Case study: five steps to create gender equality in the workplace

08 May 2018 -

women at workThis is how a leading dentistry organisation set out to support the career progression of women at work

Guest bloggers Laurie Reader and Darren Bayley CMgr FCMI 

Despite decades of progress towards male and female equality in the economy and society, in working life the difference in pay and prospects between genders remains significant. Research shows that male managers are 40% more likely to be promoted than women. According to McKinsey & Company, only 16% of the members of executive teams in the United States are women and in the UK, the figure stands at just 12%. 

The CMI refers to the lack of women in management roles as ‘the missing middle’. In its own research – Blueprint for Balance – it showed that women occupy just 34% of the 3.3 million management roles in the UK. There is a greater proportion of women than men in junior roles (73%) but this falls to just 43% by middle management levels. Of course, this has an impact on salaries too. In April 2018, organisations in the UK with more than 250 employees were required to report their mean gender pay gap, and the average was 26.8%. 

As the world’s largest manufacturer of professional dental products and technologies, Dentsply Sirona realised that it needed to be a leader in promoting gender diversity within its workforce in order to maintain its success. Here’s how it did it. 


Dentsply Sirona recognised that there is a compelling case for gender diversity within the company and the economy as a whole. 
Companies that rank in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform companies in the bottom quartile. Research in the UK has shown that improvements in gender diversity at the highest levels of an organisation also have the greatest impact on earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) where every 10% increase in gender diversity resulted in a 3.5 per cent rise in EBIT. 
Research from Credit Suisse has shown an 18% return-on-investment premium for gender-diverse leadership teams. And, increasing diversity has the potential to add $12trn annually to global GDP by 2025. 


Initiated in 2015, Dentsply Sirona ran a pilot programme to establish a network for women within the organisation and to provide a forum to discuss the biggest challenges women face in the workplace. 
Maureen MacInnis, SVP, chief human resources officer and communications, began the scheme with 10 women from Dentsply Sirona’s global headquarters in York, Pennysylvania, USA. 

As a result of the positive feedback and success of this pilot, it was expanded in 2016 and became known as the Women Inspired Network (WIN), an initiative focused on career development for high potential females with the capability to grow into bigger roles within the organisation. 

The programme helps women to become more effective leaders through networking, mentoring, training, individual goal planning and group projects based on real Dentsply Sirona business opportunities. It also provides opportunities to interact and engage with the company’s executive and senior team. 


The most recent group of participants, who commenced upon their WIN journey in 2017, included 32 women from 16 different countries. They embarked on the 12-month programme by attending a four-day event in Dallas, Texas, run by the global leadership development company Linkage and Linkage’s annual Women in Leadership Institute. The event brought together roughly 800 participants from other companies representing a wide variety of job functions, backgrounds and industries. Talks from well-known keynote speakers focused on topics such as being self-aware, connected, influential, and bold. 

Despite coming from many different backgrounds, participants shared similar experiences from their companies all over the world and were able to encourage each other and build a sense of confidence. Diane Wales, regional sales manager for the UK, shared, “Being nominated to take part in WIN was such an honour. I felt like the company truly believed in my potential and was committed to developing me as a people manager. For me, the best thing I have learned is how to be an inspiring leader whilst still being completely true to myself.”


Over the course of the 12-month programme, participants are able to discuss their insights with each other and to hear what Dentsply Sirona’s business leaders have learned during the course of their own leadership journeys. The women also undertake projects in small teams to provide recommendations on a real Dentsply Sirona business opportunity. In this way, they are expanding their learning outside their normal area of responsibility and are having a direct impact on the business. 

Alumnae of WIN remain involved as mentors, presenters and teachers, creating a positive feedback loop and compounding the value and sustainability of the programme, year after year.

Petra Roehrig, director of sales for China, Korea, Japan, South East Asia and 2016 WIN programme participant noted that: “The programme helped me network, while also understanding the strategies and approaches of other business units.” 

Pam Marklew was also a participant in the WIN programme in 2016. After completing the programme, she was promoted from marketing director and platform lead of irrigation & obturation, to VP of clinical affairs for the endodontics strategic business unit. Pam notes: “The regular webinars and follow-up meetings with my fellow WIN participants helped me practise my newly acquired skills so that they became second nature.” 


Training the next generation of leaders is imperative to securing the future of any organisation. With that in mind, Dentsply Sirona offers a number of leadership and development initiatives in addition to the Women Inspired Network. One of the larger company-wide initiatives is the Dentsply Sirona University, which offers a blend of classroom and online training in the areas of commercial excellence, operations excellence, and leadership excellence. By focusing on development within these areas, employees gain valuable tools and feedback to accelerate professional growth aligned with the needs of the company.  International assignments and projects with other business units also help employees to broaden their understanding of different markets, and future-proof their success.

Laurie Reader is VP of global talent management at Dentsply Sirona. Darren Bayley CMgr FCMI is VP of marketing for endodontics at Dentsply Sirona. The CMI has its own network dedicated to the professional development of female managers:
visit CMI Women.

1.  CMI Women.
2.  Hunt, Vivian, et al. “Why Diversity Matters.” McKinsey & Company, Jan. 2015,
3. Ibid.
4. Credit Suisse, The GS Gender 3000 (2014 and 2016) -
5. McKinsey Global Institute, The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion To Global Growth (2015)

Image: shutterstock

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