Why aren’t gender inclusion policies working?

by | Jan 29, 2017

Closing the Implementation Gaps in Gender Inclusion  Policies

As someone who works in a number of over lapping fields that are at the intersection of gender balance, I encounter lip service paid to the efforts for the inclusion of women, on an everyday level.  Every day. The reality is, that even though we have gender inclusion policies in many organisations, there are frequently huge implementation gaps.  I recently heard from a  multi-lingual, PhD, MBA, coaching client who said after she was illegally questioned in an interview in a global agricultural products company.

"When they put you in that position where you feel awful for being a woman and a mother, things cannot work out." 

Gender inclusion policies

Implementation gap in gender inclusion policies

I have run unconscious bias training workshops in hard-core, male dominated business environments where participants think that because their company has a gender inclusion policy and a  women's group, that their policies are actually happening. The practical gap can be significant. Heads of Diversity frequently have no unconscious bias training themselves. They talk to women about "allowing them the opportunity to look after their children." They use male-coded language in their documentation and policy statements and they support male coded communication. That's because many of them are men.

Read: Why women leave it's not complicated

Gender Inclusion policies set up to fail


Gender inclusion policies have been created to drive change because there is a business case and because it is the right thing to do. In many companies there is a stated commitment at a senior level. Heads of D & I are appointed. But they are of little value if:

  • they have no authority
  • they have no budget
  • they don't set targets
  • they don't monitor rank and file employees
  • they don't audit their processes or documentation
  • they don't manage their employer brand

It seems impossible to imagine, but companies which claim to have strong gender balance initiatives still ask women illegal interview questions about:

  • childcare
  • travel
  • plans to marry
  • plans to have children
  • willingness to relocate
  • willingness/ travel to relocate if her partner does not relocate with her. Men long distance commute  - why can't women?

High levels of women continue to indicate they experience gender bias in the workplace. The female talent pipeline is under resourced at key points in the recruitment life-cycle.


Read: Why women suffer from gender burnout 


Not just about boxes

Research from JUMP and Axiom Consulting suggests that there is a real reluctance for men to genuinely and openly embrace gender balance and support women in their work places. Their fear is almost palpable. But diversity needs to be more than ticking some boxes.

The growth of web-based platforms such as Fairy God Boss where women can anonymously post their employment experiences of an organisation in the public domain will change that. Gender inclusion will be a key part of an employer brand

The implementation gap for gender inclusion policies needs to be closed. Totally.

If your company needs to manage its female talent pipeline contact 3Plus. 


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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