I’ve been inundated of late with speeches about the need for diversity in both the workplace and on corporate boards; we’ve long since heard this but there is a resounding boom echoing throughout conferences and talks I’ve been to recently, to the point that I’m close to giving a huge eye-roll (well, in all actuality, I have) when I read it’s on the agenda for the next event I’m headed to.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m in complete and utter agreement – the facts are the facts and I wish some would stop denying their existence. We know it to be true that in the G7, only 24% of senior roles are held by women, that only 5.8% of S&P 500 CEO’s are held by a woman, that venture capital funds less than 7% of female-led ventures and that women in Canada earn only $0.87 to the $1 a man earns. Now, this isn’t a moral issue – it’s a business one; it’s proven that diversity in the workplace – and diversity of ALL kinds, not just gender, deliver huge benefit to the organization as a whole; increased talent pool, higher employee engagement and satisfaction, more effective decision making, greater ability to support the diverse client base and most importantly to the shareholders – an increase in revenue!
So, if the above is all true, why am I rolling my eyes each time I hear this topic?? Because the fact is that with all the data and the many talks occurring, there is no definitive call to action nor accountability by most organizations or boards to commit to move the needle – the one exception I’ve seen is Accenture – I personally love that they’ve drawn a line in the sand to get to 50% women across their workforce by 2025, but where are the rest? So, it’s all talk – and there is a LOT of talk lately – lots of great stuff in fact, I think of Jodi Kovitz here in Toronto with her message to #MoveTheDial, but the fact is, like any other business metric, if the leaders and their teams are not measured and rewarded against an objective or target, it’s simply NOT going to happen. I’d love to think that my children were going to volunteer for their chores in the household, but without a clear understanding of the requirements (I’m sure their allowance also helps 😉 ), it just wouldn’t happen.
I’ve been a part of many Diversity & Inclusion teams in the organizations I’ve worked for and seen great programs and awareness driven for many of the groups we supported – unfortunately, I didn’t see the dial move significantly given a lack of goal and objective setting and accountability by the executive to set targets that they personally were held accountable to. I was flattered to be asked to be the executive sponsor across all business lines in Canada for one of my employers – I said I’d gladly accept the position if I could get a better understanding of not only the current baseline but the targets that our global CEO would be setting for each of us to be measured against. Shockingly (or not so) the baseline results were abysmal – some of the worst I’ve seen in fact, varying upon business line and there was no firm commitment or targets being set. Shortly after being asked to become the D&I exec sponsor, I attended a senior leadership meeting – I sat in a room with approximately 60 of my colleagues – I was fortunate enough to work in one of the business lines better represented by women, however there were only two, yes, count ‘em, TWO non-Caucasians in the room and all I could do is sit back and shake my head and wonder why we couldn’t commit to some level of progress, an incremental improvement against our diversity measures.
So what? Am I suggesting that we stop talking about the current state? No, not at all, but I’m going to ask everyone who puts this topic on the agenda to do so with a firm call to action – stop reciting the data, stop talking about the gap and DO something about it – I would encourage leaders to not continue to hire in their likeness per se, but rather demand an equal slate of candidates be put in front of them to choose to best candidate. If you’re a leader, be bold – set the target – make this another measurable and incented KPI that ultimately drives all the other business success metrics you write about in your annual reports. Don’t talk – just act, don’t say – just show, don’t promise – just prove. Period.