D&I : Gender Parity | Template Guide


The Gender Parity template, part of the Axis Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) series, provides a proven framework to catalyze progress on workplace gender parity. It enables organisations to have an honest and action-orientated conversation on this crucial issue.

Note: this template, as for all the ones that will be published under the I&D filter, is free of any participant limitations! So, if you are a user on the free plan, you can run this session with unlimited participants.

1. Template structure

The sessions objective is to define and prioritise ideas that ensure the retention and development of female talent through the ‘pinched middle’ stage of their career to build a sustainable pipeline of future female leaders. Participants will explore the context, generate themes, create ideas, prioritize them and identify next steps to address the key question of the session:

Given the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace, how can we enable women to achieve their full potential?

The session is structured as follows:

I. Context: Rose, Thorn, Bud

This stage is about setting the context for the discussion and identifying relevant themes to help focus idea creation. Through the activity Rose, Thorn, Bud, participants can identify existing bright spots where progress is being made, current barriers and challenges and opportunities for improvement. This is a great way to get people thinking about the various aspects of gender parity and develop a clear set of themes.

Key themes we have seen covered in this section include: the good and bad of working from home, the role of mentoring and relatable role models, mindsets and behaviours, promotion criteria and the impact of networks and networking.

This is a critical opportunity to hear lived experience with real-life examples. Once everyone understands the true nature and scale of the challenge and the collective view of where the focus needs to be, it is time to move into the Create stage.

II. Creation: Creative Matrix

Through the Creative Matrix, the participants will be able to take a structured approach to identify ideas for change against the themes defined in the Frame stage of the session. Participants will be able to create ideas and place them across two dimensions:

  • Idea category: Career paths, performance mgmt., culture, policies and other. These are key dimensions for delivering gender parity based upon research and practical experience
  • Time horizon: Next 3 months, 3-12 months, 12+ months

Be both practical and innovative and aspirational with a good mix of quick wins and longer-term and more substantive change across the categories. The right path will vary for each organisation given its specific context. To help you get started here are some ideas that we have seen running this session:

  • Mandatory training, including taking an unconscious bias test
  • Totally transparent requirements for performance management and promotion with a focus on impact vs. 'who you know'
  • Promote the case for gender parity and create a culture of calling-out bad behaviour
  • Establish active networks and coaching schemes

III. Evaluation: Dot Voting + 2D Matrix

During this stage, the participants will collectively prioritise the ideas they have generated. Firstly through dot voting to select the top 10-15. And then through a 2D matrix to understand the relative return on effort. This enables the identification of quick wins and big bets and the final selection of ideas to take forward into execution.

IV. Action: Action List

The last stage of the session is critical to drive action. Against each idea collectively agree actions with owners and due dates.

2. The research by Unida

Unida is a D&I consulting firm that develops deep workforce insights; creates diversity strategies, and offers tailored solutions. They have extensive experience of interviewing, researching, and analysing data to provide practical steps that help organisations achieve gender parity in the workplace. Unida has managed, mentored, and assisted in the development of the careers of many women and work closely with leadership teams to help them implement their D&I strategies.

Among the vast research on the topic of diversity and inclusion, The Pinched Middle is a critical report we recommend the facilitator to read ahead of the session session.

This research focuses on managers and senior managers and the challenges that they face at a key point of progression in their careers whilst balancing an increasingly busy and demanding home life.

Get Unida research here

3. Top tips

Before the session

  • Share the Unida research, suggest participants take an unconscious bias test and if possible share research into the current progress on gender parity in your organisation so everyone understands the facts
  • Select the right attendees - ideally, you want people who bring lived experience in addition to decision-makers who can drive the session outcome through the organisation
  • Perform a dry-run by selecting the template and running it with a couple of colleagues

How many participants should attend the session? It depends on your goal! We recommend:

> a smaller group (5 - 15 participants) if the priority is deep discussion and sharing of personal experiences

> a larger group (15+ participants, up to 40-50) if the objective is to create a truly collective view and cross-organisational ownership of the outcome

During the session

  • Make use of the timer to keep the session on track and to give people discreet periods to think independently
  • Remind your participants that every input submitted through the platform is completely anonymous! This will help you collect more honest and accurate inputs from your audience, particularly in relation to lived experience, which is enormously powerful
  • Take screenshots of any visual element (e.g. 2D matrix output) so that they can be used in any future analysis and communication in conjunction with the Excel download

Suggested questions for the facilitator to spark discussion among participants:

  • Does anyone want to build on this point? Is this something others have experienced?
  • Are people surprised by this? How does it make you feel?
  • Can anyone provide further insight, do we know why this is the case?
  • Is this something we have looked at before, was it successful, if not, why not?
  • How can we progress this with pace and certainty, what barriers would we need to overcome and how?

After the session

  • Download the output and share the results with your participants and wider stakeholders to stimulate further action and debate
  • Organise a follow-up session to dig deeper into particular areas and / or track progress on the agreed actions
  • Embed a sprint-based approach to execution with regular sessions. Use the Axis retrospective template to create focus and a mindset of continuous improvement
  • Establish a wider gender parity programme, spurred on by the insight and action generated by the session

Here are some great resources to help maximise the impact of your sessioness and inform your organisation's journey to gender parity.

  • Getting to Equal 2018: Creating a culture where everyone thrives report by Accenture (here)
  • Global research on the gender gap and the case for greater diversity in the workplace by McKinsey & Co. (here)
  • Harvard's Gender - Career Implicit Association Test (here)

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[1] Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

[2] Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

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