7. Embed and communicate the strategy

Once your organisation’s vision, strategy and actions are ready, it is time to communicate your strategy to employees and other stakeholders. It is important for the organisation to have clear and consistent messages outlining the data analysis, business case and vision. All leaders should understand and communicate consistent messages.

Communication and engagement with stakeholders is essential for the success of the strategy, as stakeholders often appreciate being asked for their input, which can make them more supportive of change.

Communicating and implementing gender equality policies and strategies is the foundation for change. However cultural change can be slow and complex. The organisational change process towards gender equality will be the longest step in the process and requires constant maintenance to ensure the process does not lose momentum.

The success of your strategy also depends on visible and ongoing leadership commitment. Research shows it is important for leaders to model positive behaviours in order to encourage all stakeholders to embrace cultural change.1

Before you release any details of the change process it is crucial that all policies and actions must be ready for execution. For example, all documentation and support to roll out flexible work or parental leave should be in place. Once the strategy has been announced, employees and other stakeholders will start to form expectations and your organisation must be ready to begin the execution in key gender equality focus areas. It is also important that plans are in place to manage any backlash that may arise.

The release of the strategy is an important moment and can be accompanied by an event or organisation-wide meeting to highlight that it is a significant initiative which involves staff at all levels.

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Things to consider for your communication strategy:

  • Will you use social media? If so, which channels and who will you target?
  • Are there internal networks you should reach out to?
  • Will formal language or a more conversational style be most effective?
  • Is there a key event, a product launch or strategic milestone that you can leverage as an opportunity to communicate your gender equality work?
  • How best to handle any further communication from stakeholders. For optimal engagement, your strategy should not just be announcements, but rather a two-way flow of messages, inputs, debate and discussion. Consider creating steering groups or committees to encourage employee participation and buy-in.
  • Whether large or small, activity in all organisations runs on incentives. Incentives can include financial rewards, linking outcomes to remuneration, recognition via rewards programs, or other employee benefits that recognise participation and impact. Consider what rewards or sanctions are available to incentivise leaders and other employees to dedicate their time, energy and influence to bring your gender equality strategy to life. What do your people have to offer, and what incentives are needed to get them involved?

1 Kotter, John P. 1995, Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail, Harvard Business Review, Issue: March-April, pp. 59-67

  • key messages
  • target audiences
  • lines of responsibility for communications
  • time frames / scheduling / frequency of messaging
  • any communications for media.
  • a plan for managing backlash.

The communication objectives supporting the gender strategy should:

  • explain – articulate the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the gender strategy
  • educate – equip stakeholders with the knowledge and confidence they need to articulate and promote the gender strategy
  • engage – motivate and inspire stakeholders to actively contribute to the gender equality journey
  • convey - a sense of ownership for successful outcomes at all levels.

Examples of key messages:

Communications need to be tailored to specific individuals and groups of stakeholders, outlining the benefits of the gender equality strategy and expected roles and responsibilities in supporting progress on gender equality.

Audience Key messages
  • reinforce evidence-based business benefits – benefits include better decision-making and risk management
  • the leadership role of directors in promoting gender equality at the board level
  • the ambassadorial role of board members in relation to gender equality
  • the board should set expectations of executives to drive gender equality
  • the board should role-model gender-inclusive recruitment and composition
  • communicate to external stakeholders (including shareholders) the commitment to gender equality and its benefits
  • demonstrate accountability for gender equality to the board
  • consistently advocate the business case for gender equality
  • drive gender strategy and own progress and outcomes
  • cascade accountability for gender equality through direct reports
  • ensure that gender equality strategy and policies align with expectations of internal stakeholders (including employees), shareholders, customers and suppliers
  • executives to role-model gender-inclusive leadership
  • reinforce business benefits of gender equality (improved engagement and performance)
Human resource and/or diversity practitioners
  • facilitate (not own) gender solutions (project management, subject-matter expertise)
  • coach, influence and appropriately challenge leaders and managers
  • act as change agents in the organisation
  • articulate and promote the business case for gender equality
  • role-model gender equality best practice and gender inclusive behaviour
  • responsible for ensuring gender equality compliance obligations are met
  • why gender equality is a ‘win-win’ for employees and the organisation
  • everyone has a role in creating and maintaining a gender-inclusive culture – through inclusive and collaborative behaviours
  • ideas and feedback on the change process and how the organisation can become more gender equitable will be welcomed and taken seriously
  • everyone should have the same opportunity to contribute, succeed, realise their potential, and be fairly rewarded, irrespective of gender or other differences
  • how people can get involved in making a difference
External stakeholders
  • begin engaging with individuals and groups of stakeholders on the topic of gender equality. Refer to positive internal and external developments involving clients, competitors and industry groups
  • ask supportive, credible leaders among your stakeholders to influence their peers
  • embed gender equality messaging into regular, routine business communications from leaders, highlight role-models and position the organisation as an industry leader and shaper
  • develop a social procurement policy.