Action plan guide
Find useful advice and resources to help guide you through each suggested action area in your action plan.
Do I understand the business case for board gender parity and inclusion?
Get yourself up to speed by reading the research that demonstrates the value of diversity and inclusion.
Belief in the business case for diversity and inclusion is critical in the journey for gender parity, and essential for motivating individuals to expend time, energy and resources in pursuit of parity. Below are some suggested materials to help you in understanding how gender parity increases board and organisational performance, and why other powerful and influential business leaders in Australia have committed to action.
- Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative research report (PDF)
- Why diversity and inclusion matter
- Speeches by male champions of change
- Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership Newsletter (free subscription)
- Which 2 heads are better than 1? (ASHX)
- Diversity resources
Mining the perspectives of champions
Have a conversation with a peer who values or champions diversity and inclusion. Ask why it is important to them and the performance of the board (and organisation).
Many other powerful and influential business leaders in Australia have already committed to taking action to increasing board and organisational diversity and inclusion. Below are some prompting questions to help explore why diversity and inclusion is important to him/her, and what action they have taken:
- Why is diversity and inclusion important to you? What motivates you to be inclusive?
- Have you experienced tangible benefits of a greater focus on diversity and inclusion?
- What do you see are the greatest challenges to board/organisational diversity and inclusion? What strategies have been most impactful to address these?
- How do you influence others to act, and behave more inclusively?
- Are there any specific actions you take personally to be more inclusive?
Compare your board's diversity and inclusion performance with other boards.
Build your network
Find opportunities to network with other board members around the issue. Initiatives such as the 30% Club and Male Champions of Change provide opportunities for individuals to connect with individuals who are also taking action to disrupt the status quo and achieve gender parity.
Do I talk about the importance of gender parity and inclusion regularly, and in an authentic way?
Advocating for diversity and inclusion
Identify opportunities to advocate for diversity and inclusion internally as well as externally. Some suggested examples of events and opportunities where diversity and inclusion has been advocated have been provided.
Do I role model inclusion?
Inclusive leadership behaviours
Undertake a formal self assessment of your inclusive leadership behaviours. The Leadership Shadow, developed by the Male Champions of Change and Chief Executive Women, provides a framework for thinking about a leader’s influence on the culture of an organisation. The model covers four attributes—'What leaders say', 'How leaders act', 'What leaders prioritise' and 'What leader’s measure‘. This model can be overlayed with Deloitte’s Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership framework, which pinpoints what highly inclusive leaders think about and do.
- Six signature traits of inclusive leadership
- Leadership shadow (PDF)
- Inclusive leadership: the view from 6 countries
Asking for feedback
Ask for feedback from others (e.g. board members, executive members, and other leaders) on whether what you say, do and measure clearly demonstrates a commitment to gender parity and inclusion.
Get an external viewpoint
Ask for feedback from diverse people who present to the board on whether they felt included. Getting the opinion of someone who is outside the board is a great and simple way to sense check the way others experience your boardroom environment.
Explore your blind spots
Engage a mentor or coach to help you explore blind spots, set personal goals and take action to be more inclusive. Setting goals based on feedback you have received is a great way for you to further reflect on and develop inclusive behaviours.
Do I hold myself, and others, accountable for gender parity and inclusion outcomes?
Speak out against bad behaviour
Call out comments and behaviours by others (e.g. board members) that are not consistent with inclusion, including stereotypes and assumptions.
Research shows that highly inclusive leaders demonstrate courage, by speaking up and challenging others and the status quo. Though it can be hard to do, speaking out against non-inclusive behaviour is important in allowing individuals to recognise their own behaviours and setting the standard of behaviour in the boardroom. As one champion of diversity and inclusion says, “The standard I walk past is the standard I accept.”
Recognising inclusive behaviour
Publically recognise board members and other decision-makers who demonstrate inclusive behaviours. Calling out bad behaviour is important, but recognising inclusive behaviours is critical.
Remove non-inclusive behaviour
Establish a way to remove, or not appoint or re-appoint, board members who have a track record of non-inclusive behaviours. For further information on inclusion in the boardroom, Catalyst provides information on the current landscape, and ideas and solutions to make progress. Catalyst has resources on boardroom diversity which touch various aspects of research, events, government actions and education.
Do I take action to support the nomination and pipeline of aspiring women board members?
Participate in a Mentoring Program as a Mentor and support aspiring women board members. Below are some examples of programs that offer mentoring to women aspiring to become board members.
Connect aspiring women
Connect aspiring women board members to others within your personal network. Though simple, connecting aspiring women board members to your personal network can have a profound impact on their progression to a board role.
Establish ways to increase nominations to your board, with an aim for men and women candidates to be equal (i.e. 50/50).
Take the Panel Pledge
Commit to only speaking on public forums that have 50/50, to provide women leaders with profile-building opportunities. The absence of women at public professional forums is a problem. As speakers are usually male, audiences are given a narrow perspective. The lack of diversity limits the quality of the conversation and potential outcomes.
Do all board members share a personal belief in the value of gender parity and inclusion?
Start the conversation
Have an honest conversation about the topic of gender parity and inclusion with board members
Ensuring senior leaders share a personal belief in the need to change, and a willingness to challenge the status quo are important first steps in the journey. This will require an open and authentic conversation about the current state and the value of diversity and inclusion at a board and organisational level. More than just talk, it will also require staunch commitment and a conscious decision to act. The below resource from the 30% Club addresses directors’ concerns about why they can’t/won’t/shouldn’t appoint female directors to their boards.
Below are some suggested questions to help you start a conversation with other board members around diversity and inclusion, including different frames of reference, beliefs and appetite for change. Using an external speaker, for example, to stimulate an open discussion may also be valuable:
- What does diversity and inclusion mean to each of us?
- Do we think diversity and inclusion are important to our board/organisation? Why/why not?
- How diverse and inclusive do we think the board/organisation currently is? Is there a need for change? Are we committed to change?
- What concerns do we have in relation to diversity and inclusion? How can we address these?
- What do we think it will take to have gender parity on our board/across the organisation?
Do all board members role model inclusion and is it set as an expectation of future members?
Inclusion as a criteria
Make inclusive behaviour, including a track record of commitment to diversity and inclusion, a requisite in board member criteria.
Have board members engaged in professional development relating to diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. Understanding the impact that unconscious bias can have on recruitment is a great first step in promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace. Below are resources that can raise your awareness of your biases as well as tactics to help you address them.
- Implicit assessment test
- Unconscious bias resources
- Training for diversity and inclusion
- Five diversity and inclusion lessons
- Unconscious Bias @ Work
- Making the unconscious conscious
Has the board established targets relating to gender parity and inclusion, and do those targets have ‘teeth’?
Set targets for board culture—for example,100% of board members feel included (respected, valued and sense of belonging), 100% of board members perceived to be committed to diversity and inclusion, 100% of board members perceived to be highly inclusive.
Make diversity and inclusion, and achievement of targets, part of the board and individual evaluation process. Having a formal evaluation process for diverse and inclusive behaviours, as well as the assessment of key targets are crucial to creating action towards a more inclusive workplace. Introduce evaluation processes for individual and board performance to measure success for diversity and inclusion.
Do board recruitment and succession processes support gender parity and inclusion?
Review board recruitment process
Request a review of the process for board recruitment to ensure transparency and consistency in criteria and nomination and selection decisions. Resources below provide tools and examples on how to facilitate a more inclusive recruitment process.
- A toolkit for recruiting and hiring a more diverse workplace (PDF)
- Gender neutral recruitment guidelines
- Recognise bias during recruitment
- Workplace diversity through recruitment
Review role criteria for board members
Request a review of the role criteria and identify what is actually required in terms of skills and capabilities. Rather than relying on historic selection criteria that may be unnecessarily limiting the talent pool, request a review of the role criteria. Notify decision-makers where unnecessary criteria is prescribed by policy and/or legislation limiting diversity of candidates.
Are organisational leaders committed to gender parity and inclusion?
Make inclusive behaviour, including a track record of commitment to diversity and inclusion a requisite criteria for future leaders.
Set diversity and inclusion targets
Set diversity and inclusion targets for organisational leaders and tie to remuneration. Setting targets with teeth means ensuring that diversity targets are tied to rewards, just like any other priority business objective
Does the board understand the organisation’s performance with respect to diversity and inclusion?
Create a gender action plan
Ask the head of the organisation to present the gender action plan to the board. This can include discussion on performance, barriers and potential mitigation strategies.
Ask for your organisation’s performance data on gender equity. By having the data at your finger tips, you can work towards setting tangible goals and have a real understanding of how your organisation is progressing as a gender inclusive workplace.
Does the board ensure the organisation complies with good Corporate Governance Principles with respect to diversity and inclusion?
Set numerical targets relating to gender diversity and inclusion across the organisation and periodically review progress towards achieving them.
Ensure the organisation has developed and disclosed a diversity and inclusion policy. Below is an example template for a diversity and inclusion policy.
Disclose progress toward targets
Ensure the organisation periodically discloses its progress towards its targets. This includes the representation of men and women on the board, in senior executive positions and across the whole organisation or equivalent Gender Equality Indicators (per the Workplace Gender Equality Act for non-public sector organisations).
- ASX corporate governance principles and recommendations on diversity (PDF)
- Australian Standard on gender-inclusive job evaluation
- Corporate governance principles and recommendations (PDF)
- Guidelines for gender balance performance and reporting Australia
Do all board members take action to help build the pipeline of women board directors?
Champion gender parity
Nominate a highly committed and inclusive board member to an external body that champions gender parity and inclusion.
Advocate and support industry associations to implement gender parity action plans to increase the pool of women.