Research - 14.09.2021 - 00:00 

Leaders for Equality: A new toolbox for executives

In order to drive cultural change within an organization, strong leadership is required. Comprehensive transformation can take place when a vision is performed in everyday practices. The Research Institute for Organizational Psychology supports firms striving to make changes towards equal opportunity work environments.

14 September 2021. The survey of almost 1,200 Swiss managers from December 2020, conducted by the Research Institute for Organizational Psychology (OPSY-HSG) showed that the majority of male managers are motivated to achieving equal opportunities within the company and the majority of them have been already actively making these changes in their organizations. However, the study found that how organizations embrace equal opportunity has not reached its full potential yet. This means that blinds spots exist and there are still some concerns, fears and questions that need to be addressed. Willing managers in return ask for concrete measures: What exactly needs to be done? What areas need our attention?

Equal opportunity work environments

Seeing the big picture does not always easily translate into the day-to-day work of managers and executives. What sometimes is needed is a tool that can provide concrete training, an exchange of ideas, and the ability to reflect on actions already put into place in order to take a larger vision and make it a reality. Finding solutions to equality such as increasing the proportion of women in management requires a complex change process on the part of the organization as well as the employees.

That is why a team of researchers at OPSY-HSG including Prof. Dr. Julia Nentwich and Dr. Gabriele Schambach has developed an Online Toolbox to support managers attempting to undertake these actions. The first tool in the toolbox provides an organizational diagnosis constructed from international research and standards. By first participating in a questionnaire, a baseline on where firms stand will be given. This data provides crucial knowledge about the state of managers’ engagement for equality and identifies areas where action needs to be taken. The next step is to move from knowledge to action. 25 distinctive gender-inclusive leadership practices are introduced in a hands-on manual contributing to four over-arching objectives: "Developing a culture of equality," "Demanding fairness," "Supporting and promoting women," and "Facilitating work-life integration."

Creating common ground crucial for cultural change

Even though a company and its executives and managers are committed to change, an inability to realize these changes is a common occurrence and it has to do with a lack of understanding of different perspectives and positions. Particularly, men and women in leadership positions hold very different views when it comes to gender equality in the company. Creating common ground is crucial for cultural change to happen. As a first step, there is a need to exchange views and ideas. This dialogue between managers, men and women, is supported by the "gender dialogues" tool. The short video clips narrate crucial gender equality topics and help initiate conversations between women and men. These conversations are a first step towards understanding the different perspectives.

Those curious to understand how the route to gender equality can be developed and the particularly crucial role of managers in this journey, are invited to listen to one of the video interviews presented in the toolbox. Managers experienced in gender equality activities share their insights and inspiration and act as role models spreading the word.

Identifying a need for culture change within an organization is difficult and making a change towards having a more gender-balanced organization is not always easy to achieve. The research being done by the OPSY-HSG team of researchers strives to provide firms with the know-how and the tools to make these changes possible. The testimonials presented in the toolbox show exactly this: Gender equality can become a reality!

Prof. Dr. Julia Nentwich and Dr. Gabriele Schambach lead the project "Leaders for Equality: Leaders taking Opportunities" at the University of St.Gallen ( On September 14 at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., there will be the opportunity to get to know the toolbox in person during the workshops of the 5th St. Gallen Diversity & Inclusion Week.

Picture: Photocase/ Goran Bogicevic

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