The stats are not great – let’s take a moment to really understand what the problem is.
The stats shared in the Hampton Alexander Review for women on Boards reinforce what a lot of us know – progress is stalling. The Boardwalk Leadership Gender Index benchmarking women on Boards and C-suite across the commonwealth countries earlier this year showed not only a stall but also a decline in some of the more proactive countries
The nature of our work at Boardwalk Leadership means we speak to a lot of D&I leads and we see similar patterns that explain why we aren’t making progress.
The lack of progress around gender leadership is a matter of simplicity and complexity.
Let’s start with the simplicity angle. Too often D&I leads are charged with an almost impossible task to fix the organisational culture, to create a diverse and inclusive workforce often with impossibly tight resources. The resource issue is not just financial, but also having clear leadership and commitment across management.
Too often when we work with D&I leads to sharing findings from our D&I audit the most powerful intervention occurs when we work with the executive team and senior leaders demonstrating why a silver bullet approach doesn’t work. Changing organisational culture is incredibly complicated and it can’t be left to a division, everyone in the organisation has a crucial part to play in moving forward. We have seen brilliant examples of progress when wider buy-in works. It’s not easy, but discussions centre around the business proposition, dissecting success in other organisations and unpacking behavioural change. These three strands help leaders to understand how they build momentum to create inclusive leadership.
I also mention complexity because let’s face it the D&I world is very cluttered. Almost every quarter companies are asked to report on the different segments, whether it’s gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation. All of these elements are absolutely crucial to inclusivity, but on the ground, it can feel overwhelming. And so it is easy to drop one of these areas because it just gets too difficult to make progress and recognise sometimes the minuscule progress. When things get too difficult we often shift focus to something that is easier to handle.
Within Boardwalk Leadership we are in a unique position of having a global view of trends and best practice as well working alongside D&I leads and with HRD who are committed to building an inclusive culture.
So what works?
The most successful and impactful results have shared characteristics.
- Bringing in diverse ideas – not sticking to what’s been done in the same sector. The Hampton-Alexander review shows the current trend of sharing practice within the same sector is not yielding results. To find a solution requires innovation and that needs need diversity of thinking – after all that’s what is at the crux of inclusive leadership – challenging groupthink.
- Having a well-thought-through plan, with measurable outcomes, clear milestones and accountability paths that can be easily articulated by leaders and managers across the organisation.
- Build a strong and credible story that becomes your inclusive brand. This doesn’t mean creating a finished product.
Building inclusivity is not an end goal it is a work in progress and everyone is still learning how to be better. The more honest you are about what you are fixing you will gain respect from colleagues and talent – after all that’s what this is about creating a great place where the best talent wants to work. We’d love to hear what’s working well for you and share what we know makes a difference. For more information drop us a line.