You’ve got plenty of diversity in your company, right? Gender, ethnicity, culture, age: it’s an eclectic mix you have there, so you think you can rest proud. Well think again. The odds are, most of the diversity resides towards the bottom of the organisation, and statistically, your C-suite is probably still lacking diversity.
Sometime last year I was waiting for a flight at the airport and, wanting a break from my emails, came across a Qantas article on cultural diversity in business.
Cultural diversity: most of us are from somewhere else!
The statistics told their own story. Almost half of Australians are either born overseas or have a parent born overseas. So why don't we have more cultural diversity in business? The article continued…
The statistics are startling. While 32 per cent of the Australian population has a background other than Anglo-Celtic, the number in leadership is minute. In ASX 200 companies, 77 per cent of CEOs have an Anglo-Celtic background and 18 per cent have a European background, while just five per cent – that’s 10 people – have a non-European background.
Diversity is good for the bottom line, and well, all sorts of things
A recent McKinsey paper ‘Why Diversity Matters’,talks about the importance of diversity in terms of financial performance, increased innovation, global connectivity, as well as good old-fashioned fairness. Their research showed that financial performance is correlated with both gender and ethnic diversity. My colleague Jane Counsel has written elsewhere about the vital role of diversity in solving business problems, based on her work with organisations.
Gender diversity is leading the way
We can safely say that as a ‘stand-alone’ minority group, women are doing somewhat better than the stats above suggest. As of December 2018, 29.7% of ASX 200 directors were women, 45% of all new appointments to ASX 200 Boards in 2018 were women.
We can and should adopt all those strategies that have helped women gain a foothold in business and leadership. However, we also need managers and key employees at every level to lead on encouraging diversity.
Leadership at all levels is key
Leadership development tends to be concentrated at senior levels of the organisation, but there is a strong argument for developing leadership at frontline and middle management levels. This drives effective execution on strategy, on high-level performance, proactivity and innovation, and engagement, and it also builds capability in diversity and inclusion. Frontline managers, for example, develop a commitment to the importance of a diverse team, and of fostering the leadership ambitions of people from diverse backgrounds.
Keep your leadership pipeline full of (diverse) talent
Providing leadership development for all your managers means that they will stay with you and be your next generation of leaders. One thing is for sure. Increased diversity at all levels of leadership won’t happen unless you make it happen. Bear in mind that statistically speaking, 70% of change programs fail. Through our work with hundreds of executives and senior managers, we've implemented tools and strategies to ensure our clients aren't among those statistics. By following up with recalls, networking with alumni groups, coaching and mentoring, and reporting, we help ensure change programs are affective and efficient.
Diversity, diverse leadership and leadership at all levels
Does that tangled equation make sense now? I think this is an exciting time to be working on embracing diversity through all levels of leadership in corporate life. It’s going to happen, global business and societal expectations demand it, and innovation and business outcomes thrive on it.