In this article, we share some of our experiences and learnings from developing a Gender and Diversity Plan (GDP) via virtual collaboration.
IBEC initiated the development if it´s 3rd Gender & Diversity Management Plan (GDP) by launching a call for setting up a new Gender & Diversity Commission in the beginning of 2020. Our new commission, representing all areas of the institute, was formalized in February. As in the former editions of the GDP, the development of the plan was understood as a collaborative process that would take into consideration inputs from all members of the Commission as well as the Institute as a whole. Despite of the complete lockdown that we suffered due to outbreak of the COVID crisis, we were not willing to give up on the idea of creating synergies between the Commissions members and develop our plan in a fundamentally collaborative process.
The first step to develop the new plan was launching a Gender & Diversity Survey, which was completed by a total of 187 of IBEC members. The subsequent analysis of the data obtained by the survey was done in a total 4 meetings, 3 of them virtually. The whole IBEC community was included in this phase through an open, virtual Focus Group that provided additional qualitative data.
Together, we decided to use the most important findings of the Survey to officially launch the new Commission to the IBEC community in April. In a newsletter, we introduced ourselves with some relevant data from the survey, as well as statements and declaration of our objectives for the future.
In the following virtual meetings, we discussed on our theoretical and legal framework and defined the change that we want to achieve in the organization. Between April and July of 2020 we elaborated the objectives, actions, indicators of our plan in a constant feedback-loop between all members. Finally, the plan was presented to the IBEC community in July 2020.
In the following, we would like to share some of your learnings and experiences regarding virtual collaboration and participation in these adventurous times:
1. Delegate specific tasks: all members bring specific backgrounds and knowledge to the Commission. For tasks like data-analysis, it makes sense to find those members that can do pre-work on their own and then share their findings in the virtual meetings. Virtual collaboration requires more preparation to be done in advance, otherwise the meetings get too long and lack focus.
2. Facilitate participation for all members: we appreciate the contributions of Group Leaders, especially women, to the work of the commission. Taking into consideration that they may not have the time to attend all meetings, we facilitated the sharing of their inputs through shared documents, summaries of results and short, focused virtual sessions. The same applies for care-takers of young children or elderly that may have double work-load during lockdown.
3. Choose your virtual platform wisely: choose a shared virtual space for your collaboration, where members can collaborate on documents simultaneously and share information that they find relevant. The Teams platform with its possibility to share documents in the cloud worked well for our project. Plan sufficient time for the revision of documents so that all Commission members get the chance to add their opinion.
4. Start with the end in mind: take sufficient time to discuss the strategic impact the Commission wants to achieve through the GEP. Before discussing and deciding on concrete actions, it is essential to define your objectives together. At IBEC, we used the Input-Output-Outcome-Impact (I-O-O-I) approach to set up the GDP. Taking the strategic decisions before thinking about concrete actions, helped us to focus in our collaboration and facilitated that proposals that were made individually, were coherent with our common approach.
5. Share the theoretical framework and examples: those members with more experience on Gender & Diversity policies should take time to share their knowledge and experience so that all Commission members take decisions from the same level of expertise. Understanding the “why” of the approach and specific decisions is especially important when the collaboration is not based on face-to-face meetings.
6. Windows of opportunities: Home-office and virtual collaboration during the lockdown brought new experiences to teams, especially regarding Work-Life conciliation. Take those new experiences and needs into consideration as they are relevant. Lockdown may open new opportunities to open conversations about them. At IBEC, we decided that Work-Life-Balance will be one of the 3 main focuses of our GDP 2020-2023, including specific actions to prepare teams and their leaders.
7. Take care of each other: as for all teams, also for our Gender & Diversity Commission the lockdown brought concerns and stress. Take time to ask how members are - in every meeting. Appreciate their voluntary participation in the project constantly and do not take their time and implication for granted. Value all opinions and learn from early-career and diverse members, as they add relevant up-to-date inputs that reflect changes in society.
8. And finally, do not forget to celebrate achievements!