Do Your Employees Know Where You Stand on Gender Diversity?

The folks who work over at Google know how their CEO feels about gender diversity in the workplace. When a male software engineer at the tech giant published a 10-page memo entitled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" that decried Google's gender diversity initiatives, Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, responded by firing him.

Sixty-six percent of women who work at Google say their CEO supports gender diversity in the workplace, according to research conducted by Fairygodboss, an online platform that offers company reviews and workplace resources for women workers. In fact, 64 percent of women in the broader tech sector feel the same way, and 60 percent of women workers in the general workforce do also, the research shows. But do your workers know how you feel about the issue?

Taking a Stand Employees Can See

It's important that workers know where the boardroom stands on issues such as diversity, but if the company isn't running proper employee engagement initiatives to keep a finger on the pulse of the workforce, executives may end up clueless about how their workers view them.

"People in leadership positions — particularly CEOs — run a high risk of not knowing how employees really feel," says Georgene Huang, one of Fairygodboss's founders. "This is because nobody wants to be the messenger that tells their CEO that their staff is unhappy or suspects they don't care about something important like gender diversity. There's a real danger that there is an echo chamber of happy news around a CEO. Therefore, if a CEO really wants to find out what their workforce thinks, they should survey them anonymously."

If a CEO should find that their employees don't know where the company stands, they need to do two things.

"First, communicate their position; this can be in a speech or company-wide memo, video, or presentation to staff," Huang says. "Second, take actions that back up that position. This can mean forming a task force to investigate equal pay and promotion issues, setting a company-wide diversity goal, or implementing policies and programs that demonstrate a commitment to gender diversity."

At the end of the day, it comes down to transparency with the workforce, with the press, and with other executives.

"The CEOs that support gender diversity are making their positions loud and clear," Huang says.

Leaders at Apple, Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Intel, IBM, Square, GoDaddy, Zynga, and Dell have come out publicly in support of gender diversity.

"This is not just about PR for these employers, but about making real investments in programs, policies, benefits, and cultural change," Huang says. "This effort is commonly remarked upon by women in our community who work at these companies and review their employers. While no company is ever perfect on matters of gender equality, making an effort can be felt by female employees. Almost without exception, these companies specifically talk about how their company is 'trying' or 'moving in the right direction.'"

Speak Out: Your Brand Demands It

"I think it's very damaging to an employer's brand to be seen as having leadership that does not support gender diversity," Huang says. "A reputation for not caring about gender diversity and equality will obviously make it harder — if not impossible — to attract talented female employees. There will also likely be an associated employee morale and retention problem."

Huang notes that the failure to support gender diversity can also have negative repercussions outside of recruiting and HR, hurting an organization's sales and marketing success.

"Consumers and clients care about purchasing products and services from companies that reflect their values, so this could also hurt a company's bottom line," Huang says.

If you're an executive, don't delay on engaging your workforce. Let them know that issues that affect them are important to you. Failing to do so could have drastic consequences for your brand, your profit margin, and your ability to attract and retain top talent.

So, tell us, CEO: How do you feel about gender diversity?