A historic moment - John Glenn expressing gratitude to Katherine Johnson for her invaluable contributions.
Harrison, leading the Space Task Group at Langley Research Center once said, "United we stand, divided we fall." This concept rings true, even today, especially in the context of diversity and inclusion.
Our research undeniably affirms that businesses advocating for and practicing diversity and inclusion hold a significant edge over their competitors. They enjoy a plethora of benefits such as a wider talent pool, heightened employee engagement, morale, and well-being, lower attrition rates, enhanced innovation, and more thorough decision-making processes. All these factors amalgamate, propelling overall organizational performance.
However, as revealed in a recent report (March 2023) by North American think tank IBM, focused on women in leadership, we are still a long way off from achieving gender parity. Even though 2023 has witnessed an increase in women occupying C-suite positions and board seats, the demand for more women in middle management is stark, and workplaces still require further modifications to be genuinely inclusive of women.
An intriguing aspect of the report is the close examination of a group of organizations, termed as 'first movers', outpacing their peers. The study concluded that these vanguards possess three distinct characteristics:
· They have unequivocally made women's advancement a top business priority.
· They view gender inclusivity as a catalyst for financial performance.
· They continually evolve, understanding the necessity for ongoing changes to attain gender equality.
Beware the Invisible Hurdles
Unfortunately, leadership traits are still seen through the gendered lens—male leaders are expected to be results-driven, while female leaders are anticipated to be people-centric. Ingrained biases continue to influence our perception of an effective leader, with traits often deemed as 'soft'—such as communication, empathy, emotional intelligence, and transparency—typically associated with women. The IBM report from November 2022, titled 'Stop Calling Them Soft: Why Today’s Essential Skills Are Anything But', offers deeper insights into this issue.
The Price of Inaction Keeps Rising
The upside of fostering gender equity and inclusion has been acknowledged—it enhances productivity, profitability, and overall performance. Gender equity leaders witnessed a 19% higher revenue growth than other sampled organizations. Despite this, many companies fail to act as though their future growth hinges on gender parity. This oversight could be critical, given that nearly a third of women anticipate leaving their jobs in 2023, making it increasingly challenging to attract and retain top female talent.
Path to Transformation: Leading the Change
The report outlines a pragmatic guide for implementing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. Here are some actions to consider:
· Sculpting Leadership Roles: Design roles at the helm based on organizational priorities and the skills, experiences, aspirations, and expertise of prospective leaders.
· Alter the Discourse: Leaders should illustrate the financial benefits of rectifying gender imbalances, moving from well-intentioned statements to defined gender representation goals and metrics.
· Evolving Sponsorship/Mentorship: Emerging leaders should receive appropriate coaching, opportunities, and support to thrive.
· Addressing Unconscious Bias: Organisations must modify their training strategies, embedding allyship at every level to combat unconscious bias.
Join us in our mission to advocate for and build a more equitable, inclusive world