What does it take to move discussions about inclusion and diversity to action and change?
This question was on the minds of the 400 corporate executives, academics and social leaders gathered for the recent Bloomberg Business of Equality Summit co-sponsored by Willis Towers Watson.
It was a thought-provoking day…consider:
- “227.” Carolyn Tastad, P&G Group President, North America, suggested we find 227 capable women around the world who could join the 23 women who currently lead Fortune 500 companies. That’s the very attainable number it would take to reach a 50% gender balance among CEOs of our largest companies.
- “Intersectionality.” A term used by Chamath Palihapitiya, the CEO of Social Capital, to capture the array of factors that interconnect to define each of us uniquely. He suggests that when selecting employees, if we “close our eyes,” ask thoughtful questions and listen for the best answers, we’ll discover the talent we need. Then when we open our eyes, we’ll be amazed by the intersectionality.
- Second-chances. How about the individual whose participation in a second-chance program for those “involved in the justice system” meant that she is now employed and well on her way to a new start in life.
- Starting at the top. When a transgender employee faced difficulty re-assimilating following her transition, the CEO publicly applauded individuals who supported their colleague. With just a few words he declared an expectation of inclusion for the entire company.
- Achievable. Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is attainable. But we as leaders have to take decisive action to effect change.
Broad brushes miss the detail
In a panel that I introduced, we examined the dangers of generational stereotyping. It’s become fashionable to use the broadest of brushes to describe the 80 million people comprising a generation. By doing so we miss the variations of individuals, preferences, traits, skills, issues and concerns. Let’s try to create a new, more nuanced view of people and avoid generational typecasting.
The power of data plus transparency
Throughout the day, the power of data emerged as a steady theme, not only as an overarching measure of a workforce’s diversity, but also as a tool to help leaders promote change. For example, data that goes beyond a simple managerial level to understand gender representation and diversity at all levels. Detailed data can provide transparency and can inform ways to improve recruiting, promotion and pay review decisions. And the transparency can create trust within an organization. At Willis Towers Watson, we’re passionate about helping our clients use data in this way to identify trouble spots and track improvements.
Where can you start? A great place is with the data of your own organization. Consider asking some questions:
- Do we have gender balance at each level – from entry level to top executives?
- Do we know if we’re paying equal amounts for the same jobs with equivalent performance?
- How are hiring patterns, promotion rates and attrition impacting the outcomes?
- What does our future look like if the same patterns continue?
Once you have the answers, take action to ensure:
- Leaders and managers throughout the organization are aligned around goals.
- Processes for hiring, promotion and leadership succession are designed with inclusion and diversity in mind, using balanced selection panels, for instance, with metrics defined and progress communicated to your organization.
- Managers understand unconscious biases and how to keep them in check so they don’t inappropriately affect decisions and outcomes.
- Your organization taps into the fullness of its diversity to gain the benefit of different experiences and perspectives to create a competitive advantage.
As one attendee noted, we’ve reached a tipping point. It’s now up to us to tip it over.
Julie Gebauer is the head of Human Capital and Benefits at Willis Towers Watson.