How can men and women can work together to create a more inclusive workplace for all? A recent discussion presented by the Saint Thomas chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs sought to answer this question.

The club hosted panelists Dawn McGinley, global leader and strategist for the Women’s Leadership Forum at 3M, and Kenneth Charles, vice president of global inclusion and staffing at General Mills.

These dynamic speakers set the stage for a thought-provoking discussion. Questions such as why it is important for men to be involved in this conversation and what the future business leaders in the audience could do to build and maintain an awareness for inclusion as part of their decision-making process were some of the topics discussed.

Regarding the “What’s in it for me?” question, Charles outlined the business case for promoting gender diversity, pointing out that if women make up 50% of the workforce and if that 50% of resources sit under-utilized, leaders are not using their resources efficiently. He also pointed to the values case to be made, and explained that there is an imperative to promote gender diversity and enable women to succeed as leaders because it is the right thing to do.

McGinley shared her perspective on leading a large company’s initiative to promote women leadership on a global scale and the challenges that come with different countries and cultures having different starting points for this discussion. Specifically, McGinley explained the need not only for mentors, but for sponsors and advocates because traditionally women have not promoted themselves enough.

Both McGinley and Charles agreed that the more you present yourself as a value asset, the more you’ll attract sponsors. Both agreed that no matter your gender, the takeaway is to “speak your truth” and be brave enough to push your organization to where it should be.

The theme of the discussion was solutions and collaboration, and both Charles and McGinley offered excellent insight into the challenges they face in making gender diversity in the workplace a reality on all levels of leadership and management.