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Organisational Culture as a Catalyst for Societal Change: The Case of Gender Equality

Updated: Apr 9



Organisational cultures are not isolated entities; they function as microcosms of the larger societal culture. Within organisations, societal norms are reinforced, challenged, and sometimes transformed. This article explores organisational cultures' crucial role in driving positive change regarding gender equality, particularly in societies where state recognition of the issue is lacking. We will examine the concept of "embassies of change" through the lens of LGBTQ+ advocacy organisations. Then, we will analyse the gap between rhetoric and reality in gender equality efforts within many organisations. Finally, we will propose a model for creating a genuinely inclusive organisational culture and explore how this can ripple outwards, influencing broader societal change even in the face of state inaction.


Imagine a world with genuinely inclusive workplaces—a world where equality thrives. Change starts with us. Share this article and join the #genderequityrebel movement! Let's build that future together. Let's fight for #GenderEquality in all workplaces and empower #WomenInLeadership. #BreakTheBias.


The Embassy Model: LGBTQ+ Advocacy as a Catalyst

Organisations focused on LGBTQ+ rights often function as "embassies" of more inclusive societal values, especially in regions where LGBTQ+ identities are not widely accepted. These organisations create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals, foster open dialogue about gender and sexuality, and establish support systems. They actively challenge discrimination through advocacy efforts and public education campaigns.


For instance, a 2020 report by Freedom House found a correlation between the presence of strong LGBTQ+ advocacy organisations and a decrease in government-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. This gap suggests that these organisations, even lacking the power to change laws directly, can influence public opinion and social norms.


The Gender Gap: Rhetoric vs. Reality

While many organisations commit to gender equality, the reality often falls short. Disparities persist in leadership representation, pay gaps, and the prevalence of sexual harassment. A 2021 McKinsey report (Lean In) found that women hold only 21% of C-suite roles globally. Similarly, the World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Gender Gap Report (World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2022) highlights persistent pay gaps between men and women.


This disconnect between rhetoric and reality indicates a need for a more fundamental shift in organisational cultures.


Bridging the Gap: A Model for Inclusive Change

Creating an organisational culture genuinely committed to gender equality requires a multi-pronged approach:

  • Leadership Commitment: Leaders must be visibly accountable for fostering inclusivity. This means championing policies that promote gender equality and intersectionality, ensuring access to mentorship programs for underrepresented groups, and creating a culture where diverse voices are heard.

  • Structural Transformation: Hiring, promotion, and mentorship practices must be scrutinised to identify and dismantle unconscious biases. Organisations should track progress in achieving a diverse workforce at all levels.

  • Education & Awareness: Training programs are essential to address microaggressions, gender bias, power dynamics, and how these issues intersect with race, class, and other identities.

  • Representation Matters: Deliberate efforts to ensure diverse representation at all levels, including leadership, are crucial. This allows for a broader range of perspectives to inform decision-making and ensures that the experiences of women and marginalised groups are considered.


From Organisations to Society: The Ripple Effect

Organisations that successfully transform their cultures become beacons of change. Employees who experience inclusive workplaces become advocates for broader change in their communities. They may challenge gender stereotypes in their personal lives, support policy changes that promote gender equality (like family leave or equal pay legislation), and normalise inclusive language and behaviour.


This "ripple effect" can have a significant impact on societal culture. Studies by Catalyst: https://www.catalyst.org/ (2019) have shown a positive correlation between companies with strong gender diversity records and superior financial performance. This economic argument, alongside the moral imperative, can be a powerful driver of change, even in societies where state action is limited.


Conclusion

Organisational cultures hold immense power to shape society. By addressing gender inequities and fostering true inclusion, we create a model that extends beyond those organisations. Change takes time, but every inclusive workplace makes a difference. Businesses, communities, and individuals – let's harness this power for a future where equality becomes the new usual we experience.


Let's Amplify This Message!

Your commitment matters. Share this article widely and use #genderequityrebel to connect with others passionate about this cause. Together, we can transform workplaces and create a more just society for everyone.


Ready to Take the Next Step?

My 25+ years of leadership and advocacy experience are available to you. Contact me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com to start your organisation's inclusivity journey.

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