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.
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
- 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.
- 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?