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Ten actions organizations can take to promote inclusiveness

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To develop an inclusive culture, diversity interventions must be embedded within people and decision processes across all stages of the talent lifecycle. To unlock female talent potential, it’s essential to adopt a hire-to-retire framework where female talent is supported throughout their entire career and beyond.

Develop, assess and measure diversity and inclusion key performance indicators (KPIs) throughout the hire-to-retire career life cycle. The first step to achieving gender parity and diversity is to have an accurate understanding of your current state. Conducting an organization-wide diversity and inclusion (D&I) survey can provide a picture of how employees perceive the current workplace culture. In addition, existing human resource information systems can be used to collect and analyze data throughout the employee lifecycle from recruitment and selection, compensation, training and  development to succession planning and promotions. 

To make an impact and drive change, D&I interventions should be tied to KPIs and business objectives that address your organization’s challenges. Active monitoring of KPIs will help your organization measure if correct interventions have been introduced and identify if additional ones are required to reach yourtarget. These KPIs should also be aligned to the overall diversity objective set by the leadership team.


Cast the net wider for recruitment and strip out bias in selection. Employers point to an insufficient candidate pool as the biggest barrier to hiring more women, but a significant part of the pool, such as women returning from career breaks, remains untapped and underutilized, according to the global Inclusive recruitment in financial services survey. Overcoming this barrier is essential to ensure succession planning and establishing a better proportion of women and minority groups at each stage of the talent pipeline. 

Using technology helps with both broadening the talent pool and removing bias in selection. Twenty-eight percent of women in the financial sector still believe employers are biased toward men during the recruitment process, and unfortunately, this statistic was the same two years ago in Canada. A potential solution for biases is to introduce blind applications that  remove personal information. This will help increase the trust potential candidates have in the process. Organizations are also exploring the latest artificial intelligence (AI) systems to screen applicants during the initial portion of the recruitment process, which can offer a more accurate match between position and candidate and rule out unconscious biases. 


Train interviewers about unconscious biases. Once a candidate has successfully completed the first round of the application process, they will likely interview with a member of the organization, who can be impacted by unconscious biases. Organizations should adopt a systematic approach to recruitment that decreases gender stereotypes and empowers interviewers to be aware of these biases. Unfortunately, candidates that ask more questions regarding life at home and flexibility tend to be regarded as weaker candidates. The request for flexibility shouldn’t be confused with the inability to be successful, according to the same survey. Finally, interviewers may unconsciously favour individuals that are like themselves. But if they’re aware of these potential biases prior to the interviews, then the likelihood of acting on them will decrease.


Develop and share transparent criteria on pay and promotion. Once a candidate has successfully transformed into an employee, the gender equality efforts must continue to retain women in the workplace. Employers can create a positive and fair environment for women by building trust and increasing transparency around pay and promotion criteria. Unfortunately, surveys show many women are unable to trust their superiors regarding promotion opportunities, and there’s a lack transparency around career advancement.

To establish this trust, women need to get the same opportunities as men and witness their employer making a conscious effort to close the wage gap. Creating fair and transparent promotion and appraisal processes as well as providing a clear definition of the promotion criteria will  help employees understand what is expected at the next level. These actions were selected as the top two things employers can do to increase trust.


Provide work experiences that accelerate developmental opportunities. As previously mentioned, women need to trust their bosses are able to give them opportunities that will advance their careers. Managers need to make sure they foster a continuous and open communication channel where women are able to freely share their priorities and goals.

Still, only 59% of women believe the work that was given to them by their superiors truly accelerated their developmental opportunities. Women that have this guidance from senior leaders are seen to have more confidence in their abilities and, ultimately, believe in themselves to lead others in senior roles within the organization.


Create a tangible and accountable sponsorship system to recognize good work and give exposure to senior leaders. Women need to be able to establish a network of sponsors that will develop, promote and champion them, according to our Time to Talk survey. They need sponsors who help them navigate their path to success and who can push them to the next level. This includes a network of advocates either in informal or formal groups with whom they can share experiences and seek advice. Sponsorship from role models of both genders is important. Based on the current state of affairs, there are many more men in positions of power than women and more women who need sponsorship than women alone can support.

To foster this sponsorship, you can align metrics and formal drivers to award those who are advocates of the program and make a conscious effort to create opportunities for women and men. We recommend having an accountable sponsorship system where the sponsor is measured on the progress the mentee makes to give the sponsor both accountability and an incentive to be involved.


Embrace a self-advocacy culture for all. According to our survey, women are beginning to open up discussions with their employers and proactively negotiate raises and promotions. We also observed a strong positive correlation between women who negotiate for a career-enhancing action and getting what they ask for. They’re receiving opportunities at greater frequency than those who don’t negotiate. Introducing a culture of self-advocacy will let women begin to understand that the first person that must promote and champion them is “them.”

It’s important to establish a program or take an action that will establish this self-advocacy trait within women. This program should act as an internal career development program that will help facilitate personal growth alongside professional growth. The development of this program should begin with a needs assessment for the women in your organization. Organizations are developing Women in Leadership programs that help women increase their confidence, network with female role models and understand their strengths.


Develop an off and on ramp to allow for a smooth transition when returning to work with senior leader support. Employees will likely leave their organization at some point in their career, whether it’s for parental leave or an other temporary absence. During this time, employers need to have a process in place to ensure a smooth transition when going on leave and when returning.

What’s more, it’s recommended to have a communication channel open while employees are on leave so they’re not anxious about coming back to the office and are kept up-to-date. Parents and their managers need coaching before and after the leave to help with the transition, and some organizations have started to form informal network groups of parents to support each other.


Create a culture that encourages couples to take a shared parental leave without penalty. Men are a part of this equation, so along with maternity leave, paternity leave should be encouraged. It’s important for all parents, including men, women and those in the LGBT community, to take a leave as needed to make sure they’re creating a positive work-life balance that lets them focus on their family needs.

It’s evident that men value being at home during this important time, as 21% of recent fathers have taken a leave across Canada, and this number is increasing, according to Statistics Canada. Unfortunately, in some countries, industry sectors and organizations, men fear they won’t be seen as serious about their job if they take a parental leave. It’s important to create a culture where all parents feel safe to take parental leave without their career being penalized. As Canada introduces financial incentives on shared parental leave starting June 2019, it’s important to make sure your policies, programs and culture are aligned with the legislations, trends and workforce demands.


Increase female board representation. When a woman retires after a long and successful career in an organization, it’s essential to bring her back through board representation. Canada was at 22.6% female director board representation of FP500 companies in 2017, up 1% from 2016 and double from 2001. Female representation at the board level would empower women within the organization to see a path to executive roles. One of Canada’s Big Five banksbelieves a board made up of highly qualified directors from diverse backgrounds helps them make better decisions. Its board diversity policy includes a goal that each gender comprise at least one-third of the independent directors—and in January 2018, five of its twelve board members were women.


In this era of globalization and innovative workplaces, gender equality is even more important to foster an environment of diversity and inclusion. These 10 methods will help unleash the potential of women in an organization from the point of hiring up until retirement. To learn more about any of these points or additional methodologies, please contact us.

Contact us

Jean McClellan

Jean McClellan

National Consulting People and Organization Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 403 509 7578

Baya  Benouniche

Baya Benouniche

Partner, People and Organization, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5409

Matt Pittman

Matt Pittman

Partner, HR Transformation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 815 5008

Kim Vander Aerschot

Kim Vander Aerschot

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 814 5893

Sofia Theodorou

Sofia Theodorou

Chief People Officer, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 9233

Ellen Corkery Dooher

Ellen Corkery Dooher

Federal Government & Public Sector Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 613 755 5901

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