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We’ve all read the stats. Companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.

McKinsey & Company’s “Why Diversity Matters” series demonstrates that companies in the top quartile for gender, racial or ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above national industry averages. Likewise, a study documented in Harvard Business Review, states that “firms with more women in the C-suite are more profitable.” And while women make up nearly 50 per cent of the labour force, they still only hold about 12 per cent of board seats in Canada and less than 10 per cent of the highest-paid positions in the country’s top 100 listed companies.

It seems that workplace diversity — and particularly on boards, in management roles, and among senior executives — is still a thorny issue for many organizations. That is why it has never been more important for women to know their value and to build their visibility as experts and leaders. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Make yourself seen and heard: Award-winning author, educator and women’s advocate, Shari Graydon, believes that if you want to create change: “It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” In her presentation for leading global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, Ms. Graydon underscored the importance of putting the time and effort into building an increased profile by speaking up at meetings or writing online newspaper commentaries. She says this kind of profile “makes it easier to exert influence and get phone calls returned.” She also suggests that taking the seat opposite your CEO at a meeting or boardroom table, or volunteering for a high-stakes assignment, is as important as the behind-the-scenes work of building your network. Ultimately it all adds up to increasing your profile and making yourself seen and heard in meaningful ways.

Build a web of support: Use the multiplier effect to your advantage by engaging others in activities that support diversity in the workplace. An excellent case in point (as outlined in this Fortune article): SAP hosts a monthly “Women’s Professional Growth” webcast that has reached more than 11,000 people in more than 40 countries. The key here is to create an opportunity to band together as a community, and build a web of support made up of people who are willing to work for the same goals and drive change in the organization. This can go a long way to creating better peer relationships, building cultural understanding and opening up honest dialogue around diversity issues.

Know your value: According to executive recruiter, Jane Griffith, when it comes to putting themselves forward for jobs or promotions, women tend to play down their strengths and experiences even when they are qualified for the opportunity. A partner at Odgers Berndtson and the firm’s National Diversity Leader, Ms. Griffith says that she often counsels women to be less humble and to talk more about their successes. “Women tend to speak more about their soft skills such as communication, collaboration and stakeholder management, all of which are key to effective leadership,” says Ms. Griffith. “But they need to place more emphasis on their achievements. I think to really affect positive change over time, women need to know their whole value and be ready to communicate that value every opportunity they get.”

Think about the bigger picture: Remember making yourself more visible isn’t just about you. As Ms. Graydon points out, “When you speak up you have no real way of predicting the ripple effect you will have, whether it’s in terms of the contribution you make to your company, your industry or something in the broader world.” It’s also why Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to negotiate for a higher salary when they’re up for a promotion. And it’s why Malala Yousafzai continues to fight for education on behalf of disadvantaged children (and especially girls) from around the world. Ultimately, it’s not just for their own sakes, but for all women who come after them.

 


 
 
 

 
 

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