We Need to Do Something Different in Regard to Diversity

I’ve always heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results. Doesn’t that perfectly sum up the approach some companies take to diversity? 

They talk about doing something different and make public statements about the importance of diversity but when you look at their hiring and promotion practices the metrics show little to no change. Simply put, if you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to get the same results.

We Need to Do Something Different in Regard to Diversity

Now, more than ever we need to double down on diversity in order to make real progress. Like so many other lessons, if we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.

One study looking at the impact of the 2008 recession on diversity in law firms found that job losses in the recession significantly rolled back the diversity and inclusion progress made from 1988-2008. Sadly it took 11 years to regain the ground lost; racial diversity did not return to 2008 levels until 2019.

Likewise, McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org’s 2019 Women in the Workplace survey (https://mck.co/3pfrLVb) found that despite the fact that there is an increasing number of women in the workforce (women held more payroll jobs than men as of December 2019) “parity remains out of reach. Women—and particularly women of color—are underrepresented at every level“ of corporate America.  

If that news isn’t disheartening enough, the COVID job loss reports show a sharp reversal of the gains that had been made with some calling this recession a “shecession” because of the disproportionate impact it has had on working women, especially women of color.

As leaders, we must work to improve diversity and inclusion in our hiring and promotion practices (more on that in a minute) and we must work to stop or at least slow down the involuntary exit of women from the workforce. I say involuntary because many of these women do not necessarily want to exit the workforce; rather, they feel that they must choose between having a career and taking care of their families. This isn’t a choice they should feel they have to make! 

One way we can change this is by being thoughtful in how we implement our return to work plans. Even though some employers may be ready to have their employees return to working in the office, some female employees, especially those that serve as primary caregivers in their households, may not be able to leave the house with schools doing remote learning and limited options for daycare. 

Our return to work approach should offer a variety of options for people who want to return to the office as well as those who can’t yet return. Moreover, we need to practice inclusivity to ensure that remote employees do not feel left out, penalized, or passed over for projects and/or promotions in favor of those who returned to work in the office. 

In regard to our long term approach, perhaps it’s time to rethink our approach to diversity. We need to do something different than we’re doing now; we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect to get different results. One consideration is to think about how we hold company leadership accountable for progress toward diversity and inclusion goals. 

While many companies set diversity goals and form women’s initiatives and other similar programs, there’s little done to ensure that their leadership and employees are reaching out of their comfort zone (e.g. hiring someone you already know) in their hiring and promotion practices. If these companies are serious about diversity why not link it to performance goals or compensation criteria?

Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends research found that while 78% of companies that responded believed that diversity and inclusion was a competitive advantage, only 6% actually tied diversity outcomes to compensation. 

The financial case for diversity is clear. Companies with higher diversity among their executive leadership have better revenue margin and profitability. “[C]ompanies with top quartile representation of women in executive committees have been shown to perform better than companies with no women at the top—by some estimates with as much as a 47% premium on average return on equity.

Links also exist between having more women directors and corporate sustainability, as well as with economic growth, since more diverse leadership teams can cater to a broader array of stakeholder needs and concerns.”  (https://bit.ly/38uamBn)

Likewise, McKinsey’s January 2018 report Delivering Through Diversity, found that companies with culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits. If greater diversity leads to greater profitability then why do so few companies include it as part of their compensation criteria?

Another approach some companies have taken is to regularly share meaningful data with their shareholders and the general public (which also includes potential future employees) on their diversity goals and performance toward those goals. Google, for example, publishes an annual diversity report.

There are a lot of approaches companies can take to improve diversity and inclusion; this article only lists a few. If we’re going to get serious about progress on diversity and inclusion goals we’re going to need more than a goal; we’re going to need accountability and ownership. 

Original article published in LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/we-need-do-something-different-regard-diversity-sondra-radcliffe/

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