You’ve got plenty of diversity in your company, right? Gender, ethnicity, culture, age: it’s an eclectic mix you have there, 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.
We need more diversity at all levels, more diverse leadership at every level, and leadership at all levels is the way to get it! Sound like a tangled equation? Stick with me.
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 wicked business problems, based on her work with organisations.
Gender diversity is leading the way
I think we could safely say that as a ‘stand-alone’ diversity minority group, women are doing somewhat better than the stats above. As of 30th April 2018, while only 27.5% of ASX 200 Boards were women, 54% of all new appointments to ASX 200 Boards in 2018 have been women. That means we’re on an upwards trajectory. (which all leaves me wondering about why it was the women on the AMP Board who in/voluntarily resigned: more work to do there, obviously!)
I think gender equality is leading the way simply because we’ve been chipping away over many years, through affirmative policies, quotas, training, mentoring, coaching, champions of change, and sponsorship of leaders – whatever it takes, squeaky wheels!
So how can we impact on diversity at all levels?
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. I think I know why. Unless they are followed up with recalls, alumni groups, coaching and mentoring, and reporting, nothing much is going to change.
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.