Harness the opportunity presented by restructures

Don’t look now but your female talent pipeline may have sprung a leak.

The good news is that by becoming aware of the problem, you are not only half way to fixing it but also to creating a solution for your organisation that is effective, low risk, low cost and that may never have been done before.

Have I got your attention?

First, the problem. We have been seeing anecdotal evidence that some of our leading companies are allowing quality female talent to walk out the door.

The people – perhaps you – who are spending so much time, effort and money recruiting outstanding women and then retaining them are seeing their efforts wasted as their organisations plan and execute a restructure and the associated job shedding with no consideration given to what this might do to diversity efforts.

A disconnect between these business functions is seeing female talent enter through one door only to exit through another.

It appears that the opportunity presented by restructures to retain women and improve the proportion of female talent at an executive or leadership level and even to promote women internally is there for the taking.

In an Op Ed in The Age recently public service consultant Lea Corbett asked, Where have all the women gone, Premier?

The article refers to a restructure of the public service executive ranks last month after Denis Napthine became Premier of Victoria. Two new male department heads were added leaving only one female department secretary. What a missed opportunity to promote two suitably qualified women to improve diversity at the top of Victoria’s bureaucracy?

Ms Corbett wrote that only 18 months ago “Victoria led the national field with the highest percentage of women in department head positions – even if with a paltry 36% (or four out of 11),” Now, only one department secretary is female.

It is a great example of what can happen in a relatively short amount of time when there is no connection between the talent pipeline coming in and all other executive workforce planning.

We at Optimiss have heard real stories from the private sector of the loss of female talent and a plea for advice on how to stem the losses.

Restructures offer companies a rare opportunity to achieve positive discrimination in a way that creates less noise and carries fewer risks – all at a lower cost. Here is how.

First, do the math. We know what gets measured, gets done so add up what is being spent on diversity efforts and the cost of having to re-do any work if female numbers dwindle. Carry out a separate costing of the estimated gains to the organisation of gender diversity using all measures available plus any specific achievements of the females in the executive ranks.

Next, outline why using positive discrimination via restructure is low risk and low cost. The women in your organisation and their achievements are well known to the organisation. The women are also already on board and contributing to the success of your organisation so keeping them costs nothing and poses no risk.

Understand the low noise impact offered by positive discrimination via restructure. Unlike quotas or even a deliberate positive discrimination recruitment campaign, ensuring the organisation makes a conscious effort to keep qualified women when choosing between similarly qualified executives for redundancy will boost the numbers of females in the executive ranks almost overnight but in a comparatively subtle way.

Know your champions. Who can you get on board to support your idea? Who else does it benefit? Can you garner support from those designing the people side of restructures plus specific senior line managers keen to keep their female high performers?

Get your CEO on board. Articulating the business case for a positive discrimination initiative such as this is a great way to get the CEO engaged in gender equality discussions more generally and to re-state all the business benefits of the work you do.

If you need assistance in putting your case together, our consulting side of the business stands ready to support you. Just give us a call.