Is there a change initiative underway in your organisation? Is it gender inclusive? – our research says that it’s probably not.
We’ve studied over 200 change initiatives across more than 30 countries and we’ve found that women, compared to their male colleagues, have less access to information (-7.3%), less influence (-5.2%) and less opportunity to be involved (-4.0%) in workplace change.
If women are less involved and are less able to influence change, then they are excluded from opportunities and future positioning in the post-change organisation.
The fact that there is a gender gap in our approaches to workplace change perhaps shouldn’t be surprising – gender inequality permeates all aspects of our workplaces – what is surprising is that it is not acknowledged more widely. When we thought carefully about this, we came to the conclusion that we’re not aware of any workplace change plan that we’ve seen that includes a specific inclusion strategy.
Workplace change can be a time of uncertainty and anxiety but it can also be a time of opportunity as new roles open up and new directions are forged. If women are less involved and are less able to influence change, then they are excluded from opportunities and future positioning in the post-change organisation.
The chart below shows the responses by gender averaged for each of the questions asked in our workplace change survey. Female respondents have reported lower ratings for all of the questions (except for feeling positive about the future). They report, compared to their male counterparts, that they have significantly less access to information about changes (-7.3%), feel that they are less able to influence change processes (-5.2%) and feel they have less opportunity to be involved in change processes (-4.0%). Female respondents have expressed greater concerns about the capability of those leading the change (-7.5%) and also about whether the change will meet its’ objectives (-3.6%). The most significant difference between the genders is the perception of whether change milestones are being celebrated (-12.5%). Despite these barriers to involvement, women are still more likely to be positive about the future (+2%), perhaps pointing to greater resilience.
As leaders and influencers of change we need to ensure we take responsibility to engage our entire workforce with our workplace change efforts. To address the identified gender inequality in workplace change we need to:
- Ensure our change communication is gender inclusive
- Ensure women are equitably represented in our project governance
- Act to ensure women are involved and engaged with workplace change
Ensure our change communication is gender inclusive and accessible
There is (hopefully) a lot of communication that flows in times of change, some formal and a lot that’s more informal. How accessible is that communication to women? If there are formal meetings, do women feel empowered to leave their desks or workstations to attend, or are they left behind to answer the phones or ‘man’ the counter to minimise service disruption. If there is formal written communication, has it been checked for gender inclusiveness.
Inclusiveness in informal communication is particularly challenging. Do we ensure that women are included in our informal discussions on change, in corridors, lift wells, coffee shops and bars. So much of our change communication is through informal means and we need to ensure women are included in those conversations.
Ensure women are equitably represented in our project governance
Involving women in our workplace change initiatives means involvement at every level. What is the gender representation at the highest level of change governance for your workplace change initiative? Do women have a genuine voice in decision making and in setting strategic change direction? Ensure women are represented at every level of change governance and that they have an equal voice.
Act to ensure women are involved and engaged with workplace change
Some practical, actionable steps you can implement immediately:
- Review your change project governance representation and address any inequity
- Check your change communication for gender bias through the use of gender decoders such as this one from Kat Matfield http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com/
- Run the Workplace Change Survey and analyse for gender differences so you have access to real-time data for your workplace change initiative
The question is not whether there is gender inequity in workplace change, the question is what are we collectively going to do about it now that it has been exposed through research.