Project Management

Guest Post: Building Exceptional Cross-Gender Partnerships

From the People, Planet, Profits & Projects Blog
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Richard Maltzman
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Today I have the pleasure of providing you with a guest post from Kris Kohl, who also is the author of Becoming a Sustainable Organization - an excellent book on the project management intersection with sustainability.  In this post, though, she's focused on the People portion of People, Planet, Profits, and Projects.

Enjoy the post.


During a recent presentation on “Female Empowerment”, I was asked the question, “Does the “Me Too” trend really just needed more time to bring equality for females and males in the workplace?” I opened up the answer to the women in the room and the responses varied but were in agreement on the point that women reaching equality in the workplace is not just a function of time. We need policy, process, and people changes in order to support our career, family, and lifestyle choices. The workplace of today needs to be more inclusive in order to ensure that our organizations not only survive but also thrive.


Globally women face numerous challenges. According to a World Bank Report, 155 countries have at least one law impeding women’s economic progress. Even in the U.S., only a few organizations offer both maternity and paternity leave.  Women are often the providers of free care for children and the elderly.  As I discuss in my book, Becoming a Sustainable Organization, even in the OECD countries there is a “motherhood tax” versus a “fatherhood bonus.” Gender roles and pay gaps persist.  According to the WSJ, women earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by men and Hispanic women only earn 54 cents.


As we look to the C-suite, the WSJ reports that women are 47% of the workforce but only 26% of senior management. They represent only 11% of top earners. As leaders women serve as 5.2% of the S&P 500 CEOs. We continue to see the “Me Too” movement as a major trend for 2018. While organizations and their leaders clearly have challenges, we also see opportunities.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, women make up 56% of the college graduates in 2017. The talent pool of highly qualified candidates is tipping toward female. From an organizational performance perspective, McKinsey research shows that organizations’ with gender diversity outperform by 15% non-gender diverse companies. At the leadership level, a 10% increase in diversity at the senior level leads to .8x increase in EBITDA.  These benefits come from expanding market opportunities as your workforce becomes more reflective of your customer base. Winning the talent war in terms of attracting the best and brightest from a diverse talent pool. Improving organizational reputation with both internal and external stakeholders as leadership builds an inclusive workplace to support a diverse workforce. Leveraging a diverse group to drive innovation.


In order to build exceptional gender-based workplace partnerships, we take a page from Appreciative Inquiry, focusing on the positive rather than the negative. We ask employees, what is the best experience that you have had with your organization? When did you feel most excited about your involvement? What made the experience exciting? How were you supported and empowered in that situation? Who was involved and how did they behave? What resources were available and which ones were most important to your success? As we begin this process of asking what is working and building on positive experience, we lift up our successes as best practices and lessons learned to share across the organization and beyond. To succeed, we must collaborate across the organization including all genders and diverse groups in the process.


Figure 1

In Figure 1, Creating an Inclusive Organization, we layout a continuous improvement process to build a more inclusive organization. As we expand this process across the organization, we can create an inclusive environment to make all employees feel welcome and valued. Begin with a needs assessment, make inclusivity a foundational pillar of the organization, create a strategy to embed inclusion in the culture, implement, and continuously improve the process.

In order to promote female empowerment, we must balance power by integrating women at the most senior level.  In order to create a more inclusive culture, women need a voice in strategy and policy decisions. Developing workplace structures to support both careers and families including mid career “off ramps” and “on ramps” allows for fluid movement between roles. Intentionally include women in conversations around program design, analysis, and measurement allows for their in put in the development of the “rules” for success. As project managers, evenly distribute who gets the “Goldie Locks” projects so that all have an opportunity to shine.

A gender diverse workforce is good for society and business. However, females need to be integrated across all levels of the organization in order to create an inclusive and equitable workplace. Using Appreciative Inquiry as a tool is a way to focus on the positive and to reallocate time, attention and resources to what is working in the realm of female empowerment. Together, we can drive positive change within our organizations and society by removing the barriers to female gender equality.


Kristina Kohl, MBA, PMP

[email protected]

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: February 13, 2018 04:58 PM | Permalink

Comments (14)

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I have very high interest in sustainability and green buildings.

Sometimes it is hard to find certain trade in the opposite gender so I guess it takes time to develop the balance, but having an increase on the earning before income tax depreciation and amortization would make great sense.
Thanks for sharing this valued information and encouraging to more sustainability.

The statistic info about the percentage of Hispanic women is really staggering, but if we can get more numbers from other countries that would certainly be more worse and scary figures.

Good article and thanks for sharing.

Another eye opener. Thanks.

Thank you Richard for sharing an informative article.
Women are equally qualified and capable of delivering results as men do and at times even more. Removing the barriers based on gender difference can help organizations become more productive and competent.

Very good, thanks for sharing

Sustainable Management.

Women are always the key part of successfully organization. The organizations who really give values to empower the women, always have positive results.

Thanks, excellent article.

Thank you for your comments and feedback. I'm happy to connect with you to further this discussion.

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