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Is being yourself going to bring about change? Not if the majority of 'selves' don't purposefully drive it!

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I've blogged before about how firms should find a way to let employees be themselves at work. Although, as one kind reader pointed out, that doesn't further the inclusion agenda if being yourself means working in a way that excludes others! Fair point. I buy into this vision. After all, it's one I created, spearheaded and have very publicly sponsored both within my firm and externally. But recently I got to thinking. If I care about inclusion (and I do) and I am passionate about disruption (which I am) how come we aren't disrupting diversity?

Please don't mention another program aimed at fixing women

Think about it. At the current rate of change it will take us about a century to have equal numbers of women leading Fortune 500 companies, according to Catalyst. According to the same company, women currently hold only 5% of Fortune 500 CEO positions, while the percentage of board seats held by women in both the United Kingdom and United States is 17%.

 

The business case for change? It’s a no brainer

But of course this isn't just HR. This is everyone. Don't we all want to work for a firm that's more profitable? More effective? More creative? And yes, I am going to use the word, more diverse?

 

It's progress Jim, but not as we know it

There’s no easy answer here. But I think we need to try a few more radical solutions or we will be in a very similar place to where we were twenty years ago in terms of the number of women in senior roles in the workplace. In some industries (like mine - technology) it could even get worse.

As I said, these are my suggestions. What other actions would help us disrupt the status quo and accelerate gender equality in senior roles?

 

Are these disruptive enough?

  1. Got an all-male leadership team? Unless your firm is really radical, don't think they are going to swap them out for an all-women one! But what about a shadow all-women team, with the same data sets and meeting schedules - what kind of decisions would it drive? Interesting experiment or actual business impact?
  2. Got a non-diverse C-suite? How about turning the whole notion of mentoring on its head and linking up some of your high potential women with some of the C-suite for THEM to be mentored.
  3. Send an all-women team to bid on the next piece of work you have, assess the impact, behaviours, changes – and the benefits!
  4. Recruit women until you have a reasonable pipeline. If you can't find the talent, commit to build it (imagine if everyone did that!)
  5. Make maths, engineering and science mandatory for all girls’ pre-tertiary education.
  6. Ban Barbie. OK that's a joke, but seriously, all this time and we still need a campaign to knock down gender stereotypes we feed our kids? No wonder change is slow!
  7. And of course, if none of these resonate, why not ask around? Don't we need a disrupt-diversity x-challenge? In fact, lmk and I will definitely take our best ideas forward and see if we can get sponsorship and support to #MakeItHappen.
  8. Don’t keep ideas to yourself. If you’ve got an idea, or experience of how you disrupted diversity in the workplace, share it with me in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter: @IsaNaidoo.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 03, 2015

    Dear Isabel -- as a father of four (pre)teenage daughters and as man looking forward to them getting off my payroll in the next ~10 years, this is a subject of more than passing interest to me. Here are my thoughts on your top 8 list, and this theme in general. 1. Automated HR screening and fiercely objective hiring/promotional criteria. Remove subjectivity from analyst/consultant/entry level hiring. No one wants to hire jerks - and we need to talk with you before we hire you -- and there is a subjective component that cannot be eliminated (nor should it - intuition, man's or woman's is real and valuable) -- yet we can use Data & Analytics to do a better job of pre-screening. How to provide a control group for HR? I hypothesize that short and ugly people are even more discriminated against than women?? (just saying) 2. Re: STEM. This is a grassroots problem and will be solved there. It's not about banning Barbies -- it's about exposing Legos, Minecraft, etc... 3. Redefining success, culturally and corporately. Which is more valuable -- running a F500 company as the CEO, or teaching your children self awareness, critical thinking, and compassion towards others? Changing a diaper or filing a 10k? We are all humans and intellectually, I draw no gender distinction on that front. However, emotionally (whether through nurture or nature, BOTH), and physically XY is different than XX. (period). Can and/or should we acknowledge these facts (are they facts?) while still keeping a level playing field from a business opportunity perspective? I think this is critical -- Women and Men are different -- that's OK! That's awesome even. We should cease all pretense that we are the same...context > dogma. 4. Evolution -- history will not serve well those that discriminate against other humans, for any reason. Yet we still have women treated as chattel and worse. Egad. We don't have a business gender bias issue, we have a gender issue. Our brains have simply not kept speed with the pace of change in our world -- it used to be a very good thing if the female stayed at home and took care of the young - how else would they eat? It was important that a man be strong and ruthless -- how else would they eat? etc... Now that we have such an abundance (truly, Abundance) - we have not figured out exactly what this means culturally. We will, it will just take time/generations to more broadly matriculate. I'm really torn when I read articles like yours. I don't offer my daughters any excuses - you want to do it, then #$^! do it, men and women alike get told all day they aren't X, Y, or Zed enough to accomplish their dreams. When I see your article, I wonder if I'm doing them a disservice by not calling out more the challenges they will face as women. On the other hand, I truly believe they have more power over men than vice versa, I'm selling that offensive strategy more than I'm preparing the defense. I digress. Congrats on what you do -- good stuff. Stay positive -- I believe most of us recognize the inefficiency / opportunity cost of not having more gender balance in our organizations -- we'll figure it out. Girl Power+ Boy Power=Human Power! ps - written in one fail pass, I'm sure my logic is circular and/or inductive -- my point is I like the way you think. ps 2 -- http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/upshot/fewer-women-run-big-companies-t... (wow!)

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 07, 2015

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Love the human power equation!

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