IMPORTANT: What are the 9 small steps SME’s can take to increase leadership gender diversity and drive business growth

Listed Under: Blogs

IMPORTANT: What are the 9 small steps SME’s can take to increase leadership gender diversity and drive business growth

The competitive edge in a post-crisis world; Female Leaders blog 2

Last week, we explored with guest blogger Danielle Thompson why women aren’t getting to the top table in leadership roles. This week Danielle is back to explore what SMEs can do to increase their leadership gender diversity and turn the tide on age-old trends.  

Increasing leadership gender diversity is a complex issue that will vary from company to company and team to team. But Danielle has some fantastic first steps for you to take to increase your diversity. These steps will: 


  • Encourage women to take on leadership roles 
  • Nurture more positive leadership traits (traditionally associated with female leaders) 
  • Allow your business to experience the benefits of the skills women bring to the table 


Nine questions to ask yourself today to increase your leadership gender diversity 


Who is in your talent pipeline? 

What diversity have you got in your junior roles? Examine your succession plans and take note of the gender split. If it’s not diverse at that level the leadership won’t be diverse in the future. Consider what you can do now to develop female talent at all levels in your business.  


Do you rely on outdated “standard” practices when searching for candidates? 

When adverting your leadership positions, do you insist on a technical background? Do you automatically reject candidates with a break in their career? Where and how are you advertising roles? Is there an unconscious bias in how they are advertised? Simply looking at the accepted process from a diversity angle may identify contributory factors that haven’t been clear before.  


Do you offer flexible working options? 

Covid-19 may have challenged your working norms and asked your people to work differently but how can you maximise the advantages of flexible working on a permanent basis? Can you make flexible hours and locations more available to current and future employees? Flexible working is probably the most impactful change you can make to attract and promote female talent.  


Do you have unwritten rules around presenteeism?  

Even if you promote flexibility, if it is frowned upon rather than celebrated it doesn’t matter what your policy says. Employees will still be disadvantaged if they opt for a more flexible work schedule.  


What does your current top team look like?  

Role models are critical so if you have a leadership team of all white men, what is that saying to your customers, your employees and future talent you want to attract? Changing that overnight is not easy (or ethical!) but you can put plans in place to change it over time. Consider what habits, norms, practices and procedures have created that situation in the first place, that will probably guide you as to where you could start.  


Are there unfair expectations around long working hours/evening working? 

This is proven to unfairly hit women more than men due to societal expectations. How can you, as a leader, make working long hours culturally unacceptable? Is it really necessary or is that a practice which has developed over time?  

This benefits everyone as it has also been proven that significant numbers of men regret working long hours and not spending enough time with their family. It is also crucial for mental and physical well-being.  


Is your workplace culture inclusive?  

If you have traditionally had a male-dominated culture there will likely be norms, expectations and cultural influences which will make it not inclusive for women. There may be factors in place you simply may not have even thought of. Obtain input and insight from female employees or even ask someone external to spend a week in your office and ask for their perception of your culture. If you are genuine in what you are trying to achieve, then people will appreciate the effort you are making to learn. Remember, you can’t change what you’re not aware of! 


Are industry events appropriate? 

You may have stopped the corporate hospitality at the golf club but how does it feel to attend one of your industry events as a woman? Are they expected to stay overnight? If so, what safety procedures have you got in place when they do? Do panels at your events lack diversity? Do these events usually end with sports banter in the bar?  

If you are in a male-dominated industry how can you and your business signal your desire to challenge these norms? How about a policy not to sponsor or attend events with non-diverse panels or speakers? Provide coaching or training to female employees to give them more confidence to speak at events. A previous employer of mine had a policy of women not staying in ground floor rooms of hotels and ensuring that all employees arrived at their destination during daylight hours as opposed to turning up in a strange town in darkness. By making policy changes like this your customers and employees will respect you for it.  


Are you investing in gender-focused leadership development? 

Specialist programmes for both women and men can encourage gender diversity awareness and encourage a culture of inclusivity.  

Inclusion and Diversity is a journey and can’t and shouldn’t be achieved overnight but the first step is acknowledging that change is needed and taking steps, regardless of how small, to start that journey.  

Zentano exists to promote pioneering and inclusive leadership and this is reflected in our Connected Leadership model. We have always believed that there is no place for authoritarian and autocratic leadership in today’s society, believing them to be outdated, old-fashioned and largely male-dominated. Embracing Connected Leadership is designed to increase diversity, inclusivity, performance, growth and satisfaction.  

If this is an area you want to focus on and learn more about then please contact Danielle by connecting with her here or find out from Dave ( or 07769 934169) how Zentano is using Connected Leadership to transform leadership and make it more inclusive, engaging and profitable.