Inclusive Promotion in Practice

Inclusive Promotion in Practice – 3 Case Examples

By Inge Woudstra

What does inclusive promotion in practice look like? I’d like to show you how three organisations are implementing inclusive promotion in practice. With these 3 case examples you will see how male allies made a real difference. You will also see how that doesn’t just benefit women, but other groups too.

 1. Inclusive Promotion in Practice – Clear Career Pathways in an Insurance Company’s Tech Department

The Director of  a tech department was keen to ensure that all talent had equal opportunities and implement inclusive promotion in practice. He learned about research findings showing that women tend to be more risk averse about their career choices than men. So, they are less likely to put themselves forward for a new opportunity or stretch role.

Instead of trying to change women’s attitudes towards risk, the Director decided to do something different.

Here’s what he did:

  • Created opportunities for staff to shadow more senior colleagues.
  • Designed a way in which people could try out new roles for 3-6 months, without losing their old ones.
  • Made a wider range of role models visible to staff
  • Created a framework showing a range of career pathways through his department. That way people could see what specific skills and experience they needed to progress.

As a result of his insight and efforts, his department became the most gender- balanced department in the insurance firm. Staff engagement increased across the department.

2. Inclusive Promotion in Practice – Empathy and Listening at an Insurance Firm

The CEO of a large international insurance firm knew from personal experience that a diverse team leads to greater innovation and better staff engagement. He was keen to add more diversity to his Executive Team, which was mainly male. So, whenever a senior vacancy arose, he called  female colleagues whom he considered to be suitable for the role. In the call he asked them why they had not applied for the position.

The CEO carefully listened to the replies and took the feedback into account. For instance he changed the way that roles were described and changed timings and duration of meetings. He then worked hard to persuade them to apply, on the basis that the team required not just their expertise but also their gender lens.

His leadership team is now balanced between men and women. This balance has also had positive ripple effects on staff, as they have noticed different types of role models and valued hearing from leaders with different styles of leadership.

3. Inclusive Promotion in Practice – Clarifying Competencies in an Engineering Consultancy

A consultancy’s management team was keen to develop a more inclusive culture. In working with them to review their way of working, we looked at the way they promoted people. To their surprise, we found that the defined competencies for leadership roles were all about technical and commercial skills. As a result the people skills necessary for the roles were not rated by the assessor. This underrated those who were excellent at building relationships, even though this was a vital skill for the role. Interestingly, this is often an area where women tend to score higher.

When the consultancy recognised that they were assuming people skills, rather than assessing them, they added the previously-assumed skills as additional criteria.

As a second measure, they appointed one of the directors to take responsibility for career development of staff. Previously, it was each person’s own responsibility to progress their own career.

With the benefit of full oversight of all promotions, this new, collective approach to promotion into leadership roles has proved beneficial to a wider variety of people and made the leadership of the organisation more diverse.


I hope these examples of inclusive promotion in practice will inspire more ideas to improve the promotion process.  I would also love to hear your experiences with inclusive promotion – any initiatives that worked or didn’t work, and why you think that was the case.  Do email me.

Keep momentum for inclusion

How to Keep Momentum for Inclusion – a Case Study

By Inge Woudstra

We are all striving to be more inclusive, but how to keep momentum for inclusion? That’s a question many of our clients have, too. Most have undertaken awareness raising campaigns and have several Employee Resource Groups. These are great initiatives to start the conversation.

But starting the conversation is not enough.  You need to keep it going and spread it outwards.  Inclusive behaviour is something everyone needs to embrace; only then will inclusion benefit more people!

Contrary to what we might believe, human beings aren’t naturally inclusive. We tend to gravitate towards people like us. It’s easier to understand someone who is similar, and it’s easier to interpret their actions. So being inclusive requires continuous effort and maintenance. Everyone needs to be reminded of it regularly.  Here, I share with you how one company is doing just that.

How to Keep Momentum for Inclusion – a Telco Case Study

A client in Telco approached us with the following issue around momentum:

We are moving our headquarters, and as a result we expect significant staff turnover. However, we have just raised awareness around inclusion and are now keen to protect and enhance that inclusive culture throughout the change. It’s especially important as inclusion is strategic to us; it’s part of our Employee Value Proposition.  

Can you build a digital solution that we can use for on boarding new staff? It needs to create awareness of inclusion, be about 30 minutes, interactive and memorable.

What We Did

We spent time understanding what had already been communicated about Diversity and Inclusion. Then we interviewed a range of staff to gather real life examples of inclusion (or lack thereof) in the workplace.

Based on these, we designed 10 short videos. In each video, we presented individual inclusive behaviours in a fun, memorable way. The, using work-specific examples, the videos showed 2 options: one option of what a scenario might be like currently, the other how to improve. They also included opportunities for reflection and simple follow up actions.

How It’s Helping our Client to Keep Momentum for Inclusion

Our client introduced the modules organically, as part of a wider induction programme, reaching 40% of staff, with very positive feedback on the videos alone. Later, the company introduced posters showing completion rates per department. They also had senior leaders talking about what they learned, and required those on leadership programmes to watch the videos as preparation.

Three years on, the material is still in play, starting conversations about inclusion on many different levels. The company is now looking at ways to use the videos in team meetings. It’s also looking to support team leaders in talking about inclusive behaviours with the teams.

Gathering momentum around one specific topic like this allowed the company to maintain levels of engagement and to continue to progress towards greater inclusion and diversity.

How You Can Keep Momentum for Inclusion

If you find yourself looking for ways to keep momentum for inclusion and raise awareness, consider the following:

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have we linked inclusion to the strategic objectives of this organisation?
  2. Does every staff member know what is expected?
  3. Is inclusion part of our day-to-day expectations of staff, just like health and safety and data protection?

If not, you will struggle to realise the benefits of diversity – and that is, ultimately, the aim of inclusion.

If you find enthusiasm in your organisation is starting to wane, why not talk to us about rekindling it?

You can reach out to book one of our complementary Ask Me Anything sessions (individual 30-minute D&I mentoring).   If you think we can help, do get in touch.


The #1 objection to diversity, and how to overcome it

Author: Inge Woudstra

How can we get more people on board with diversity and overcome the #1 objection to diversity? When you are starting – or ramping up – your efforts on diversity and inclusion, you may come up against a lot of objections.

Once you start to have conversations, you may well feel like you have opened a can of worms. We’ve been talking about that a lot this month, as it can be both daunting and lonely. You may feel ready to give up or take the safe and comfortable option, and only speak with those in your networks, allies and supporters. While that is a good start, to get results there’s no point just speaking to the converted. You need to get others on board.

So let’s have a closer look at the #1 objection to diversity, after which I will show you what others have done to overcome it.

What is the #1 objection to diversity?

When I work with clients, one of the first concerns they mention is: ‘Of course we are in favour of diversity, but we don’t want to lose out on quality, we don’t want to lower the bar.’ Other ways clients phrase it include: ‘we don’t want to compromise on quality’, ‘there is fierce resistance here to positive discrimination’ and ‘in the end we still do want the best fit for the job’.

What’s behind the #1 objection to diversity?

All of these objections are linked to a persistent belief that in organisations the best rise to the top. However, that belief in a true meritocracy is a myth.

In addition though, there is real fear behind this objection, and it’s important to address that. It’s a fear that springs from a genuine concern about delivering quality work. It’s a desire to achieve the best for stakeholders and clients. And that can only be a good thing.

How to overcome the #1 objection to diversity?

The most powerful way to overcome this objection is to think, ‘Seeing is believing’. How can you show the doubters that they are missing out on real quality? Or better even, that there’s a real benefit to hiring and promoting for diversity? Here are 3 ways people I have worked with have tackled that.

  1. Invite the ‘old guard’ to the selection process, highlight achievements, show it can be done

The Manchester Fire Service invited current firefighters to help shape interview questions and design role plays. Next they were invited to take part in or observe the new assessment process. Once current firefighters saw a diverse range of candidates performing really well in role plays, they could see the value of diversity.

2. Start with a small change

Empiric – a boutique recruitment firm in tech – offer internships in tech firms to girls aged 14-16. The recruitment firm matches schools with their clients. In the feedback from their clients, they hear that adding a teenage girl to an – often all-male – tech team works very well. Often the girls make a significant contribution, and team members see how adding diversity of thought brings new perspectives and new ideas.

3. Start where it is easy

SpringboardPro – an all-male engineering consultancy – started by hiring for diversity where there was a higher chance to find diverse candidates: graduate internships. As a result of targeted and more inclusive recruitment, half the new interns were female. The team appreciated how the new recruits improved work culture, brought new ways of working and a wider variety of perspectives.

What you can do yourself to overcome the #1 objection to diversity

If you are looking for ways to overcome objections to diversity in your organisation, remember to take people’s fears seriously. Listen carefully to what those fears are and what’s behind them, without judgement. You may feel your colleagues should understand that everyone is just as capable, even if they look different. However, if someone has never seen this in action, it may be hard to imagine. So, find a way to help them see it.

After all, ‘Seeing is believing’

If you liked this article, you might also like Inclusion! Backing up our words with our actions.