Tag Archives: diversity

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?







Why I’m bored with boards

Missed point
It seems that every time I  pick up a newspaper, click on a link or read a blog there something to be read about women and boards.  And I’m getting bored.  Now this may seem a little hypocritical coming from someone like me, as I have been very vocal over the years in advocating for women in their pursuit of senior roles and do indeed write about it myself.  Despite what you might be thinking,  my position actually remains unchanged. There is a wealth of senior female talent which organisations and global economies fail to tap into, in my view to their detriment. So those initiatives should clearly continue.

However, when you look at the overall scheme of things, whether applied to men or women, organisations are pyramids and there are very few open positions at the top – for anyone at all.  But sometimes it is important not to miss the core issue. The primary danger zone for women professionally, lies much further downstream where the numbers are much higher. The real support and mentoring that women need, is in those more junior, hazy, grey areas, 7-12 years into their careers.

Bad stats
Whichever statistics we use, the numbers don’t look good. 60% of European women are graduates and yet the number occupying senior positions hovers depressingly around 14% depending on the country being cited, and if you venture into Germany, a grim 3%. Somewhere in between C-Suite and entry-level, the corporate drop out rate soars and highly qualified women, find themselves making critical career decisions, very often without any long-term strategy. They leave, or give in and accept their fates consigned to the margins of the organogram. Very often they experience the “Mommy Penalty” earning lower salaries than their male counterparts.  Women with MBAs are one of the hardest hit demographics.  They find themselves in the double bind of having to negotiate their role and manage expectations,   not just in the workplace, but also within their own relationship and families.

The new dad
Interestingly there is now some research which suggests that change is perhaps on the horizon, as a result of shifting expectations from men as well.  A Fatherhood Study carried out by Boston College tells us “According to a study by the National Study of the Changing Workforce, for the first time since 1992, young women and young men do not differ in terms of their desire for jobs with greater responsibility (Galinsky, Aumann, & Bond, 2008). As a result, young women may be less prone to be the “accommodating spouse” in two-career couples, placing their career aspirations second to that of their male spouses”.

The study suggests that men also have different expectations. “Their wives are likely to be at least as well if not better educated, just as ambitious as they are, and make more money than they do. More importantly, these men feel that being a father is not about being a hands-off economic provider

Cultural changes
It would seem that although the expectations of both men and women are changing, organisations (perhaps still run by Baby Boomers, raised in father centric households) are not adapting fast enough to the cultural shifts in the societies around them. Developing economies need not just an increased birth rate vital to support a rapidly aging population, but for women to actively contribute to economic growth, not when they are older, but now, today. The economy of the euro zone for example has been predicted to grow 16 per cent if women were in formal employment as much as men.

Additionally, a new generation of both men and women are looking for better work/life balance and no longer sees the default leadership setting as male and the female setting as “atypical”.  So perhaps the business model for corporate culture, which not just creates a gender divide but actually relies on it,  needs to be re-examined rather than emulated.

The most demanding issue is not only about getting women onto boards, surely a symptom and result of what is happening lower down the scale, it’s also about combining organisational imperatives with the needs of both men and women in the early stages of their career, as they cope with the natural demands life makes on them.