The Real Problem With Diversity And Inclusion

While the case for gender equality remains strong, little progress has been made hiring women into leadership roles. This is the real problem with diversity and inclusion. While most business agree on the need for change, very few own the solutions. This is because diversity and inclusion is not treated as a business problem.

An analysis of millions of LinkedIn profiles indicates that since 2008 more women have been hired into leadership positions around the world, however there is still a significant gap.

Women only hold an average of just over 25 per cent of all leadership positions globally, on LinkedIn. Women Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) only account for 18 per cent of the total workforce, as represented in LinkedIn.

Furthermore, research by the non-profit organization Catalyst found that women’s representation in senior leadership continues to lag with women accounting for just 3 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO’s and less than 15 per cent of corporate executives at top companies worldwide, in 2014.

At the same time, LinkedIn’s findings suggest that diversity and inclusion is becoming a top priority for companies worldwide. More than 37 per cent of talent acquisition leaders believe that diversity will be the number one trend defining the future of hiring.

Furthermore, their data shows there has been a 35 per cent increase in global hires made with diversity job titles over the past eight years. This could reflect an increased emphasis from business leaders looking to close the gender gap, particularly at the senior levels.

Despite the slow pace of change, gender diversity policies and initiatives in organizations are becoming increasingly common. The predominant policies and initiatives adopted by organizations to advance women generally include:

· Affinity groups for women;

· Mentoring programs;

· Networking;

· Coaching;

· Unconscious bias training;

· Increased maternity leave;

· Child care benefits; and

· Creating a part time work schedule.

These policies and programs are often implemented as stand alone, one off initiatives with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. The underlying focus of a number of these programs is also to improve individual factors such as, women’s attitudes and mindsets as a means of advancing gender equality.

The limited progress of women in organizations suggests that existing gender diversity initiatives are not as effective as they could be.

The Corporate Leadership Council conducted research in 2016 and found that existing approaches failed to produce the desired result with 81 per cent of organizations undertaking some or all of these initiatives but only 43 per cent reporting that they had any impact.

Advancing women in organizations is a business issue and solutions that really drive change are the ones that are owned and lead by the business.

Businesses should approach gender quality in the same way they approach core issues like productivity, cost and safety. That means business own and implement the solutions, which are developed by them and for them.

These solutions are embedded in existing structures and address all the internal organizational architecture including leadership, culture, systems, policies, people, processes and structure - in a holistic way. The overall aim is to drive alignment and internal fit between these elements and with the overall business objectives; with the goal of advancing gender equality.

This approach is business owned and led. This means that every approach is different for every business. This also means that solutions are focused on addressing gender equality as a business problem in an organic, systematic and sustainable way.

Driving greater equality across an organization is no easy task. But if we continue to use the same approaches we are likely to produce the same results.

Standalone initiatives that are not developed by the business will continue to have a short life span.

Solutions that are not embedded within the business or do not align with the organizations objectives are unlikely to advance gender equality.

The business case for diversity has been made. We need to see more women in leadership positions. This means advancing women at work is a leadership issue; as well as a business imperative. Therefore, it is time we start solving this business issue, as if it is one.