Create the Culture

Create the culture includes the following approaches:
An inclusive culture
Mentoring and sponsorship
Development of external networks
Objective hiring, performance reviews, and promotion

Perhaps the most elusive of the top approaches to advance women is one of the most important: creating an inclusive culture. Exactly what an inclusive culture looks like and how to create it can seem hard to define.

One man said, “You can’t just put a woman in the old boys’ club and expect that to work. You need to change the conversations to include both men and women.”

First and foremost, an inclusive culture is communicated by the actions senior leaders take. Those who characterize the cultures where they work as extremely inclusive were able to describe how at least one very senior leader takes a stand in insisting that women and men be included in the slates for high-visibility assignments and open positions. In these organizations, the most skilled person, regardless of gender, is selected.

Strong interpersonal relationships at the workplace are important in creating that culture. One man interviewed for a case study described the high degree of collaboration where he works. He said he loves coming to work every day because of the generosity with which everyone shares information and insights.

A culture that is not inclusive can play out in relationship-building events with colleagues and clients that are centered on traditionally male-dominated activities, such as golfing and fishing. One young woman described being invited along on a ski trip with male colleagues and then uninvited when a colleague’s spouse heard of the plans. The primary advice on this topic is to be aware of who is being excluded when formal and informal relationship-building events are planned. (See PFT Case Study for a well-rounded approach to team building).

If formal approaches to advance women are paired with challenging job assignments, it can create a sense that the culture is inclusive.

Also, if senior leaders are advocating for and mentoring men and women, providing choice roles for both and demanding high performance while accepting a few glitches along the way, women tend to experience the culture as inclusive. “My boss does not favor women. He is equally demanding of the women and men who work for him, and that is all I ask,” said one woman.