In the past week, there have been different ongoing discussions on social media about the many negative things making our world a painful place to live in. There have been conversations about race, rape, tribalism, ethnocentrism, etc. People are looking to be seen, listened to and heard. People are looking for diversity and inclusion. It is a difficult discussion to be had, even for myself who has experienced many forms of discrimination. But neither my silence nor yours will protect us. So let’s talk!
Diversity. What does this word mean to you? Merriam Webster explains the word to mean the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: VARIETY, especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization. Note down two key words in this definition; variety and group.
Workplace diversity is a common topic of conversation among employers, hiring managers and recruitment professionals. History will show that diversity and inclusion in the workplace initially was a hiring fad. Recruiters would ensure that there were one or two females in the company if they had been attacked of being gender biased, or that there were people of colour present if there had been complaints of racism. There has been some progress made on the matter, and gradually organizations are recognizing the facts of how diversity come be of value to them. Over the years it has become less a case of simply factoring in age, gender and race, and more about hiring a wider range of people to add value to businesses. Increasingly, business leaders are seeing that encouraging diversity in the workplace has several tangible benefits, for the company and for its employees.
Mentioning the word, people immediately consider multiculturalism and its related matters. But diversity is about so much more, especially in the workplace. It also applies to diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, educational, background, and so on. An instance of a lack of educational diversity was a subject matter in the American legal drama television series, Suits. The law firm had a preferential bias for only law students from Harvard University. Any other qualification was overlooked and immediately dismissed. This may be an example cited from a movie but it happens in real life all around us.
In 2019, Nearly 100 workers filed gender discrimination lawsuits against Walmart on 1 February, alleging denial of equal pay for retail store and certain salaried management positions. The plaintiffs include current Walmart employees and others who left the company from the early to late 2000s. And in China, this is still a pressing issue as the Human Rights Watch found that in the Chinese government’s 2020 national civil service job list, 11 percent of the postings specify a preference or requirement for men. In both the 2018 and 2019 job lists, 19 percent of the postings specified a preference or requirement for men. In 2017, the rate was 13 percent. Cnet.com also writes that since 2014, major tech companies have released diversity reports showing the industry’s demographic lopsidedness in favour of white men. The percentages of women and minorities in tech are low, and the percentages in technical roles are even lower, often failing to crack 30 percent. These instances cited above are only a minute percentage of the thousands of stories that come out yearly on diversity in the workplace.
If you are a recruiting professional, the CEO of a business or an employee, why should diversity in your workplace matter to you? Before you read the other half of this article, I want you to condition your mind to listen. Pack your prejudice on the subject and simply read to listen. In replacement of your prejudice, take a more compassionate stance. This subject is a touchy and difficult one to have for the person against inclusion and the one for it. But in order for us to understand each other and be moved toward authentic action, we have to be willing to have these conversations. You may feel as though this topic has been over analyzed and discussed. So why is the conversation still ongoing? Because very little progress is being made. McKinsey&Company reports that out of 346 companies that were researched in 2015, (mostly based in the US and UK) an increased average gender representation on their executive teams of only 2 percentage points, to 14%, and ethnic and cultural diversity by 1 percentage point, to 13% has been realized. What is more, many companies are still uncertain as to how they can most effectively use inclusion and diversity to support their growth and value creation goals. In Africa, one of difficulties in business dealings is ethnocentrism. “Many companies hold ethnocentric practice as they set aside executive positions for the people whether deserving or not but who belong to their group and thereby barring such significant positions from people who do not belong to their clan even though they deserve them. Such an approach can literally hamper the value and ethics of the barred staff and can also affect tremendously on the productivity of the workers.” (Research Gate, 2019)
Re-examining the business case for inclusion and diversity, McKinsey found these out:
- The relationship between diversity and business performance persists. Thestatistically significant correlation between a more diverse leadership team and financial outperformance demonstrated three years ago continues to hold true on an updated, enlarged, and global data set.
- Leadership roles matter. Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation. The highest-performing companies on both profitability anddiversity had more women in line (i.e., typically revenue-generating) roles than in staff roles on their executive teams.
- It’s not just gender. Companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. That this relationship continues to be strong suggests that inclusion of highly diverse individuals – and the myriad ways in which diversity exists beyond gender (e.g., LGBTQ+, age/generation, international experience) – can be a key differentiator among companies.
- There is a penalty for opting out. The penalty for bottom-quartile performance on diversity persists. Overall, companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/ cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability thanwere all other companies in our data set. In short, not only were they not leading, they were lagging.
Here are 4 strategies to help leaders re-invent their working culture and impact change to their businesses in the process:
- RECOGNISE THE NEED FOR CHANGE
As seen from several written papers and research works, diversity in business is a much needed element. Aside the many benefits that could be attributed to inclusion and diversity, I believe it is a basic human responsibility to limit our discriminatory biases with intentionality and effort. There is a need to learn new ways and unlearn what we may think of others based on their gender, religion, age, ethnicity, etc. When we recognise the need for change,our journey to limitless growth can begin.
- COMMUNICATE THE CHANGE
Unsuccessful leaders tend to focus on the ‘what’ behind the change. As successful leaders we must rather communicate the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Leaders who explain the purpose of the change and connect it to the organisation’s values or explained the benefits creates a stronger buy-in and urgency for the change.
Bringing people together to plan and execute change is very crucial for leaders. We need to work across boundaries, encourage employees to break out of their silos, and refuse to tolerate unhealthy competition. We must also include employees in decision-making early on, strengthening their commitment to change. Unsuccessful change leaders also fail to engage employees early and often in the change process.
As successful leaders we must make sure our own beliefs and behaviours support change, too. Inclusion is difficult. There may be cultural differences, language barriers and disagreement in beliefs. But the process of diversity is a journey of growth – learnings and unlearnings.
Be open exploring your options before rushing into any decision that will significantly change the status quo. Involving others in the exploration process will provide you with multiple options, viewpoints, and insights – some of which you may have overlooked. Often, people closer to the issue have an insight that even the most seasoned leader will miss. Therefore we need a huge reservoir of options to choose from.
There is a right way to approach matters of inclusion and diversity and that is to lead with the heart, from a stand point of understanding and empathy, followed by logic. Do not be immediately dismissive based on your prejudices. There are hidden gems in places you have not looked and this could cause you growth and missed opportunities. Our commitment as leaders should be to change. As such, we must be particularly strident in embracing and enforcing change when necessary so as to consolidate our influence as a leader and leverage the impact of the organization for maximum results.
It is possible! Simply start today.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.