The verdict is in, diversity is good for business at all organization levels. Those who have paved the way, the early adopters who prioritized gender parity and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) foci, reaped the benefits during 2021’s Great Resignation. They have picked up some of the best mid-career talent available by angling their hiring and general business practices to serve underserved Americans. They’ve bolstered their organization and leadership pipelines while those who didn’t leak a constant drip.

Who could have guessed providing all employees with equal opportunities for learning, development, and growth would empower them to maximize their potential and propel their respective organizations toward long-term success. It’s clear, becoming a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization is one of the best steps to take for your company.

Many companies are still slow to adapt, continuing to offer the majority of leadership and growth opportunities only to white male employees. This article isn’t for them; its’ for the organizations that see the journey to addressing and achieving gender parity and DEI goals as long and arduous. The organizations that see gender parity and DEI as a Sisyphean challenge, instead choosing to stay at the bottom of the hill.

We want these organizations to know that gender parity and DEI progress in your organization is not impossible. That it’s important for you to try to receive an advantage in business, but also because it’s essential to make the opportunities for success in the American workforce as diverse as its population. The importance is in the doing and making strides, even if they’re baby steps, in the right direction. 

That’s why we want to share some of the trending gender parity and DEI foci for 2022. Implementing one or more of these upcoming gender parity and DEI trends will help you create a rewarding, results-driven workplace where everyone thrives equally, including your business.

Create Gender Parity and DEI Goals and Make Them Public

Every initiative starts by establishing goals; gender parity and DEI initiatives aren’t any different. They should start with an open conversation that sets the stage for your efforts toward achieving your gender parity and DEI goals.

Your organization’s goals conversation should address the three actionable D’s:

  • Define what gender parity and DEI means to your company in measurable terms
  • Discuss the opportunities for your organization as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace
  • Decide on the best policies and procedures to drive your gender parity and DEI efforts

It’s critical to include employees in the goals conversation to ensure all your organization is heard. Because they are your key stakeholders for ensuring you reach your representation goals and will be the driving force behind your company’s cultural transformation.

For example, if one of your gender parity and DEI goals is to increase the diversity of your hires in one department, interview the non-majority department members about what drew them to the position and what would help make it a more inclusive space for others. Another useful tactic is to change the focus in your hiring process from education to skills, which can help broaden your talent pool.

When setting your gender parity and DEI goals, publicize them. Making your goals public helps to ensure accountability on your end. It can help your organization get noticed by the people you are trying to make your company more inclusive towards. Public gender parity and DEI goals are often great PR opportunities as well. To increase the accountability of your internal stakeholders, ensure you have measures in place to see the level of contribution your employees are putting in to support your gender parity and DEI goals.

Improve Manager/Employee Relationships

One gender parity and DEI focus for 2022 for companies is to improve the manager/employee relationship framework within your company. Improving manager/employee relationships is crucial for reducing bias, especially unconscious bias, and building a diverse and inclusive workplace that provides fair treatment and opportunities for all employees.

The key to strengthening those relationships is to teach managers to recognize and reward great work, ensure employees’ well-being and a healthy work-life balance, and pave the way to ongoing career development. By focusing on these areas, managers can be instrumental in improving gender parity and DEI policies and work to reduce the bias present in leadership pipelines that often lead to the maligned “broken rung.”

Remove Stereotypes That Hold Women Back

Women constantly deal with negative stereotyping in the workplace, from recruitment and hiring to performance reviews and promotions. For example, recruiters and managers often use agentic and communal language tied to gender stereotypes to discuss leadership qualities and make hiring and promotion decisions.

To describe male leaders, they often use agentic words like confident, decisive, independent, hardworking, direct, and dominant. While describing women, they use communal words like friendly, helpful, and supportive — not exactly traditional masculine-oriented leadership qualities.

That same gender language unconsciously bleeds into manager language as well. When it comes to performance reviews, men are often “competitive,” “visionary,” and “genius,” while women are “compassionate” and “helpful.” The same is true for negative language too. Men are often described with words like “irresponsible,” while women are “temperamental.” The latter is a negative workplace gender stereotype that has persisted for a long time.

A recent study at the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab found that communal words are applied to women 61% of the time. More often than their male peers, female employee work-related skills and technical expertise do not play as significant in performance assessments. This gender-coded agentic/communal language use leads to men continually being favored for leadership positions.

To start overturning gender stereotype bias, have a gender parity and DEI conversationwith your managers. Provide them with training and policies to reduce implicit bias and set parameters for what language should be used in performance reviews and what should be avoided or omitted. 

Create a gender parity and DEI performance review framework to put in place clear, transparent, and consistent criteria to evaluate and value everyone equally, without letting bias impact managers’ decision-making. You can help ensure follow-through by providing top-down feedback and a means for employees to provide anonymous feedback on managers about the changes and their adherence.

Encourage Open Communication About Burnout

The latest Women in the workplace, a report from McKinsey & Co. and Lean In, shows 42% of women and 35% of men in the US were “often” or “almost always” burned out in 2021. One in three women have even contemplated downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely due to burnout.

For a detailed dive into burnout and addressing it in your company, read EWF’s Impact of Burnout & Virtual Work on Career Women.

Compounding the strain of burnout is that women in leadership positions are more likely than men to take action to combat burnout. Women leaders are more likely to reduce their teams’ workloads, check-in on their well-being, and promote gender parity and DEI initiatives for their teams. However, that strong, compassionate leadership is burning them out even more.

Companies that don’t begin openly addressing burnout in the workplace risk losing the women leaders needed to lead us forward. Creating a supportive environment for open communication about burnout is the first step. Encourage employees at all levels to ask for assistance and set company-wide norms for ensuring employees get the support they need to reduce burnout. 

Sit down with managers to have an important gender parity and DEI conversation, provide them with resources and training for preventing and identifying burnout, and hold them accountable by measuring and rewarding their efforts. Provide them with perspective to reduce the gender-coded roadblocks that especially keep women from communicating burnout for fear it will make them seem weak or incompetent.

By making open communication about burnout a 2022 gender parity and DEI focus for your company, you can ensure the best from your employees, increase confidence in your managers, and improve your company’s retention rate. 

Close the Gender Promotion Gap

According to the latest Women in the Workplace report, for every 100 men promoted to manager in 2020, only 86 white women (and 85 women of color) were promoted. Women aren’t promoted as often because managers often underestimate female employee potential. Even when women perform better than their male counterparts, managers continually overlook them for leadership positions.

The potential and the Gender Promotion Gap study of a large retail chain in North America with 30,000 employees found that manager-reported, potential performance ratings account for 30-50% of the gender promotion gap within the organization. On average, the women employees receive higher performance ratings than men and are 7.3% more likely to earn the highest performance rating during a review. Still, they get 8.3% lower potential ratings than their male colleagues and are 14% less likely to be promoted. 

The study showed a clear issue in the promotion process where men who were underperforming their female counterparts were still being promoted more often, likely due to implicit bias. 

To reduce similar promotion gap issues in your company, you need a straightforward promotion process that factors both performance and potential, with gender parity and DEI policies that reduce the influence of unconscious bias on the process. Tools for analyzing internal data and identifying systemic gaps can help. Still, it’s vital to look at all the metrics that uncover leadership talent and review the process from the outside to identify potential instances of bias for correction.

Find Opportunities to Reduce Onlys and Double-Onlys in the Workplace

For some companies, placing a woman or person of color on every team is the first step towards gender parity and DEI-driven culture. But, unfortunately, that can lead to tokenism, an increase in the occurrence of micro-aggressions, and increase an employee’s feeling of isolation and underrepresentation.

Employees in this situation are referred to as “Onlys.” In situations where the person is the “Only” of more than one type (gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.), they’re called “Double-onlys.” As mentioned above, Onlys and Double-onlys must overcome many challenges in today’s workplace. 

In addition to the normal challenges, we’re looking at gender parity and DEI changes to ease, Onlys and Double-Onlys have their work scrutinized under a microscope. They need to prove their competence more than others, people question their judgment, and they experience microaggressions, discrimination, bias, and burnout more often than the average employee. 

Review and amend your promotion and recruitment processes regularly. This alteration is the first step to reducing the occurrences of Only and Double-onlys within your company. Successful gender parity and DEI foci seek to create diverse teams and departments while avoiding the isolation of Onlys and Double-onlys that can lead to tokenism. For your internal leadership positions, look to increase the representation in your leadership pipeline, from first-level management to C-suite positions. 

Creating diverse leadership within your company will help your recruiting and retention efforts regarding gender parity and DEI initiatives. It allows potential employees and leadership prospects to see a path for themselves to career advancement and success within your company. 

You can help facilitate a diverse leadership pipeline by setting a fixed transition period (one or two years, for instance) that can allow aspiring leaders of all backgrounds to climb the corporate ladder once they gain the necessary experience. You can further promote this by sponsoring formal leadership training within your organization.

Sponsor Female Employees in Leadership Training

The best way to support gender parity and DEI initiatives is by promoting inclusive leadership at all organizational levels. In addition to the recruitment and the retainment benefits touched on by diverse leadership, inclusive leadership practices can help you fix a leaky leadership pipeline and ensure your organization provides a way for its top talent to reach their full potential. Doing so, as the studies have shown, is leading companies to find success over the competition.

As an organization focused on improving gender parity in the workplace, we’ve seen the success women can achieve when provided with the career and leadership development training and skills to realize their potential. EWF International’s Emerging Leaders program helps provide early- to mid-career women the tools that empower them to address the broken rung and become skilled leaders in the workplace.

When you sponsor emerging female leaders in leadership training, you help them leverage strengths, overcome challenges, and deliver better results for your organization while elevating their career trajectory. 

But, EWF’s leadership development and your own should not start and end with only women. Most managers receive no formal leadership training. EWF International additionally offers corporate programming, including turn-key leadership development opportunities for your company, from lunch and learns to complete leadership development programming.

Investing in your company’s leadership development will make it more attractive to aspiring leaders of all backgrounds, help reduce Onlys and Double-onlys within your leadership pipeline, and make your gender parity and DEI efforts self-advocating.

Create Allyship Training Opportunities for Improving Gender Parity and DEI

Gender parity and DEI efforts often focus on supporting and promoting those affected by their absence. However, we all have a role in the success of gender parity and DEI initiatives in the workplace. Your organization can help drive the success of your initiatives by becoming more effective allies.

Men in the workplace can assist in making the environment less toxic and more inclusive for women. All employees can help create a collaborative, uplifting, and inspiring workplace where everyone is seen and valued as equals. To discover how we can help each other in an appropriate and supportive way at work to help create an essential space for fellow employees to be seen, heard, and promoted. 

Strengthening your workforce to support gender parity and DEI requires your company to recognize and embrace the role white, male, and especially white male employees hold in driving the success of your initiatives.

Shifting the focus requires teaching those who have had most of the opportunities to recognize their position of privilege and how they can use it to be better allies at work. The best way to do it is to provide allyship training opportunities that focus on micro-affirmations and teach how to support, collaborate with, and advocate for their underrepresented colleagues.

Here are some of the most critical micro-affirmations to focus on to improve allyship:

  • Encouraging participation from everyone;
  • Listening to and considering everyone’s ideas;
  • Acknowledging everyone’s skills and expertise;
  • Recognizing and rewarding all achievements;
  • Regularly provide positive feedback and constructive criticism using bias-free language and the same performance criteria for all employees.

Start Driving Meaningful Change With a Gender Parity and DEI Driven Culture Today!

Reviewing the trends above and making a strong public push to improve gender parity and DEI within your organization will help you start a meaningful cultural transformation. You’ll create value and supercharge equitable, sustainable change by leading with specific values in mind.

With EWF International’s innovative corporate leadership development programs, you can achieve your 2022 gender parity and DEI initiative goals by equipping and empowering a diverse cast of future leaders for your company.

Our career development programs for women can help you invest in a diverse leadership pipeline, enhance your workplace culture, and develop the next generation of women leaders at every organizational level. You’ll support ongoing development and growth, sharpen your competitive edge, and retain top talent.