Leading the Charge for Gender Equity

Zero Gap’s CEO is bringing men and women together to close the gender gap.

CLOSING THE GENDER GAP isn’t solely a “woman’s issue” – it’s a human issue. Sarah Gerber, co-founder and CEO of Zero Gap, spoke about her company’s efforts to unite men and women around the issue of the gender gap at the 2019 World Economic Forum.

In addition to Zero Gap, Gerber founded the boutique production studio Twenty Twenty Studios. As the executive producer of Twenty Twenty Studios, she has produced award-winning documentaries and traveled the world capturing compelling, mission-driven stories. Gerber also advances gender parity in workplace culture through her work at Zero Gap.

Zero Gap was launched in 2017 with the aim of shifting the narrative of the gender gap to include men, not just women, in the conversation. Instead of framing the issue as a problem that women must solve alone, Zero Gap urges both men and women to get informed and empowered about challenging inequality in the workplace. “It’s about everyone being able to engage in it,” Gerber said. “It’s going to benefit everyone, not just a subset of people.”

For all the talk about creating more inclusive workplaces in recent years, the gender gap remains largely intact. Gerber identified “siloed conversations” and anxiety about change as central factors in the slow pace of progress. Zero Gap helps eliminate invisible barriers and fears by arranging 50/50 dinners comprised of an equal ratio of women to men that provide a space for everyone to communicate about, reflect on and embrace the changes that need to be made. Leaders, Gerber said, should be the ones creating those spaces in which people can be “brave” about sharing and learning.

Zero Gap’s guiding principle – unity over division – can be applied to leadership as well. According to Gerber, elevating and listening to as many voices as possible is an essential component of successful 21st century leadership. Initiatives with too narrow an audience, for example, won’t be as effective in changing the culture of a company as programs that involve a broader scope of employees. Zero Gap’s mission asks a question that Gerber believes leaders should ask themselves: “How are you making it an inclusive conversation rather than a siloed conversation?”

 

Building Better Leaders Together

Ascent Leadership Network’s managing director explains how leaders can improve by collaborating.

 

LEADERS AREN’T ALWAYS born – they can and often have been made through effort and dedication instead. Stephen Kelner, managing director of Ascent Leadership Networks, spoke about the roles that constructive feedback and focused training play in building effective leaders at the 2019 World Economic Forum.

Kelner has over 25 years of experience in evaluating and developing executive leadership. Prior to joining Ascent, he served as the global thought leader for assessment and development at the global executive search and leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart. He also previously held the position of global knowledge manager at the global executive search firm Egon Zehnder. Kelner now oversees leadership assessment and developmental practices at Ascent.

Stephen KelnerCOURTESY OF ASCENT LEADERSHIP NETWORKS

Ascent’s mission is to help leaders keep abreast of the rapid pace of progress by putting CEOs and other leaders in conversation with each other and creating programs that address pressing leadership challenges such as technological disruption or stakeholder engagement. “We bring leaders together from diverse backgrounds to have intensive, immersive experiences together over time that are tailored to them,” Kelner said. “That allows them to develop each other as well as themselves over the long term.”

One of Kelner’s personal leadership heroes, Abraham Lincoln, exemplifies the idea that leadership potential can be cultivated into greatness. Although “he didn’t start out as a great leader,” according to Kelner, he eventually grew into one in part because of his willingness to listen and learn from the input of others. In fact, he was known to bring those who opposed him into his administration so he could learn from their perspectives.

Ascent aims to utilize honest, constructive feedback as effectively as Lincoln did by forming networks of diverse leaders who can keep each other from falling behind the curve. Kelner pointed out that once leaders reach a certain level of power, their employees tend to be more hesitant about offering help – whether it’s because they believe leaders don’t need, want or welcome it. Through these networks, Ascent provides executive leaders with “objective and supportive” feedback from other changemakers that they can use to boost innovation and efficiency.