This question comes up a lot, especially when I’m talking to senior leaders. The last thing an organization wants to do is alienate women, or give special treatment to someone just because of their gender. They don’t want it to backfire and they don’t want men to feel like they are being put at a disadvantage. They don’t want to make the gender gap worse by calling attention to it.
These are real concerns. Equality is not about putting genders against each other, it’s about creating a culture where people can thrive and things are better for everybody (and yes this includes men).
What I love about this loaded question is that there is real evidence to answer it. The truth is, when women thrive at work, everybody thrives at work. BCG conducted a global study on ambition and gender and found that supporting women to be more ambitious did not put men at a disadvantage. In fact, the opposite was true. In companies who had made the most progress on gender diversity, both men and women were more ambitious. The programs that supported women to strive for that next level in their career literally raised the bar for everybody. When more women are striving for leadership roles, more men strive for leadership roles as well.
This tells us that ambition is indeed contagious and by investing in women you actually open the door for everybody to be more ambitious. It’s about supporting women to bring out the best in themselves, which encourages other people to do the same. It’s about creating a culture where everybody can thrive and organizations can nurture and grow their talent. It’s about building a diverse pipeline of capable people that organizations can tap into for succession planning.