Category Archives: Gender Balance and Inclusion

If you are not bias conscious you shouldn’t be a recruiter

I was intrigued to read that a recruiter had been fired by Pepsico for failing to provide a diverse short list which should have included more than one woman. I actually don’t think the lack of women on a short list is a diversity issue, but one of balance and inclusion. It’s a small thing and illustrates underlying thinking, but at least there is a conversation. But who should be held accountable for a lack of diverse candidates on any short list when most recruiters are not bias conscious themselves?

Bias conscious recruitment

As with all these issues it’s often more nuanced than people realise. In 2014 I wrote post “Do headhunters exclude women”   It was in response to a Glasshammer post about how executive search companies and headhunters serve to exclude women. I read the Glasshammer article with interest and the report it was based on  “And then there are none: on the exclusion of women in processes of executive search,” which appeared in Gender in Management: An International Journal in 2013.

My main contention was two-fold:

  • if organisations really wanted to hire women they would
  • the recruitment process is riddled with unconscious bias at every turn, both at head hunter level and internal corporate processes.

Responsibility split   – head hunters and recruiters 

I don’t know anything about the assignment brief which resulted in the firing of the recruiter, so can’t comment on the detail. The reality is that some recruiters are woefully unprepared to recruit anyone at all, let alone provide gender balanced shortlists. Unconscious bias training should be mandatory for all recruiters and if they are not  “bias conscious” I would even contend they shouldn’t be recruiters.

This is fixable.

  • Understand the concept of gender coding and other biases and how the impact the recruitment process. A client bemoaned the fact that their entry-level intake for women was at 33%, which although was a critical mass for women, meant that the talent pipeline struggled when churn kicked in later down the line. Yet only a cursory check showed that their adverts are male coded. This will not be the only factor but it will play a role.
  • Be able to ask their clients the right questions. The fact is that women are under represented at senior levels in almost all organisations. Detailed analysis needs to be made of where barriers for women occur and why. Many organisations need to re-think their hiring policies and come up with some creative alternatives.
  • With a tendency to demand shortlisted candidates who can “hit the ground running” at a more senior level, organisations place demands on recruiters to look for the usual suspects in the usual places and they tend to be male.
  • They can source candidates in a creative way from places where women will be found, not by running a basic Boolean string on LinkedIn. Currently recruiters rely heavily on their networks to present shortlists which can lead to the embedding of affinity bias, what I call the 3Ms (Mini –Male-Mes)
  • They need to know how to sell to women. Many don’t.
  • They need to understand gender difference in communication and ask better questions of both male and female candidates.
  • They can make sure that interviews are structured and that any potential bias is called out. Many are reluctant to do this because clients can take offence. I’ve been in this situation and it calls for extreme diplomacy.

Corporate Responsibility

  • Stop the practise of hiring recruiters on contingency (no placement no fee) especially first past the post. It encourages dubious quick fix, low-cost practises which are certainly not diverse.
  • Be more creative themselves –  consider returnships and other ways of strengthening the female talent pipeline. Support recruitment organisations which have an innovative approach to recruitment.

Bias is learned behaviour and habits acquired over years in all aspects of our every day lives. Understanding those biases, to make bias conscious decisions requires significant effort and training to become conscious of where and when it impacts the recruitment process and all hiring decisions. Needless to say this applies to all biases not just gender. But it’s a good place to start.

If you need a bias conscious recruitment team – place a call now. 

Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment – Beyond the Hype

Diversity and Inclusion recruitment processes and workforces are the buzz words right now. If the level of white noise was a benchmark, we should be there and all sorted. But we’re not. So  what’s going on behind the hype?

Why aren’t diversity and inclusion recruitment initiatives working?

I see regular, but superficial posts about the way to get it right. But despite the social media fanfare and the business case for D & I being incontrovertible, the needle isn’t moving at the rate it should. In some cases it’s regressing. These are the stats from McKinsey,  but if you go with Deloitte, Mercer, the World Bank or W.E.F. the indications are all similar.diversity and inclusion recruitment

Now companies like Microsoft and Google who seemingly go to great lengths to do everything right are struggling to shift the status quo. They are making D & I KPIs for senior management and part of their personal objectives. Essentially the message is that people can’t be relied on to do the “right” thing, they must have incentives and be rewarded for achieving specific objectives when it comes to diversity and inclusion recruitment.

Tackling bias 

To tackle this, many organisations have thrown big budgets and people at unconscious bias training and awareness coaching, but without creating a safe culture where biases can be called out.  Not unsurprisingly there is push back against generic programmes as employees resent the idea that they need to be “fixed.” Unconscious bias can only ever be managed in any of us. Candidates are placed because they conform to pre-conceived ideas around “cultural” fit (affinity or confirmation bias) and conversely rejected because they may not. The concept of hire for attitude rather than aptitude beyond entry-level, is something mainly seen in Twitter memes and quoted by LinkedIn influencers.

Read: Affinity bias and the recruitment process

Defining diversity

Organisations need to have a clear vision of how they define a diverse workforce, what it means for them and then clarity on the strategy they need to achieve those goals. Then there needs to be an impactful  message related to the company mission statement and employee benefits that would attract that diverse workforce. These conditions need to be openly stated as this demographic self-deselect. This can be flexi-time, welcome bonuses, job sharing, disabled facilities, carer support, retirement support, mentoring programmes and education and study support. So whether diversity comes from hiring on the basis of gender, ethnicity, age, physical ability or even mental health issues, there has to be clarity on which demographics are being targeted.

Promote an employer brand based on diversity

diversity and inclusion recruitment

Diversity and Inclusion recruitment drives can’t succeed in a vacuum.  A positive employer branding message has to focus on the benefits of working in an organisation that supports diversity. Building relationships at grass-roots level to create a feeder talent pipeline,  whether via alternative schools, community centres, colleges, NGOs, charities or women’s organisations etc;, or offering returnships to early retirees or parents. This involves having role models to act as brand and diversity ambassadors going directly into those communities to do a full-on PR job.

Spread the word

Once created this message needs to be strategically communicated where the target demographics are likely to be found.  85% of jobs are secured via networking so you can see why hiring results in “mini-mes” being selected. Many recruiters pursue low hanging, visible fruit. It means a fast, problem-free placement and easier fee. Identifying potential candidates easily tracked on LinkedIn is the quick fix option which will not support diversity. Many young recruiters don’t have the skills to do anything more imaginative and will need training on what is needed to encourage successful diversity and inclusion recruitment drives

Positions should be advertised in a wide variety of places and platforms. It is well-known that women cannot be found on STEM courses, so it’s a waste of time looking there. Yet most companies continue to do exactly that and then complain loudly they can’t find the talent. They should try looking at liberal arts courses and conducting numeracy testing at the interview stage.

Neutral selection processes

At this point the selection process should be as neutral as possible.

  1. Empathetic application forms – some companies still list learning differences as disabilities.
  2. Neutral profiles – making sure that the text usually written in an alpha male tone will not cause candidates to self-deselect.
  3. Blind CVs  – these are useless on their own without 3,4 and 5.
  4. Structured interviews with open feedback and a culture of calling out and naming bias
  5. Short lists of 3 for the target demographic. A token minority will end up getting cut.
  6. Interview panels with a diverse composition.

Read: Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias? 

Organisations with a real interest in diversifying their workforce will make more concerted efforts to test new ways to identify and attract a new type of potential candidate. Unless that happens then diversity and inclusion needle will continue to stick.

For support on innovative recruitment processes contact here 

Inclusion initiatives

Diversity and inclusion initiatives under threat

What can HR do to protect diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Diversity and Inclusion initiatives struggle to succeed under any circumstances. But with recent dramatic shifts in the current social, economic and political cilimates in many areas, there is a strong possibility that any progress will be stalled. These swings signal a potential backlash to any corporate inclusion initiatives and even a reversal in our wider cultures. In a wider context, the growing mood seems to be dig in, keep people out, protect ourselves and make things “great” again. Whatever that means. It’s always unspecified of course. To specify would mean there is a vision, supported by goals and a plan. Across the board it’s clear there are no goals or plans. Anywhere. Just reactions.

The impact these new cultural developments will have on company diversity and inclusion initiatives needs to be factored in as the anti-diversity noise is getting louder by the day. News pours in from Denmark, Germany, U.K. France as well as other European countries. Of course not forgetting the rise in tension in the US.

When Inclusion is threatened 

Inclusion isn’t about creating a superficially correct business culture, where token minorities and the odd woman are included in low impact initiatives to tick C-suite KPIs and release Boards of their obligations. It’s about creating high quality work teams which will excel at meeting their ascribed objectives and organisational goals. People are needed to lead those initiatives.  There are any number of studies which show that diverse organisations have a higher return on shareholder value and hands down outperform non diverse companies.

Mckinsey business case

Mckinsey business case for diversity and inclusion

Changing climate

Yet they are not working as they should, even in cultural climates reflecting a positive outlook and so we are failing to see a lasting impact. A rational approach supposedly to appeal to the data driven business mind is simply not gaining ground.  Organisational cultural change can take many years. What is holding us back is the unconscious, irrational mind which is clearly overriding factually based D & I programmes.  Today, that irrational mindset seems to be getting stronger.

Somehow hiring managers regardless of their political mind-set and persuasion, need to be committed to doing the best possible for their organisations in terms of attracting, sourcing, retaining and developing top talent. Already on the weak side, these flawed processes will struggle against this changing sociopolitical background.

The level of unconscious bias in the recruitment and promotion process is already high. The tendency to copy paste “mini-mes” so companies create cohorts of corporate clones which tend to be white and male, will become even stronger.  The chances of creating a corporate culture based on diversity and inclusion set against that prevailing viewpoint will be weakened. The use of the hackneyed cop-out term as the right  “cultural fit” will only grow. One hiring manager in a strongly Brexit region told me he had already been instructed to cut certain ethnic groups from the selection process of his organisation.

Challenges for HR

At a time when employee engagement is at an all-time low and insecurity and uncertainty are clouds over- shadowing a majority, HR practitioners face challenges dealing with these key issues. How do companies expect to find a way forward through this morass if they are located in geographies where the beast of xenophobia has been unleashed in a way that many did not anticipate. I’m not sure how many hiring managers will prioritize inclusion initiatives in these areas.

What can HR they do to implement diverse hiring policies if political wranglings over visas and work permits are going to make international hires increasingly difficult? How will they deal with outright discrimination?

Read: Post Brexit uncertainty starts talent drain

The inclusion challenge today for HR is to have the skills and credibility as well as the tenacity and resilience to cut through the crap and call things for what they are. They may need to stand up to poor leaders.

How many are willing and able to do that?

Check out unconscious bias training here

 

Big Data

A big danger for Big Data – the human element

The  trend for Big Data is one of the current buzz movements with HR being encouraged to embrace every element of big data analytics. A Towers Watson survey of more than 1,000 organizations last year found HR data and analytics to be among the top three areas for HR technology spending.

Benefits of Big Data to HR 

In theory, Big Data allows HR management and executives to make more effective and informed decisions.  Identifying, analyzing and responding to employee activities and performances allows organisations to gain greater insight into employee practices, motivation and overall engagement. This will lead to better hiring decisions, higher retention levels, a greater ability to assess training needs, support succession planning, identify areas of potential attrition, and finally measure the effectiveness of training initiatives.

This mass of strategic data can help employers and hiring managers identify future employment and employee trends within their organisations, to better manage the workforce. The bottom line is big data is a fantastic opportunity to accumulate information on which to base strategic management decisions related to the talent pipeline.

Then what?

At a recent HR Influencers Workshop hosted by Andy Campbell, HCM Strategy Director, Oracle, the discussion centred around the overall effectiveness of big data. I confess to being sceptical. The reason for this is that big data is subject to human implementation. And in the whole process, different interest groups will have a different “why?”  Whose interests are being served?  What are the business objectives? Very often commercial imperatives will not be the same as those of the employees, communities, national or sector interests. We see this with AirBnB and Uber.

Big data also takes no account of the human inclination to a cherry pick and choose the bits that suit them best. As an employment lawyer reviewing a contract I submitted recently said  “Whose interests do you want me to protect?” 

Big Data and Gender Balance 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of my special interest, that is of gender balance and diversity. Despite the overwhelming business case for diversity in organisations, not only are the statistics remaining static, but there is growing evidence that there is even something of a backlash against these initiatives.

Mckinse business case

Research from JUMP and Axiom Consulting would suggest that far fewer men are open to supporting gender balance initiatives than was hoped for.

” Executives and senior managers are generally more supportive and active, whereas middle managers are not. Active engagement from those who favour gender equality comes mainly from the top of the organisation (39%) rather than the employees (12%). The men who are the most resistant to more gender equality are employees (43%) and middle managers (33-36%), in particular men who are between 30 and 40 years old (40%)”

David D’Souza  Head of London & Head of Engagement, CIPD, commented in the HR Influencers  workshop, that this age group is the very one where men “settle down, start families and take-on mortgages. They become more conservative at this point in their lives.”    Read: The angry white male is not who you think  Further research from HBR carried out amongst millennials the US suggests:

“..  aserious concern that unless something is done soon to change Millennial men’s attitudes toward women, these men ascending to the C-suite may hinder — rather than advance — current efforts to reduce the discriminatory effects of gender bias.”

Unconscious bias training 

brain change

You would think that this would be an education issue then?  Unfortunately, it seems there is also a negative reaction towards diversity or unconscious bias training. Research cited in the Harvard Business Review, Why Diversity Programs Fail  by sociologists from Harvard University and Tel Aviv University, indicates that mandatory diversity training is not only ineffective but can actually produce negative results.

I have certainly encountered this personally. Even with diversity and gender balance training sponsored by a company President, the resistance within the group, came from the exact demographic referenced in the JUMP/Axiom Report. Factor in reduced engagement and interest from younger and more junior age groups, the picture is quite bleak.  I have also participated in initiatives to encourage the involvement of men. When these projects are voluntary, the engagement is sadly luke warm.

The HBR researchers also found that talent management strategies such as skill and strength tests, even led to declines in the number of women and minorities in the companies’ workforces over time. “Managers don’t like being told who they want to hire, so they often distribute tests selectively,”

Rock and hard placesRock1

So it looks like we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Big data points to the overwhelming business value of gender balance and diversity programmes. But there are very strong indications that the big data recommendations are being ignored by the very layers of organisations tasked with every day implementation of these initiatives. Recognising that this is rooted in unconscious bias, attempts to create awareness, is sabotaged or ignored.

When my son was a toddler he was resistant to wearing new clothes, so we had to leave new outfits on his bed until he finally got used to the smell and feel of them. Until they felt familiar and safe. Is this what organic change is about, a century long process to overcome resistance to change? It looks as if we are going to have to devise small group coaching programmes to literally coax multiple generations of the value of this big data!

With big data, the big danger is that everyone interpreting it has a different “why.”  It’s all down to whose interests get priority and the human element.

Tech tackles workplace bias with new apps

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias in job search and recruitment

Tech is considered to be one of the least gender balanced sectors. Women are difficult to identify, attract and when that does happen, the churn levels are especially high. But it is also an area which is well placed to offer support to organisations wanting to monitor or highlight their own unconscious biases for gender and other workplace bias.

Some of the apps coming out of the tech sector offer ingenious ways to identify situations where workplace bias exist. It’s clear that although they all can’t tackle the bias directly  – they do expose it and highlight it.

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias

Doxa

Doxascore.com is an online dating style site, with data driven tools to match women with companies that best fit them.  Doxa helps women job seekers glean how various tech start-up companies treat their female employees. Using employee sourced survey data, the software develops a view what it is like to work at various companies, and how women fare in these workplaces. The profiles examine  compensation,  hours worked and schedules, pay gap, hours spend in meetings, the number of women on the leadership team and maternity-leave policies.

Entelo Diversity

This is a recruiting software which supports companies wanting to create more diverse teams by targeting specific demographics that are under represented in their current organisations. The algorithm reviews the online profiles of potential candidates—using data from Twitter, GitHub and other sites. “Since this information is layered on top of a candidate’s skills and qualifications, the solution provides a level of objectivity as it relates to your hiring practices. It also helps organizations demonstrate good faith efforts and comply with regulations”

FairyGodBoss

FairyGodboss is a data crowd sourcing platform to rank companies for the professional experiences and conditions they offer women. They have identified top industries for “gender equality, women’s job satisfaction, and the ones women would recommend to other women.” PR, Cosmetics and Hospitality are apparently the leading industries when it comes to women’s perceptions of gender equality at work. This gives women an opportunity to research organisations and make informed decisions based on comments of other women.

GapJumpers

Blind CVs

Blind CVs don’t tackle the root of the problem

GapJumpers is the “Voice” for business offering what they call blind auditions. The app offers companies a platform on which they can test the abilities of job applicants without knowing their gender or race , identifiers which lie at the root of bias.  I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced this process to understand how it works in practise. Blind CVs tend not to deal with the real problem, simply defer it to late in the process. But they do get candidates through the first stages which is at least a step in the right direction.

Gender decoder Kat Matfield

Gender Decoder is an app similar to Textio, it highlights linguistic gender-coding  which appears in job adverts and other documents. Research has shown that language cause women to self-deselect from applying for jobs that are advertised with masculine-coded language.This site is a quick way to check whether a job advert has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has this discouraging effect. It’s a free app and one that works well.

I’ve used it myself.  My only comment would be that some of the words that are considered to be male coded such as “confident” and “business acumen” are more of a commentary on our culture. To replace with words which are considered to be “female” is simply patronising.

Gendertimer

meetings

Gendertimer is an app that monitors the amount of “meeting air time” participants take up. Here you can track who hogs the floor to create greater gender awareness in meetings and other social situations. Research shows that the dominant group is men! Users can manually record any speaker’s gender chart the data. This leads to self-regulation for any extroverts or  “mansplainers” and the possibility of holding more inclusive  meetings.

Includeed

I saw the pitch for this software diversity dashboard at an #HRTech conference in Paris 2015. Launching in 2016 Founder Sandrine Cina says “Includeed is an online platform which brings together employees, customers and companies around the topics of diversity and equal opportunities. Includeed allows employees and customers to review companies on their efforts towards equal opportunities, letting them know what is really needed and which solutions would be beneficial for all.”

InHerSight

Inhersight.com . Users rank their workplace across 14 criteria including maternity leave, salary satisfaction and wellness. The platform’s rating system is similar to sites such as Glassdoor, TripAdvisor Inc. and other crowd sourced feedback sites. It aggregate anonymous user-generated data to guide women to make “smarter decisions”.

Just not sorry

Just not sorry is a chrome extension app which produced an international furore in the sorry/not sorry debate. This is designed to help women neutralise their emails from “girl speak”  along the lines of sorry-not-sorry-242x300 “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m just trying to confirm our arrangements and could you possibly let me know your plans for xx. I know this is short notice but would you mind getting back to me by xx”

My own view is that some women (and men) may find it helpful and emails should be succinct because no one will read them!

Textio

Textio is a spell check for job adverts, highlighting word choices that show gender bias or hackneyed phrases.  It suggests alternative phrasing to stop self-de-selection by certain categories of job seekers. The program discourages corporate buzz words  such as “ ninja” or “guru”   which appeal to male applicants. Once again, my concern is words which are listed as male coded need to adapt with the culture  rather than the other way around.

Unitive

Unitive  leads to is a data driven hiring decisions and monitors job applicants and the hiring process, allowing hiring managers to visualize the information behind their decisions. The platform reminds hiring managers throughout the process when they are most likely to exhibit bias. This can be when drafting job descriptions, adverts, reviewing resumes or other written documents to recognize and avoid workplace bias. Candidates compete anonymously to solve problems related to the job.

What other apps or platforms would you recommend to tackle workplace bias? I would be happy to include them.

If your organisation needs unconscious bias training – contact me.

 

 

structured interviews

Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias?

Structured interviews in the hiring process

Structured interviews with data driven questioning and assessment are being touted as the “new” way forward in selection processes to avoid unconscious bias, especially in relation to gender bias. Today, most interviewers adopt a fairly relaxed approach to interviewing. There is a strong preference for what seems like casual questioning about the candidate’s background and experience. But although unstructured interviews are perceived to be the most effective from a hiring manager perspective, research suggests that they are one of the worst predictors of on-the-job performance. They are considered to be less reliable than general psychometric testing and personality tests which can be as much as 85% reliable.

So why do we continue to do it?

Cultural fit

There is a long standing reliance on the ability to identify “cultural fit.” Many managers and leaders pride themselves on having the gut instinct to recruit the best talent. It’s possibly true that some do. But most don’t. What they do is follow the tried and tested P.L.U. method of hiring  – People Like Us. As most of the decision makers are male, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 3M approach applies: Mini- Male- Mes. An interviewer’s perception of a candidate in an unstructured interview (a normal interview to you and me) is the over riding factor.

Removing human perception

Somewhat cynically I think it’s an unlikely and unrealistic expectation that we will be able to remove human assessment from hiring decisions. A candidate maybe considered to be the best via testing, but may struggle to fit in with the team. I have seen situations where candidates come into the 98 percentile on testing scores and still are not hired because the hiring manager just didn’t like him. Is this based on a bias? Of course. One that is very hard to define. His boss decided that the relationship between the manager and job holder would have been the key driver and the candidate was cut.

Unconscious bias is set up in our DNA to protect ourselves. This is why we hire and surround ourselves with P.L.U., from backgrounds similar to our own or that don’t cause us discomfort.

What are structured interviews?

Rather than relying on ad hoc questions, where the bias of an interviewer can be imbued into both the question itself and also how she receives the answer, it is believed that interviews should be set up so that all candidates are asked questions, in the same order and responses noted down at the time.  There is usually a half way point where an anlysis of the candidates performance is assessed. Interviewers are also held accountable for any perceptions and required to defend them.

The objections to structured interviews are that the communication flow is less organic and possibly stilted, but the results are likely to be more neutral. Response can then be compared systematically.

Candidate Score cards

Candidate scorecards from structured interviews are a more objective method of evaluation in which candidates’ responses are assessed against a predefined benchmarks. Hiring managers can  allocate a weight for each answer based on the requirements of the job in terms of skills and experience, company values,

Will data based questions really overcome unconscious bias? Google identifies certain characteristics that guarantee on-the-job success and structure questions around that. Laslo Bock, VP HR  in his book Work Rules identifies questions that “are behavioral, dealing with past scenarios, and situational, dealing with hypothetical scenarios.”

Psychometric or other testing

Many companies combine testing and an interview process. Frequently candidates are asked to complete behavioural interviews with a specific assignment in line with the requirements of the job. A practical skill test also allows employers to assess the quality of a candidate’s work versus unconsciously judging them based on appearance, gender, age and even personality. Some companies do hiring weekends of “trial by sherry” when they go through a gamut of social events and behavioural assessments. This does not necessarily eliminate bias. There is that urban legend where a candidate was supposedly cut for putting salt on his food before tasting it.

Balanced shortlists 

The reality is that it is not just the nature of the hiring process and whether structured interviews become the norm. The interview procedure can be as neutral as you like, but if the rest of process is riddled with bias and coded messages then the system is set up to fail. This can be in adverts, job descriptions, self- de-selection of female candidates, and other subliminal messages projected at candidate touch points.

One issue is the number of minority candidates short listed for each open assignment. Research from University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, although not conclusive, suggests that the key is to have 2 or even 3 female candidates (or other discriminated group) on the short list to level the odds. Psychologically it deflects the black/white approach of “do I want this candidate or not”  to either or thinking.

Companies can insist that the executive search company or the in-house recruiter meet those requirements. If they don’t have the skills to go beyond the highly visible, low hanging fruit type of candidate identification, and many don’t,  they should use specialist organisations which do. Check out 3Plus International 

 A female candidate’s chances of being hired are statistically zero if she is the only woman in a pool of finalists

The most effective way to manage unconscious bias is to make hiring managers aware of their own biases. Then start managing them at every stage of the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

diversity initiatives

The main reason diversity initiatives fail

Diversity initiatives and commitment

Diversity initiatives are hard to introduce and even harder to manage successfully and bring to fruition. Many would say they are the window dressing and lip service to appease campaigners. Having a diversity policy is very different to making it effective.

Neil Morrison covered this exact point in his post the other “Some are more equal than others.” He gave an astute analysis of the status of diversity initiatives, especially  gender inclusion. He suggested they were more about “undertaking institutional appeasement. Saying the right things, whilst nothing really changes.”

I agree. For the most part.

He then went on to ask “What if business is essentially a masculine construct, with male rules and the only way to succeed is by being more male than the men?”

Return on Equity

That is a depressing commentary on the state of imbalance in our corporate cultures and one that doesn’t explore alternative models.  But it did make me think.  One of the main and basic reasons why diversity initiatives fail is lack of genuine leadership buy-in. This is in spite of the fact that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that gender balanced organizations generate higher shareholder return on equity. That ($£€) usually works as a male definition of success.

In an era where approximately 66% of the workforce are said to be disengaged, many male dominated organizations are not doing so well, are they? Think financial crisis melt down, VW & FIFA scandals.

This week also saw the announcement that Sir Philip Hampton has been appointed by the UK government to lead the push to get more women into senior roles. Because that is exactly what we need isn’t it? Another middle aged, middle class, white guy, to lead even more diversity initiatives that may be destined to fail.

To quote Einstein Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Shifting body parts

Corporations reward, promote, recruit and develop for the most part based on a masculine premise. All women know that. The 3M approach to hiring prevails. Mini-Male-Mes. Historically, gender division of labour was centred around the management of the food supply and survival, requiring upper body strength. In a knowledge based economy, the main tool in revenue generation is the iPad, an implement where a manicured nail can work as well as shoulders built like Channing Tatum.man on ipad

So a new barrier to entry for women was required.  Hours worked, and lack of time, have become the new male benchmark for success , in a 24/7 presence culture of over work. 

  Women for the most part still assume the role of C.D.O (Chief Domestic Officer,) and are less open to a life of corporate bondage. At one time the discussion would have been whether a man brought home the bacon/harvest. Now it’s how many billable hours he took to do it.

But this doesn’t mean that there can’t be a shift in these values. H.R. V.Ps  are in a leadership position to correct the “some are more equal than others” situation, more perhaps than any one else in a company, except the CEO.

The question remains why don’t they? I’ve written before about the changes that senior HR executives can lead. Let’s be clear, although HR is a pink function, the top jobs are predominantly held by men.

Two key steps forward 

  1. Assign the gender balance project to a senior position with clout, rather than dumping it on a junior, overloaded employee, with no teeth. Preferably not a middle aged, middle class, white guy.
  2. Give all HR personnel, including the VP HR, plus senior managers unconscious bias training.  I would be delighted to run my programme in your company.

Diversity initiatives require top down commitment to cultural change. If VPs of H.R. feel that the challenge of re-engineering corporate culture is too daunting, they need to bring in more women. Women can’t be what they can’t see and hear. They need someone who has walked in their shoes.

Until then, some will definitely be more equal than others. Diversity initiatives will continue to underperform or fail and sadly imbalance will remain .

 

What would you do?