Women represent 51 per cent of the UK working age population. In 2010, they made up a small 12.5 per cent of the corporate boards of FTSE 100 companies, with an increase of only 3.1 per cent in six years. Five years on, and following recommendations from Lord Davies, the rate has more than doubled1. Yet, is increasing numbers the answer to more diversity and inclusion in business?
If an organisation increases the number of employees from different backgrounds, it may be tempting to believe that they will bring more diverse views, thus contributing to better problem solving and decision making. However, most won’t feel empowered to contribute without a culture of inclusion.
They will become demotivated and leave or become disruptive, in both cases affecting productivity but also potentially costing the organisation dearly in conflict resolution. Things will continue to be done in the same way, preventing innovation and necessary future developments. Customer service will suffer as employees won’t be able to address their clients’ own diverse needs.
There is no point in hiring more, if bias and prejudice mean that diverse opinions remain invisible.
Diversity is about more than gender and protected characteristics. It is also about abilities, preferences, cultures, beliefs, status etc. Building an inclusive culture means intentionally fighting conscious and unconscious bias that arise from societal and organisational norms and the ensuing behaviours and actions. It is ongoing and demands to constantly evaluate initiatives and improve their impact. It cannot happen without an unwavering commitment from senior leadership to both concept and implementation.
Signs that you have an inclusive culture:
Learning and development underpins it all by raising awareness, upskilling managers and generally developing the right behaviours.
There isn’t a right size fits all; but ACAS recommends:
Some organisations offer specific diversity and inclusion training, others target specific development programmes (eg BAME in leadership). Skanska successfully implemented mixed-pair mentoring in response to the shortage of women working and staying in the sector. The scheme matches established managers with younger employees of different sex, and operating units with established function. It not only supports people development but also breaks down silos and encourages broader thinking. Skanska has seen a small 2 per cent increase in women in senior roles in four years but has seen retention rates improve significantly.
Although solutions are different for every organisation, they share the same aim: raising awareness about various aspects of diversity to help people appreciate difference and work together better. This definitely can’t be achieved through numbers alone.
1. www.theglasslift.co.uk, July 2016.
The opinions expressed by third parties are their own are not necessarily shared by St. James’s Place WealthManagement. This article has been provided courtesy of RSM UK.