How to Drive Gender Diversity

Gender diversity is a key driver for success.  It adds value to operational, environmental and the managerial, critical thinking elements of business operations.

Lack of diversity impacts growth across every sector. The more of it you have, the better your decision making processes, the more motivated your employees and the more innovative your products and services.

However, there are challenges to developing a diverse working environment and there remain issues with the level of commitment to diversity shown across many companies, across industries.

Recently, the Hampton Alexander review ‘Improving gender balance in FTSE 100 leadership’ found that although the number of women on FTSE 100 boards had exceeded 30% for the first time, an issue has been identified amongst some boards.

It is time to call out the 75 at ‘One & Done’ boards that are dragging overall progress downwards.  The 33% target is a collective effort and it is incumbent on every FTSE 350 listed company to play their part – get with the new norm – today one woman at the table, is little different to none!
Hampton Alexander Review

The phenomenon of ‘one and done’ relates to boards that recruit one, in this case, woman, to the numbers and then believe that their work is finished.

What does it mean to have one person of colour, a woman or someone from an LGBT or disabled background, if they are not allowed to shape the direction of the company, its people or its products and services?

Promote Genuine Gender Inclusion.

Flexibility, trust and transparency, and the ability for organisations to take calculated risks in developing strategy to develop services and well as human capital is paramount.

Continued failure to embed diversity in a meaningful way will have  negative impacts on the future growth and development of British industry.

The current social, political, and business landscape is characterised by uncertainty. What then does this mean for diversity and inclusivity within organisations?

The promotion of genuine inclusion, rather than a ‘one and done’ philosophy, is the only way to develop diversity and inclusive processes that truly deliver results.

Conscious leadership creates brands that are cognisant of the business benefits of diversity and inclusion. 

It encourages inclusion through a genuine commitment to realise the business benefits of diversity through well developed strategies to promote gender diversity and inclusion.

The power of perspective is underpinned by diversity. It does not develop through homogeneous leadership, or within the walls of a leadership bound through cultural, educational or social similarities.

The authority of an innovative, forward thinking perspective is unleashed through openness, trust and transparency created by diversity within leadership. The ambition to achieve best in class results, through creativity is developed through diversity of thought. In short, different mindsets and experiences, come together to create excellence.

Removing gaps to access

Eliminating the gaps to access, and the barriers to promotion and acceptance is the first step to achieving inclusive processes.  Plain and simple. There remain too many barriers to access for women and other under-represented employees at senior levels.

Fair and equitable access promotion and learning and development opportunities, is a fundamental part of inclusion.Taking account of experiences and circumstances, that affect women and diverse groups must be taken into account in all decision making processes. Unconscious bias within selection processes must be removed and systems institutionalised to enhance the development and progress of  excellent careers.

Women and Black and minority employees suffer from the effects of gaps in access and opportunities to rise to the highest levels within corporations.

Employees are exceptional when they are allowed to transfer their diversity into their working roles. The richness of human diversity, is one of the most important aspects that an organisation has at its behest, so why do so many fail to understand this, and use it?Boards should value the richness of gender, culture, life experiences and the sense of belonging, that is realised in a diverse leadership environment.

Leadership must own a genuine commitment to diversity and work to creating a genuine company culture of gender diversity and inclusion.Corporations must create avenues for people, who are different, but share the values of hard work and resilience.

There must be recognition of honed and the valuable experience that they bring to the development of products, services and the growth of our corporations.

What is lacking is a culture of inclusive encouragement… a culture that removes the gaps through which women, and other under-represented groups often fall.

What is needed is an environment that supports women and BAME candidates and employees in their efforts to attain C-Suite positions within corporate organisations.

We must harness inclusion.

In personal development reviews, there is often a tendency to measure performance on tasks set and KPI’s met. Why not measure an individual’s performance on diversity and inclusion as relevant to their working role?

Across all aspects of organisational and project frameworks, there are opportunities for enhancing diversity and measuring its impact through performance activities.

Shouldn’t we be measuring how employees embed diversity into working roles, projects and initiatives?

Cannot we measure the impact of diversity of thought and inclusion, as it relates to the bottom line in the same way that we have KPI’s for many other performance related objectives?

Can’t we integrate diversity and inclusion into key management mechanisms and reporting systems?

So many businesses, measure strategies and projects and the ways in which they impact the bottom line… i.e profits. How many measure diversity and the impact of inclusion on business results?

Company statistics, that provide key management information about the growth and brand positioning of a business.  Including statistics on diversity, help organisations to understand how diversity and inclusion impacts the business. It helps to build a platform upon which development of a  supportive infrastructure can be built to enable employees.

By fostering a diverse and inclusive culture, helps to create avenues to support employee development. It supports inclusive channels for progression within the company, at all levels.

An awareness of diversity and inclusion within project management facilitates better-informed decisions.  It embodies a wider perspective on the issues at hand and how they will potentially affect core stakeholders.

Inclusive companies are also better able to attract talent, achieve stronger brand perceptions and boost overall employee satisfaction. This helps to create a virtuous circle of positive change, both internally and externally, helping to embed inclusive processes.

Companies must focus on gender diversity as a leadership imperative, rather than a ‘one and done’ activity.  What is needed is genuine commitment and system and people, that are measurable.  What gets measured gets done!

So with those benefits in mind, how can businesses become better at engaging and including women and BAME employees? 

Removing gaps to inclusion for BAME and women.

A key element of inclusion is having representation across all levels of leadership. Frameworks that remove barriers to inclusion for women and BAME candidates into leadership, promote pathways towards innovative decision making processes. These frameworks and initiatives can encompass a range of experiential and diverse thought leadership, to enhance, and promote diversity and inclusion across the business.

By providing mentoring programmes for currently under-represented staff at decision making levels, organisations remove the likelihood of women and BAME employees taking their expertise elsewhere.

Implement policies and mechanisms that are responsive to diversity.

Every organisation is different. There is no one size fits all approach to developing diversity and inclusive processes. This is one of the main challenges of organisations, wishing to define the why and how of diversity.

Robust policies and mechanisms are a starting point for embedding diversity, but it is important to remember that this is the starting point of the journey. Policies that support diversity and inclusion are the minimum standard and must be viewed as such. To fully embed diversity and inclusion as a leadership, operational and best practice solution, corporations must be cognisant of culture and its impact on workplace inclusion for all staff groups.   

Creating Diversity Networks.

Diversity networks are an excellent way to support both management and staff, and help to engage both around diversity and inclusion. As an internal initiative, employee diversity networks. They are a real benefit for empowering and supporting leadership to engage with specific concerns of staff teams and members.

They are a catalyst for change, empowering people across all levels to understand the concerns of diverse groups and to remove barriers to progress.

Establishing diversity networks, can support organisations to develop knowledge about the particular needs of under-represented groups, and tailor policies and activities to fit these needs and remove any gaps in access.

Champion diversity through events.

Speaking of diversity is an excellent way to promote diversity within an organisation. Guest speakers are excellent for engaging employees, across all backgrounds, and inspiring them to understand and evaluate challenges to inclusion within the business.

Employee groups have the added advantage of being a part of the business and can provide useful insight to issues as they affect the business. They are also well placed to speak about achievements made by women and BAME employees, that can increase employee motivation.

Professional diversity and inclusion speakers can engage staff teams and management and can offer a range of interventions. For example, executive diversity coaching, setting up staff gender and diversity networks and workshops to improve diversity.

Embrace difference and celebrate culture.

Recognising difference and understanding the concerns, as they impact diversity and inclusion, is important. Any organisation that has a genuine commitment to develop inclusive processes and attract and retain and support a diverse cohort of staff, will appreciate the importance of celebrating cultural differences.

Culture is an important aspect of diversity and must not be ignored in any diversity and inclusion discussion.  Initiating activities that celebrate the contribution of cultural differences to the business, will greatly enhance relationships with BAME communities and  employees.  They will help to foster inclusion and building cultural knowledge amongst colleagues, whilst integrating cultural difference as an important value for an engaged workplace.

Building diversity and inclusion is a long term initiative. It is not going to happen overnight. It takes time, resilience and above all commitment. Above all, diversity and inclusion develops an environment where:

  • better decisions are made
  • gaps to access are removed 
  • creativity and innovation is supported
  • all employees are enabled

Embedding diversity takes effort but the rewards are significant. Fostering a diverse and inclusive environment is a company wide initiative and must include every employee, regardless of background.

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