As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the 2017 campaign message asks us to #beboldforchange and to “take action to drive change for women to forge a better working world”.
The campaign’s aims are admirable and worthy of support. But I find myself querying whether such a campaign really helps our workplaces become more holistically diverse and inclusive.
Much of the focus on “diversity” remains on women’s participation and inclusion in the workforce (undoubtedly a very important issue). Sadly, many organisations still have not moved beyond the numbers game – reporting annual statistics on the number of women in the workforce as a whole, on the senior management team and on the board of directors. This approach provides an easily measurable benchmark and is encouraged by compliance initiatives such as the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and the WGEA reporting obligations.
I accept that getting women in the front door is often the first challenge, and several of our clients are working on fabulous initiatives to address this challenge to achieve more gender diversity in their blue collar workforces. Ensuring sufficient numbers of women progress to senior leadership positions is also an ongoing battle.
However, does this narrow focus mean that many organisations are missing the bigger picture and the business imperatives for broader diversity and inclusion? What about ethnicity, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, educational background, religion, parental status and socio-economic status? How do employers bring together their diverse people resources for mutual benefit?
It is trite and well-trodden ground that without buy-in from the top, progress towards true diversity and inclusion will not be made. However, general statements of commitment at the Board or corporate policy level will also never lead to change without integration and implementation at each business function and unit level.
Our clients who are advancing the most in this space know that it is critical to create an environment at all levels of the company where diverse ideas, perspectives and backgrounds are harnessed to create value to the business. The long journey to achieving an inclusive workplace requires inquiry at every level about the specific and measurable actions to be taken to create and foster such an environment.
All easier said than done I know! We’d love to hear your thoughts on what it is for an organisation to #beboldforchange.