where women continue to remain under-represented are in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM fields” (World Economic Forum, 2020).

As employers, we can be proactive in working with educational institutions to promote gender parity. Examples of how this can be done include offering apprenticeships for women in trades and ensuring that our recruitment efforts target these under represented groups. Focus on how your organization can be proactive in creating inclusive workplaces and opportunities that will make a difference.

Balance of Care and Careers

Samuelson reminds us that “successful executives today have begun to listen to their own workers —who are citizens and family members first” (2020).

“In many societies, even as women have entered the labour force, they have also retained primary responsibility for unpaid work such as family care-giving and household chores; (…) [furthermore], on average, women work 50 minutes more per day than men, in terms of both paid and unpaid work combined, according to data” (World Economic Forum, 2020).

Therefore, organizations who offer flexible work arrangements; including: work hours, telecommuting options, and leave policies, allow for an increased economic participation from women in the workforce.

Gender Dynamics of Future Jobs

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will likely bring further automation to many mundane household chores that currently fall on women, which could have a positive effect on creating more gender balanced workplaces (World Economic Forum, 2020).

Although, gender parity has the potential to really drive economic growth in many industries, currently women are still largely under-represented in certain sectors and leadership ranks, even in the fast-growing technology sector. For example, in 2017 “both Microsoft and Google had total workplaces that were less than one third female, while women held 24% of the leadership roles at Google, and 18% of the leadership roles at Microsoft” (World Economic Forum, 2020).

Much progress is still needed to increase women’s level of influence in workplaces. Thankfully, “the next generation of business managers are equipped to hold business to account and are more aligned with the long-term goals of corporate health than disparate investors with a one-year time horizon; #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and #ExtinctionRebellion are touchstones for internal activism (Samuelson, 2020).

Inclusive Work Practices

In order to successfully manage diversity and inclusion, any major business decision should be filtered through a diversity lens. Although, the case for gender parity has made significant strides in the recent years, women are still struggling with the gender pay gap, achieving promotions into leadership positions, work-life balance, sexual harassment and negative stereotypes in certain industries (World Economic Forum, 2020).

The World Economic Forum suggests that “stamping out inequality can help economies make the best use of their talent” (2020). For detailed recommendations on developing gender equity strategies, organizational development and change management, recruitment and retention, compensation models, training and education, preventing and reporting harassment, diversity and inclusion dashboards, and other human resources best practices and accountability measures, please continue reading the following sections.


There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to organizational change around facilitating the implementation of diversity and inclusion paradigms. Of course, developing a Respectful Workplace Policy or an Anti-Harassment Policy is a good start, but the journey doesn’t end there. Therefore, this section will provide a concise overview of varying approaches to workplace diversity and inclusion within the thematic context of gender equity.

Developing Gender Equity Strategies

Women's Health Issues Paper describes that in designing internal gender equity competence frameworks, the following factors should be included (2019):

· an understanding of the environment and its influences on gender equity

· concepts around behaviour change, transformation and intersectionality

· the features of competence development

· educational approaches

Since every workplace culture is different, the first steps in inspiring organizational change would involve developing a deeper understanding of the environment and the issues we are facing. When designing the vision of change, new behavioural competencies must be clearly drafted and outlined. In addition to policies and procedures covering the appropriate sections of the Employment Standards, Human Rights and the Occupational Health and Safety legislations, organizations want to inspire a successful blueprint of what a respectful workplace would really look like and how to get there as a team.

Furthermore, as Workman-Stark suggests through her experience: "committed and trustworthy leaders, involved middle management, willing participants, capable champions, accountability mechanisms, and effective communications are key ingredients for successfully implementing organizational change" (2017). In addition to policies and procedures facilitating workplace inclusion, organizations also want to ensure legislative compliance, develop effective recruitment and retention strategies, review their compensation philosophy, have effective harassment reporting mechanisms in place, provide training and education, and measure progress.

Harding and Dreyer describe the eight steps that Deloitte Australia took through their gender equality strategy to include the following (2020):

· Holding their leaders accountable

· Measuring progress and impact of actions on women’s representation and talent pipelines

· Ensuring gender pay equity through regular analysis and action

· Embedding workplace flexibility for all employees

· Developing talent pipeline through inclusive talent management

· Ensuring policies and processes remove barriers for all their people

· Building the capability of their leaders to lead inclusively and support our gender strategy

· Creating an inclusive culture based on respect and firm-wide values

By their commitment to workplace inclusion, Deloitte has made measurable progress in making their workplace better for everyone and they were even recognized with the Catalyst Award (Harding and Dreyer, 2020). In the age of knowledge economy, it is paramount for organizations to recognize and embrace the complexity inherent in team diversity. Embedding respect and inclusion in workplace culture brings way better results than simply writing it down in a policy manual that no one ever likes to reference.

Finally, from a global perspective, the subsections of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as relating to the business community, include the following (2020):

5.1 Ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere

5.5 Ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life

5.B Enhancing the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

5.C Adopting and strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Although these goals are inspired by and resonate on a more global scale, they can also be interpreted in microeconomic environments. For example, women’s participation at the leadership level of an organization can be easily traced and developed into an internal metrics dashboard. We can also carefully craft our internal stakeholder communications to always ensure an inclusive team environment is encouraged in addition to established policies and procedures that adhere to the minimal legislative guidelines. For more detailed recommendations, please continue reading the sections below.

Organizational Development and Change Management

There are many complex methodologies for a successful change management process that are beyond the scope of this brief review. However, it is paramount to have a basic level of appreciation for the fact that change is neuropsychologically difficult for our brains to process. Therefore, dealing with change, especially on an organizational level, requires very concentrated efforts and mindful communications.

Holvino, Ferdman, & Merrill-Sands outline the following cyclical steps to “developing and implementing a diversity initiative” (2004):

· Preparation – continuous learning is important

· Needs assessment – data collection to determine initial decision making

· Developing a vision, goals, and a strategic plan – creating the foundation for the change process

· Implementing the intervention selected – communication and assigning responsibility

· Monitoring and evaluating progress and result – data analysis and recommendation

Recruitment and Retention

According to an article published online by Visier, “diversity recruiting means being more thoughtful in granting everyone equal access to employment opportunities and also opening your doors to a wider range of talent that may be just the very thing you need to succeed in today’s volatile business climate” (Cook, 2020).

Cook suggests five ways in which analytics can help to drive diversity recruiting efforts (2020):

· Examining the current employee population to reveal crucial insights and determine diversity goals for recruitment

· Adding more diversity into the hiring funnel by examining sourcing data and candidate pools

· Encourage diversity in the interview panels (and provide proper training for the hiring managers)

· Keeping track of hiring success by diversity group

· Keeping track of other post-hire metrics such as retention (we will come back to this topic later)

Compensation Models

When reviewing your organization’s compensation strategy, it is important to ensure internal equity based on job evaluation, market benchmarking, and employees’ level of professional experience. For example, if I have two employees doing roughly the same work, they should be in the same job classification. Furthermore, they should be within the same pay band as determined by the market benchmarking. Any difference in salary should be justifiable by looking at the mix of seniority within the organization, educational background, and years of experience. A systemic model of reviewing employees’ compensation that involves transparency would help to balance the scales.

Most companies have done fairly well in the recent years by demonstrating a pragmatic understanding of factors influencing compensation. For example, an analysis of US workplaces by PayScale in 2020 reveals that in groups controlled by the factors listed above (such as job title and qualifications), women earn on average $0.98 for every $1.00 earned by men. However, in the groups uncontrolled by these factors, women earn on average $0.81 for every $1.00 earned by men. This analysis reveals the modern day causes and conditions behind the gender pay gap, which include subconscious bias and assumptions that women will leave the workplace to have children, subsequent loss of income during those childbearing years, and slower movement up the corporate ladder (PayScale, 2020).

Although, we have seen progressive improvements in decreasing the gender gap in the developed countries, there are a few powerful take always here. Namely, as employers, we must ensure that our jobs are classified properly, as historically occupations that women are drawn to have been earning less. Also, we need to keep track in-house of employees who are ready for advancement opportunities and help to set up mentorship programs to specifically support women on their career paths. Furthermore, flexible work arrangements can encourage women to balance home and work lives more constructively.

Lastly, it is worth noting here, that pay equity is protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Furthermore, the Pay Equity Act requires federally regulated employers with an average of 10 employees or more to take a proactive approach to correct gender wage gaps within their organization (Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2020).

Training and Education

In addition to designing comprehensive workplace policies and programs aimed at encouraging respect and inclusiveness, it is crucial to put these ideals into action by modelling constructive behaviours. Internal leadership development and mentorship programs create opportunities for women to overcome barriers to career advancement (Groysberg and Connolly, 2013).

Furthermore, the Women’s Health Issues Paper recommends the following considerations to be included in competency modules for diversity and inclusiveness which should be embedded into the workplace culture (2019):

· Developing deeper awareness of the context and environment in which subconscious biases and discrimination exist and help students examine and eradicate them

· Developing deeper awareness of applicable policies, legislative guidelines and social dynamics that influence student behaviour

· Embedding gender equity values into societal ideals and building blocks for a tangibly better future

· Providing multiple learning opportunities through personal reflection

· Helping learners to recognize how the concept of identity is formed and examine the development of their personal identity

· Offering role playing opportunities and conducting pre and post-assessments to monitor shifts in perception and awareness

Preventing and Reporting Harassment

In terms of the legislative compliance, workplace diversity is protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. “The prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered (Canadian Human Rights Act, Section 3.1).

Workplace “harassment, including sexual harassment, (…) involv[ing] threats, attempts or acts of physical force that causes or could cause physical injury, (…) would be considered to be workplace violence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act” (Government of Ontario, 2020). Although each province has their own detailed guidelines on this manner, reviewing each one is beyond the scope of this paper. It might be important to review, if your organization has operations in different provinces.

A very interesting recent development is that “many provincial Occupational Health and Safety Acts have been expanded to include harm to psychological well-being in the definition of harassment” (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2020).

Of course, many responsible employers would prefer to have an effective and efficient in-house program for reporting policy violation incidents, and also to develop the capacity to handle the resolution process internally. All these abovementioned pieces of legislation create important guidelines and parameters for developing a comprehensive in-house Anti-Violence and Harassment Policy and Reporting Process.

Workplace investigations are a very delicate subject requiring due diligence, so whenever in doubt it is advisable to reach out to an independent legal counsel or consultant for advice. Thankfully, the Government of Canada has issued a detailed guideline on best practices of conducting investigations, including all steps of the process available on their website for benchmarking (2020).

Diversity and Inclusion Dashboards

As the old saying in business goes ‘what gets measured, gets done’. Menzies suggests that because biases which perpetuate inequality are often subconscious, it is important to switch the talent management paradigm from ‘cultural fit’ to ‘diversity and inclusion’ (2020). Going beyond the well-meaning policies and procedures, we need ways to track progress. So, how do we measure that?

BCG Consultants suggest the following five primary metrics for diversity and inclusion (2020):

· Pay equity – ensuring that men and women in the same positions earn the same wages

· Recruitment – establishing a strong talent pool of women, especially in industries and occupations historically dominated by men

· Retention – breaking down turnover and retention statistics by seniority and gender may help to determine where the ladder is broken

· Advancement – measuring how many women in the organization get promoted in a given year and contrast that with how many men get promoted

· Representation – measuring the percentage of women in various departments and seniority levels to ensure that women are not all clustered in one or two job categories

In addition to the suggestions above, for companies who are just starting on the change management path it might also be useful to keep track of harassment complaints and lawsuits, and also to conduct exit interviews and focus groups with targeted groups of employees.

Reviewing the results of metrics annually can help to formulate the diversity and inclusion strategy and assign accountability for the following cycle.

Accountability Measures

Inclusive leadership is required to make any of the above recommendations work. Organizations that suffer from corruption where the top leadership is disengaged from the diversity and inclusion cause, will likely continue suffering through a multitude of scandals and lawsuits until the point really hits home. No policy or paradigm can truly make a difference if professional investigation recommendations are not properly implemented and all team members are not equally held accountable for upholding the internal Codes of Conduct.

Fortunately, there are many great leaders who “make the mix work” (Groysberg and Connolly, 2013).

Are you one of them?


There is no escaping the problems facing the world right now.

As individuals and as a collective, we must rise together and solve them one by one.

Just to help to summarize the recommendations from the sections above, here are some diversity and inclusion practices that really make a difference according to Groysberg and Connolly (2013):

· Measuring diversity and inclusion – creating a robust dashboard informed by employee engagement survey pulse checks can provide the necessary data for decision making

· Holding managers accountable – some organizations go as far as determining that constructive diversity and inclusion attitudes are a basic job requirement

· Supporting flexible work arrangements – allowing employees to balance their personal and professional commitments to encourage retention

· Recruiting and promoting from diverse pools of candidates – in heavily underrepresented industries (for example engineering), some organizations are implementing recruitment quotas where a certain percentage of candidates selected for interviews are female

· Providing leadership training – not only professional development can help women break down the barriers to career advancement; but also, diversity training must be woven into the culture

· Sponsoring employee resource groups and mentoring programs – employee networking opportunities and focus groups help establish psychological safety and positive team environments

· Offering quality role models – constructive mentorship relationships within or outside the organization can help to build careers

· Leading by example – dedicating time to personally work on diversity and inclusion initiatives

How are you making a difference?


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