If someone is going to be held accountable for the lack of female representation, outcomes are bound to be more evident.

By Nicel Jane (Contributing Writer, Femme-O-Nomics)

There is no secret formula to getting women into leadership positions after all. Joanna Barsh, Sandra Nudelman, and Lareina Yee report in the McKinsey Quarterly April 2013 issue that companies only need to follow four principles if they want to advance women to the top. These insights were gleaned from the interviews they had with chief executive officers, human resource heads, and high-performing female executives in 22 U.S. companies that have been successful in its gender diversity efforts.

If your company is trying to put more women in leadership roles and you’re not making any headway, perhaps these four principles are missing:

#1 – Make gender diversity a personal issue.

CEOs and senior executives, especially, have to be emotionally involved in getting women to the top. They must believe that both women and men can lead. That conviction can come from family upbringing, from personal experiences, or from their own value systems. If those in the top ranks make gender diversity a personal crusade and back up their cause with real action, then those in the lower echelon will follow.

The bottom line, the authors write, is: “Numbers matter but belief makes the case powerful.”

#2 – Nurture a culture of gender diversity.

The companies that championed the cause of gender diversity share a common thing: Putting women at the top was already part of the fabric of their culture. They had a policy of inclusion that dates back decades that it was already part of their value sets. Also, they did not only focus on women but “changed the way employees interact and work with one another, a shift that benefits women and men alike.”

Gender diversity programs only give the initial impetus. It has to be lived each day by everyone in the company so that it becomes ingrained in their culture.

#3 – Put a system in place to make gender diversity the norm.

Gender diversity can’t be achieved overnight. Neither can a company have more women leaders if they don’t go about it systematically. From talent development to succession planning to measuring results to check for progress, there has to be a clear system for everyone to follow. This can be in the form of sponsorship or tying “gender diversity to talent planning and compensation in order to drive results.”

If someone is going to be held accountable for the lack of female representation, outcomes are bound to be more evident.

#4 – Put more women on boards.

The authors’ research “suggests a correlation between the representation of women on boards and on top-executive teams.” In top-performing companies, board members (both male and female) serve as mentors or sponsors to promising women leaders. Through constant discussions and follow ups with top executives, they also sustain progress the company has made on gender diversity.

The authors conclude: “[C]ompanies committed to jump-starting gender diversity or accelerating progress in achieving it should place a priority on finding qualified female directors.”

This post was originally published at Femmeonomics.