The inclusion solution

Empowering women for higher performance

Three women two men round table meetingWhen it comes to promoting gender diversity, many organizations have completed only half the job.
Just recruiting a gender-diverse workforce is not enough. Organizations need to actively cultivate inclusion among women. Unfortunately, too many organizations fail to recognize that empowerment is not a number, but a feeling. It is not something to be ticked off a checklist. To succeed, organizations must invest in tailored diversity and inclusion programs that map to their values in an authentic way. It’s about the recognition that all employees have a vital role in creating a diverse business world.

Simply put: organizations need both diversity and inclusion. While diversity brings more voices to the table, inclusion brings out their best ideas.

A study on inclusive decision-making found that inclusive groups make better-quality decisions 87% of the time, work two times faster with half the meetings, suffer from less cognitive bias or groupthink, and deliver a greater number of product innovations. Moreover, 83% of millennials are actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive culture.

In a recent podcast, Grant Thornton female leaders Karen Hudson, Wendy Wright, Miriam Oh and Katherine Herrick shared their insights on the inclusion solution and how actively promoting an inclusive culture that embraces gender diversity drives business performance and innovation. Listen to all their insights below.

Bradley Preber “A gender-inclusive firm doesn’t just hire more women — it incorporates the diversity of their thoughts, voices and ideas into the fabric of the organization.”
Brad Preber, CEO
Grant Thornton LLP
Grant Thornton CEO Brad Preber noted that “A gender-inclusive firm doesn’t just hire more women — it incorporates the diversity of their thoughts, voices and ideas into the fabric of the organization.”

While organizations clearly have work to do to actively promote inclusion, they are making strides.  According to Grant Thornton International’s 2020 Women in Business survey, 40% of senior leaders report that they personally encouraged colleagues to speak up with ideas and issues. A third encourage others in senior management to be champions for women, instill new working practices to better engage all employees, and visibly consider the full talent pool for progression into leadership roles.

However, only a fifth of senior leaders admit to discussing unconscious bias openly, and just slightly more than a fifth (22%) hold senior colleagues to account for not treating women appropriately.

Women in business senior leader actions to promote chart

Jigna Shah“It is critical that leaders are bold in their actions and sincere in their words when demonstrating inclusivity.”

Jigna Shah, Grant Thornton Senior Manager, Transaction Services- Integrations & Separations
Grant Thornton LLP
Jigna Shah, Grant Thornton Senior Manager, Transaction Services - Integrations & Separations, suggested that the best way senior leaders can promote inclusion among women is to model and reward the change they want to see. “They need to promote women to important and visible roles, be curious by keeping up with the research about gender diversity and inclusion, and ask questions to continuously learn and minimize unconscious bias,” she said. “It is critical that leaders are bold in their actions and sincere in their words when demonstrating inclusivity.”

It’s important that senior leaders actively promote and initiate conversation about inclusivity in the workplace, agreed Aimee Liu, Grant Thornton Senior Associate, Risk Services. “Senior leaders need to support the similarities of what both men and women want such as being paid and evaluated equally, but also accept and act on the differences, such as how women’s personal lives and responsibilities can create tension with their work.”

It is those differences that can contribute to high-performing organizations. As Sade Baker, Grant Thornton Senior Associate, Transaction Advisory Services explained, “An inclusive culture motivates me to bring my whole self to work and produce the highest quality possible because I feel values and that my overachieving efforts are not in vain. An inclusive culture breeds people who are not concerned about their efforts going unnoticed; thus, they are more driven to be innovative and continuously push themselves toward greater.”

So what is holding organizations back from moving the needle on inclusivity? The fear of change tops the list. “A fundamental fear of change is one of the reasons holding organizations back from cultivating gender diversity and inclusion,” Shah said. “But the reward is worth the risk. The first organization to achieve this transformation will not only be the most innovative in the market, it will also be the most admired and sought after by clients and employee prospects alike.”

Culture change is another reason that we’re not there yet with cultivating true inclusivity for women in the workplace. Liu noted, “Companies have historically made it the responsibility of minority groups to help raise awareness and develop programs for employees in the minority, but we need to build partnerships. Men should be more involved in developing programs or joining conversations to create a place where both men and women can discuss their work initiatives and for everyone to be accountable for the results.”

Angelica Roiz, Grant Thornton Partner, Audit Services, suggests that the best way senior leaders, men or women, can champion a sense of inclusion among women is by serving as advocates for themselves and others.

“The best way I've found to do that is to lead by example and encourage others to do the same,” she said. “Don't assume you have to say ‘no’ to opportunities before you've even tried them. Give yourself and others on your team the chance to decide for themselves whether or not something makes sense for their career path rather than choosing to make that decision for them as a leader because you think you’re acting in their best interest. Advocacy and mentorship go a long way.”

Katherine Herrick, Grant Thornton Advisory Marketing Leader and Associate Director, Marketing Solutions and Industry, agreed that accountability and measurement are critical to instilling a culture of inclusivity. “When accountability isn’t measured, it’s hard to track and hard to enforce,” she said. “Even if a business has the best intentions of driving diversity of thought or elevating women and promoting fairness of opportunity, if there isn’t some mechanism for measurement in place, you’ll never know if you’re moving the needle to drive accountability.”

She added, “Leadership needs to be clear in what the desired outcomes are, map those goals and then measure progress and hold the business accountable.”

Inclusion in the workplace means that every employee feels heard, valued and empowered. A culture of inclusion fosters an environment with a true sense of belonging, one where a diverse community can bring their whole selves to work.

The time is now for organizations to put some power behind empowering women in the workforce to drive productivity, performance and the energy to drive new ideas. A culture of inclusivity is the best way to scale diversity to meet the challenges of businesses today and tomorrow.

March 8, 2020, is International Women’s Day. An equal world is an enabled world.  Take action today to embrace and promote gender diversity and inclusivity. #EachforEqual.


Karen HudsonKaren Hudson
Chief Sales Officer
T +1 612-677-5219

Wendy WrightWendy Wright
Director, Organizational Effectiveness
T +1 816-412-2679

Oh MiriumMiriam Oh

Director, Private Equity
T +1 203-327-8387

Katherine HerrickKatherine Herrick

Advisory Marketing Leader and Associate Director, Marketing Solutions and Industry
T +1 408-216-8531