5 Minute Read

Making Change for Gender Equity

By Elisa van Dam
October 29, 2021


Recently the White House’s Gender Policy Council issued the US’s first-ever national gender strategy to advance the full participation of all people. This new policy from the Biden-Harris administration aims to achieve gender equity through 10 key priorities including improving economic security, increasing access to health care, and reducing gender-based violence. It’s a really interesting study in making change for gender equity.

Vision + implementation + accountability

What I particularly appreciate about the strategy is that it includes key factors that are required for success:

  • An inspiring vision
  • Clear areas of focus
  • A call to action
  • A timeline
  • Accountability
  • Flexibility for each agency to chart its own course within the framework

In addition, I was struck by the requirement to set at least one goal that can be established immediately, without additional resources. It’s a great reminder that many changes are already in our control – we just have to take the initiative.

No resources required: sponsorship

One way of making a change in nearly everyone’s control is to act as a sponsor for someone from an underrepresented group. Here at the Institute for Inclusive Leadership, we define sponsorship as “leveraging relationship capital for the advancement of others” or, to put it another way, acting as a champion and promoting the advancement of someone else. Your endorsement sends a powerful message that can open doors and provide opportunities that help both the person you sponsor and the organization.

No/low resources required: small wins

Another way to make change is to look for “small wins.” These are small changes to how work gets done in your organization – whether that’s when meetings are scheduled or how job descriptions are written. Look for situations where diversity, equity, inclusion, and/or belonging aren’t what they should be, and try to identify the root causes. You will start to see areas where small wins could be beneficial. When you do, try out a small win, assess the impact, make tweaks and try again. Over time, and as people see the benefits from these changes, small wins can snowball and have a significant impact.

Starting from a strong foundation

Your actions as a change agent will be much more successful if you are building from a strong foundation. As our new Inclusive Leader’s Playbook points out, inclusive leaders need to take deliberate actions to understand their own bias, value equity, partner for success, and advocate for belonging, as well as acting as a sponsor and change agent.

These resources can help you learn more about these critical steps:

Becoming Aware: The First Step Toward Inclusive Leadership

Becoming Aware [Webinar Recording & Moderator Insights]

What is the “B” in DEIB?

Becoming an Ally & Upstander [Webinar Recording & Moderator Insights]

New! The Inclusive Leader’s Playbook: This easy-to-use guide offers a wealth of tips and techniques for fostering a mindset of inclusion and creating a culture of equity in your organization. Available now on Amazon.com.

Join Our Free Webinar series

Becoming a Change Agent is the last session in our free Inclusive Leadership in Action webinar series. Join us on November 18 to learn how to sponsor people from underrepresented groups and make changes in how work gets done so that everyone has equal access to opportunities. Register now.