The working world is changing rapidly and will be unrecognisable in the next few years over the next few posts I’ll be exploring just how these shifts will impact on us all…

Diversity has an increasing focus from governments and organisations around the world, but diversity in the workplace maybe shrinking. For example the World economic Forum (WEF) reported in 2017 that gender disparity in the workplace had increased. Gender however is just one way diversity is measured. Ethnicity, race, gender, are the usuals focal points for diversity.  We also need to consider personality type, religion, socio-economic background, generation/age, capabilities, nationality, sexual identity, and neurological diversity (eg those with Autism, Asperger, Dyslexia etc)

Diversity refers to the way in which we differ from each other. When we understand that every individual is unique, and when we recognise and then make constructive use of these differences, then we can truly support diversity. A recent McKinsey study identified inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage and a key enabler of growth. It found companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their exec teams were 21% more likely to experience above average profitability and greater value creation than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic and cultural diversity then the findings showed 33% likelihood of profitability outperformance. The WEF reported at a national level gender parity could add an additional US $250billion to the UKs GDP

The WEF ranks 144 countries in terms of their progress in closing the gender gap. It ranks progress across 4 dimensions; economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment. The UK currently ranks 15th

Companies with more diverse workforce’s can attract top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction and decision making. It’s not surprising therefore that business leaders are focusing on how they are deliver diversity.

However there is a long way to go. Women account worldwide for 60% of graduates and yet just 3% of leaders worldwide. There were fewer female CEOs of FTSE 100 companies (6) than CEOs named David (8) in the UKin 2016. Males CEOs were likely to earn 77% more on average than female CEOs. Think back to the recent BBC scandal when significant gender pay differences caused a public outcry.

There are occupational differences too where men are underrepresented in education and health and welfare, whilst women are underrepresented in engineering, manufacturing and construction, and information, communication and technology.

Diversity strategies are often combined with inclusion and collaboration plans. This demonstrates that companies want to embrace diversity and create an environment that recognises uniqueness, fosters belonging, and empowers collaborative and team working.

Diversity is about recognising and encouraging difference, e.g. personality types – which has implications for decision making and shaping business culture. Leaders are especially important when considering culture as they have most influence in shaping and transmitting the ‘real’ culture – rather than the ‘ideal’ culture. Employees will know what is really measured and rewarded and how their leaders react to important events, what they provide feedback on and give recognition for, who they coach and mentor, and the criteria they use to select, develop and promote. Role models are also extremely important too, especially if we are to integrate underrepresented groups into organisations.

We need to be aware of our own bias and prejudices. We are more likely to favour people who are similar to us, to see people as all good or bad and to make initial judgements based on limited information. Then we look for evidence to back that up, even if we were wrong. By understanding our own personalities we can look for harmony and diversity to ensure we cover off all the bases of personality in our leadership. Companies will need to be diverse to withstand the challenges faced in the 21st century.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

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