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Do you have a realistic diversity plan?

Sunday, September 7, 2014  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Susan Bulkeley Butler

To improve diversity and gender equality in our companies, we should do what Stephen Covey advises us to do with our personal careers and lives: Begin with the end in mind.

After all, if we don't know where we're going, how can we possibly expect to get there?

Just as every company has profit and revenue goals, every company should have gender and multicultural diversity goals. Like any goal, these should stretch the organization. They also should be realistic. Leadership teams must be measured on diversity goals, just as they are measured on financial goals. If not, those goals won't be met.

Related: "3 quick reminders for leading a diverse team"

Many advocate for 30 percent of women on corporate boards and in executive positions by 2020. That seems like a good, realistic goal to me. If our companies have new-hire groups with 50 percent women, companies should be able to meet at least 30 percent at the top of the organization — but not if there aren't targets leaders must meet.

Once the end goal is set, where do we begin? Demanding more women and multicultural executives is not enough. The CEO must set the tone and pave the way. Leadership teams must develop a strategic plan for the organization and measure the outcomes for developing leaders in every level of the organization. It should cover recruiting, hiring and promotion opportunities.

With an end in mind and a strategy to get there, the tactical work can begin. Some tactics to support an equality strategy include:

  • Ensure women and minorities have sponsors and mentors to help them up the ladder. Future leaders can't just be identified; they must be hired, developed, retained and promoted into a thriving pipeline.
  • Develop a women's leadership council to provide recommendations and advice to senior leadership and ensure goals are being met and systems are in place for success.
  • Develop or hire coaches for women and minorities. They need to teach, provide feedback and guide personnel to be future leaders. Corporate programs, such as workshops focused on career development, can also help develop tomorrow's all-star team of women and minority leaders.
  • Make sure to promote the right women into the right positions. They must have the right skills and experiences to succeed.

Look at the companies with the best practices for diversity, and you'll see these strategies and tactics in action.

You don't have to run a global conglomerate like Novartis, Coca-Cola or Kraft to make diversity a reality. You can take responsibility for making change happen for women and minorities in your organization today.

Ask yourself: What will you be doing in three years? What are the skills and capabilities you need? Work with a coach and a sponsor to get the skills, roles and responsibilities you need, so in three years you'll get the promotion you deserve.

For others in your organization, coach them, provide them with the opportunities to get the right skills and opportunities, and be their sponsor to get them promoted.

We can change the world for women. It is time for us to begin with the end in mind.

Susan Bulkeley Butler is founder and CEO of the SBB Institute for the Development of Women Leaders and author of the book Become the CEO of You Inc. This article first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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