Category: Business, Diversity Equity and Inclusion
Publication date: November 15, 2022
Extent: 266 pages

Don’t Fix Women

The practical path to gender equality at work

Joy Burnford


Business Book Awards 2023 Finalist

‘Read this and be the change that’s needed’ Prof Helen Pankhurst CBE

‘Here, at last, is a book that aims to change the narrative and fix the system. Every boss should have a copy.’ Kate Bassett, Financial Times

‘Joy clearly articulates the benefits of diversity and the systemic reasons it has proven elusive, but this book’s power lies in its tangible and practical solutions.’ Nathan Coe, CEO, Auto Trader Group Plc

Struggling to find ways to retain and reward women and meet your diversity targets?
Wondering why your female-led diversity initiatives are not working?

Don’t Fix Women reveals how achieving gender balance at work isn’t about ‘fixing’ the women, it’s about changing the system. Packed with simple, practical recommendations, this book provides a route-map to improve gender equality in your organization, develop a truly diverse, modern leadership culture, and reap the rewards that this brings.
Be informed: Learn from over 100 senior business leaders and CEOs about what they are doing to accelerate progress towards gender equality.
Be ahead of the game: Access research data, new tools and frameworks for your leadership kitbag.
Be the change: Discover practical actions to help you make change happen in your organization today.

As a ‘curator of confidence’, and with over 70 articles published on, Joy Burnford has inspired thousands of women across the globe to find their confidence. But this is only one side of the equation. Her research makes it clear that making women more confident isn’t enough: we also need to change the organizations they work for to clear the path for true gender equality.


This book is a must-read for any leader wanting to achieve gender equality in the workplace. If you plan to lead a company or organization, this book is for you… Here, Joy Burnford offers some practical & insightful advice that could ultimately benefit everyone, not just women. With the frameworks Burnford has suggested, leaders can make small yet meaningful changes.


With expert advice, top tips, case studies and many practical tools, this book has everything an organisation needs to help more women stay and progress to the top. It’s well-written, clearly structured and very accessible. Essential reading for leaders and D&I champions everywhere.


This book is exactly what it says it is: a very practical guide to the structural issues in workplaces and society that have blocked women’s progress and a toolkit with ideas for fixing them.

Financial Times

Accessible, clear and engaging…a how-to guide for fixing systems so that the best talent is retained and rewarded, and everyone benefits. A must read!


Compelling insights and wise advice. The book is loaded with a bunch of common sense, accessible ideas for improving the world of work.


…a great practical, easy to read book, full of frameworks and suggestions for small changes that can all have a big impact – all aimed ultimately at truly creating the best dynamic for every human working in an organisation. Just get it, give it to your boss, your HR department and get started.



This book shows how we can move beyond the dated narrative that portrays women as victims and men as ‘shining knights’. Joy’s wonderful, warm and engaging book helped me to realize that men and women can’t make interventions about inequality until we have had a conversation about the real barriers to gender parity. She equips us with a practical framework for meaningful action, enabling more of the difficult conversations that ultimately allow the best people to advance by merit, regardless of gender.
James Clarry, Chief Operating Officer, Coutts and the Wealth Businesses of the NatWest Group

Far too often, the finger of blame is pointed at women. We’re told we’re not ambitious enough; we’re not confident enough; we’re too emotional; we lack leadership skills. Here, at last, is a book that aims to change the narrative and fix the system. Every boss should have a copy.
Kate Bassett, Financial Times

Joy clearly articulates the benefits of diversity and the systemic reasons it has proven elusive, but this book’s power lies in its tangible and practical solutions. Having removed the excuse of ignorance, Don’t Fix Women leaves you with only two choices: to knowingly be part of the problem or part of the solution.
Nathan Coe, CEO, Auto Trader Group Plc

Advancing gender equality is not about fixing women, it’s about fixing some of the structural, cultural and societal expectations that exist today. Don’t Fix Women shows you how this can be achieved in a powerful and practical way.
Drew Gibson, Head of Inclusion, Belonging & Wellbeing, Santander

Our workplaces are guilty of creating and reinforcing gender inequality, structurally and culturally. Don’t Fix Women is a practical and useful book with solutions on how to fix the problem; how to build inclusive leadership; how to transform workplace attitudes and values and how to address the obstacles that women face at work. Read this and be the change that’s needed.
Professor Helen Pankhurst CBE

Joy is inspirational in her practical approach to creating a better, more gender balanced workplace. I have a twin sister and through my close relationship with her, have seen how she has not had the opportunities I have had, despite working in the same sector. While there are various initiatives focused on Boards and emerging talent, we should consider how much have we progressed over the past 20 years? Joy’s book really challenges us to ask questions of our businesses and provides tools to equip us, and our colleagues, to be changemakers and to #breakthebias. A must-read, particularly for those in senior leadership.
Calum Brewster, CEO, Brown Shipley

Companies with strong gender diversity at all levels perform better. Don’t Fix Women is mandatory reading for all leaders, helping them to understand the obstacles that women face within their businesses, drive forward conversations and implement solutions that improve women’s representation within the workplace.
Fiona Dawson CBE, Chair of the UK Women’s Business Council

An empowering route map for addressing gender equality in the boardroom. Advancing diversity and inclusion is an essential part of business and this book shows leaders how to create workplaces where women can flourish. A highly recommended action plan for all CEOs and those involved in progressing the gender agenda.
Fiona Hathorn, CEO, Women on Boards UK

My experience of working with an all-female team helped me to see the world through a different lens; it taught me so much and enriched me as a person. Joy’s book resonates with me and gives men a great understanding of how best to support and develop women in the workplace. It is compulsory reading for all men who want to be the best allies they can be to women.
Mark Robinson OBE, Former Head Coach of England Women’s Cricket

Don’t Fix Women is an essential resource for business leaders and people managers looking to understand the gender equality landscape. It provides a framework for cultural change and practical actions for long overdue systemic changes to create a level playing field for ambitious women to thrive. If I was going to write a book, this is the book I would have written!
Denise Wilson OBE, Chief Executive, FTSE Women Leaders Review

Marking a much-needed end to the era of ‘lean in’ thinking, this book recognizes that women are not held back because of a lack of talent, dedication or drive, but because there are clear, structural barriers to progression in the workplace. Now is the time for all genders to read this excellent piece of work, and make their commitment to a more inclusive workplace.
Simon Gallow, Advocate and HeForShe Lead, UN Women UK

A refreshing and inspiring approach to accelerating gender equality in the workplace, Don’t Fix Women is packed full of practical ideas and ways to move things forward. The section on menopause covers a wealth of compelling new material that I’d not thought about or read about before. A must-read for all leaders and managers.
Phil Burgess, Chief People Officer, C Space

Until now efforts to achieve gender parity have been focused on ‘fixing the women’, even though women aren’t broken (and never have been). Now a wealth of statistical data and personal experiences have revealed the real problem, a broken system that operates on the principle that male traits and behaviours are superior to those of females. (Spoiler alert: they’re not!) In this book, Joy Burnford gives practical guidance on how to remove the blinkers of the past and recognize actual talent and leadership for the future.
Tamara Box, Managing Partner EME, Reed Smith LLP

This book provides a comprehensive route map for organizations that want to create more equal and balanced workplaces for all. Women still face too many obstacles on their career journey – flexibility, caring responsibilities and menopause to name a few – and this book shines a light on what can be done to remove them. A must-read for HR professionals.
Victoria Winkler, Director of Professional Development, CIPD

This accessible book offers some great ideas for achieving effective progress in creating better gender balance at work and allows the reader to assess their own strengths and weaknesses as a gender diversity champion.
Frank Moxon, Senior Independent Director, Jersey Oil & Gas Plc and Past Master, Worshipful Company of International Bankers

Don’t Fix Women will help leaders to change systems and cultures to level the playing field for everyone to thrive in workplaces of today. It is packed full of analysis, insights and actions and is a highly compelling and relevant read for anyone involved in addressing the challenge of gender equality at work.
Emma Rose, Chief Human Resources Officer, Travis Perkins Plc

This book won’t disappoint. It is a clear and engaging read and tackles tricky subjects such as menopause, caring and monthlies in a way that will make business leaders think differently about gender equality in the future.
Vanessa Vallely OBE, Founder and CEO, WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen

Listen up, CEOs! The answers are all here for gender equality in your workplace. Send every senior leader a copy with an invitation to join you at a summit to plan how you’ll enact it.
Jessica Chivers, CEO, The Talent Keeper Specialists and Author of Mothers Work!

A practical how-to guide on how to build equal and inclusive workplaces. Joy brings essential insights, strategies and actionable advice on what we can all do to support women to thrive at work. This is an important book and compulsory reading for those who want to lead the way in accelerating gender equality.
Antony Cook, Partner, PwC

As a long-standing client of Joy’s, Wickes has experienced first-hand how the tools and frameworks in this book can be put into action with meaningful results. This book will help move thinking on and transform attitudes to gender equality.
Sonia Astill, Chief People Officer, Wickes Group Plc

Extensively researched and informative, Don’t Fix Women is a highly refreshing and valuable read. It is full of useful initiatives and ideas, large and small, to move forward and create the pathways to gender equality in the workplace. An essential resource for any HR professional professional and those who want to make a difference.
Caroline Bowes, Director, Human Resources EMEA, Dechert LLP

A brilliant, helpful guide for organizations which outlines the obstacles that women still face in the workplace, including the menopause. We are calling on all employers to sign the Menopause Workplace Pledge and this book demonstrates how to take positive action at work to make sure everyone going through the menopause is supported. Read this book to help make a change in your workplace.
Janet Lindsay, Chief Executive, Wellbeing of Women

As a gender equality partner, OVF is working with Joy and her team on the models and frameworks outlined in this book to progress its gender equality targets across the business and drive forward strategies to attract and retain women who want to progress into senior positions. A timely and insightful book, Don’t Fix Women guides employers on how to adapt the culture of their organizations and reap the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive workforce. We have seen how this not only benefits the women, but it helps the men too.
Sian Prigg, Senior Learning and Talent Manager, Opel Vauxhall Finance


Table of Contents / Book structure


Foreword – Denise Wilson OBE, Chief Executive, FTSE Women Leaders Review (formerly Hampton Alexander Review) – pending approval

Introduction – How to retain, return and reward women[Including C-Suite insights from: AutoTrader, Coutts, National Grid, Waitrose, London Stock Exchange, GSK Healthcare, Royal Bank of Canada, East of England Co-op, McKinsey]

Part 1 – Cultural frameworks – preparing the ground for greater gender equality

1. Flexibility – personalization, job sharing, alternative ways of working (eg compresesd hours), don’t do networking in eves etc

2. Allyship – context – why we need male allies (unconscious bias), sponsorship, reciprocal mentoring, employee resource groups

3. Coaching – creating a coaching culture to build confidence and employee resource groups.

Part 2 – Removing the obstacles that women face whilst on the path to leadership

1. Confidence challenges – enabling women to have confidence to progress in their careers, imposter syndrome, speaking up, visibility.

2. Hormonal challenges – the 4 Ms – monthlies, miscarriage, maternity, menopause.

3. Caring responsibilities – childcare, eldercare and self-care (wellbeing and resilience, managing mental load). Boundaries and avoiding out of hours networking etc.

Next steps: Navigating your route

Small must-have steps your organization can take to make big change happen, no matter where you are on the journey.


Further resources


End notes

About the author



Paperback / 9781788603102 / November 15, 2022 / £14.99

Ebook / 9781788603096 / November 14, 2022 / £7.99

Paperback and eBook Bundle / £16.99


Joy Burnford

Joy Burnford is the founder and CEO of Encompass Equality Ltd. and is a recognized trailblazer in gender equality. She has interviewed hundreds of the world’s business leaders, published more than 70 articles on, is an influential speaker and host of ‘The Confidence Conversation’ podcast.