Large parts of Western Europe and Eastern US have few large land predators such as lions and wolves left, if at all. What is irrefutable is the fact that the vital role that carnivores play in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems. With large predators vanishing – almost at an alarming rate – the ecological effects, both big and small, will become irreversible in the long run.
Likewise, there will be unwitting, unforeseen, and unintended repercussions, if there is no diversity in organizations. You only have to Google the phrase, ‘women leaders in Fortune 500 companies’ to know how meager this number is. There is a paucity of women in leading positions across the corporate world. It clearly showcases a dearth of diverse perspectives, which is imperative to maintain the balance in the ecosystem.
Dismal Industry Numbers
To reach these numbers, it has taken corporate America a good five decades. To put things in perspective –
1980 – There were zero women in the top executive ranks of the Fortune 100
2001 – This number had reached 11 percent
When the search is widened to include Fortune 500 boards, this number stands at 17 percent, which, unfortunately, hasn’t budged in the last eight years. These changes signify a stronger commitment to have more women in leading positions, sure. However, they are minuscule in the larger scheme of things.
But why are there so few women leading at the top? Despite there being a record number of women enrolling in STEM courses globally? What happens as they climb higher on the corporate ladder? Why don’t they get the corner office? Is a deeper misogyny to be blamed? Or is this a direct result of nature vs nurture in play? Or, do women second-guess and overthink things, so much so that they lose out on key opportunities that come their way? Or, is it, perhaps, a combination of all of these factors?
These questions need collective effort from women employees and the senior management to find answers to. There are organizations that are committed to bridge this gap in their workforce and transform their workplaces to be diverse and inclusive. Leaders at such organizations are aware and realize the potential, perspectives, and possibilities that women bring to the table. However, while the number of such committed organizations is significant, it is not enough. When looked at from a woman’s perspective, it seems like a drop in the proverbial bucket. Change happens and trickles down successfully, when this drop becomes a steady dribble, which then becomes a cascading waterfall.
Awareness is key to finding solutions to the issue; this awareness needs to bring forth more conversations around gender diversity, which can then lead to more tangible action across organizations, regardless of the industry. For true diversity to be achieved at an organization level, this Awareness-Conversation-Action cycle has to be embraced not from a single leader’s or a business unit’s perspective, but from a business standpoint.
#MeToo and Its Ripple Effects
While it may seem like the world in general, and the corporate sector in specific, have just now taken note of issues like gender inequality, gender wage gap, and gender discrimination, it has been a longstanding obstacle that has reached its zenith now. This is especially so in the wake of the immensely popular #MeToo campaign that saw the fall from grace of many a top executive in the media business and the corporate world alike. There simply is no choice left but to address the proverbial big PINK elephant in the room.
Today, we, as part of the ecosystem, are better suited to address this issue than ever before, owing to the confluence of a variety of positive factors –
to name a few.
The diversity and inclusion agenda of an organization can be broadly looked at across three main levers:
What Women Want
While there are substantial numbers of women in the workforce, the number of women who drop out mid-career, post-marriage, post-childbirth, later years, are still significantly high. This leaves very few women left to reach the C-suite. What can be done differently? Is this specific to certain geographies, or is it common across the globe? Leaders need to keep these factors in mind and champion specific initiatives like workshops and seminars that aid in reducing, if not completely eliminating, the many inherent biases that many men AND women possess – all thanks to the society we live in, gender stereotypes that are ingrained in us through our environs, and the many factors – big and small – that influence and reaffirm these biases through our lives.
Some of the steps that organizations can take to ensure that their female employees are treated at par with their male counterparts:
Including the LGBTQ Community in the Party
With same sex marriage being legalized in the US, and many other countries following suit, it’s heartening to see more and more people being open about their sexual orientation at the workplace. It also had an important effect in the corporate sector – organizations began formulating rules and regulations that made the LGBTQ community feel inclusive, taking a step in the right direction of being a fair and unbiased workplace. However, the same cannot be said of many countries, including India, where legalization of same sex marriages is a pipedream. Still.
The one ray of light is that organizations have realized that creating policies, conducting sensitization workshops, creating an open and judgment-free work environment are all imperative to establishing a diverse and inclusive workplace. There has been conscious understanding by the management of many organizations of the fact that a conducive and inclusive workplace boosts employee morale and productivity. Furthermore, it’s not merely framing policies but following through with them, because it’s a long journey of progressive realization with many a hurdle and roadblocks strewn about. The will, the conviction, and the commitment of the leadership team is crucial for its success.
Some of the key initiatives and/or programs that organizations can take up in this endeavor include:
The Many Abilities of People with Disabilities (PwD)
Progressive organizations that truly want to create workplaces that are diverse and inclusive, know the importance of leveraging the strengths of skilled people, no matter if they are People with Disabilities. However, there needs to be an organization-wide cultural shift, with the leadership team leading this change to make the biggest impact.
Some of the key initiatives and programs that the leadership team can outline across the organization include:
Numerous studies have shown that a diverse and inclusive workforce has a positive impact on productivity, employee morale, brand identity, and social development. Along with formulating apt policies, initiatives, and following through with necessary steps to see these programs through to success, organizations need to understand that it is a long and arduous journey. That it won’t happen overnight, or even in a short span of time. That to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, consistent effort, commitment, awareness, empathy, and conviction are an imperative.
At the end of the day, you want your party to make everyone present to feel like they are ‘wanted’ and ‘appreciated’ for being there. You want your party to be a success, and that happens when everyone gets on the dance floor and shakes a leg, or a wheel!