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A meeting this week heard that Diversity & Inclusion needs to be central to business development and adequately rewarded, with one speaker saying she would refuse an unpaid non-executive role until more action was taken to address the executive pipeline.
Diversity and Inclusion are key to business success and ought to be taken seriously, according to a panel of experts at a recent seminar hosted by King’s College London and real estate firm JLL.
Professor Rosie Campbell introduced the work of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership on the subject. She said D&I is not a ‘nice to have’. Instead it can be transformative and is key to having a more successful and more profitable business. She pointed to the example of Vodafone who identified a huge constituency of 200 million women worldwide without access to a mobile phone. The firm is now targeting selling to 50 million of them.
She warned that D&I needs to run through an entire organisation otherwise there’s a risk of ‘sticky teams’ – areas of the business where people stick around because they feel comfortable, but they’d be more likely to move on to other areas if they were confident they’d get the same treatment.
Professor Campbell urged firms to adopt a ‘tap on the shoulder’ recruitment policy rather than a ‘hands up’ policy. The latter involves people putting themselves forward when often those doing so are not the best suited for promotion. But the former approach sees managers identify talent that might otherwise be reluctant to step up.
Her advice for firms looking to embrace a more diverse leadership involved three steps:
Zamila Bunglawara, director of the international education directorate in the Department for Education, urged organisations to set D&I targets. She said that, since most organisations set targets in other areas for the business and if you don’t hit the target you don’t get your bonus, the same should apply in the field of D&I. She said the Civil Service had done just that with departmental heads denied a bonus if they don’t have enough people from a range of characteristics in their team.
But she warned that targets are not straightforward. She said FTSE firms had ‘hit their target but missed the point’ when they reported success in appointing women to their boards last week. Too many of those in the figures were non-executive directors. Bunglawara said she would be refusing such unpaid roles in future.
Birgit Neu of HSBC echoed the call to take D&I seriously. She said it was no longer a ‘side of the desk’ issue. She drew a comparison with the issue of sustainability. Some years ago sustainability was regarded as a less important ‘side of the desk’ issue, but now successful firms understand it has to be woven into their approach going forward. She called for firms to put resources into D&I and take it seriously by setting targets and KPIs.
Will McDonald, one half of Aviva’s famous job sharing dads and a trustee at The Fatherhood Institute, called for more dads to do flexible working – and to pay the price for doing so.
He said: “I want to see more men work flexibly and to suffer the flexibility penalty!” He explained that, while that would involve men levelling down and experiencing drawbacks familiar to women for decades, only then could men and women build back better together.
McDonald and Sam White job share the Group Public Policy and Sustainability director role at Aviva. He explained to attendees how that had come about. “We had to pitch it as no loss of ambition, we both still want that next promotion,” he explained.
He compared his experience doing a job share with that of his wife who works part time. They both work three days a week. He knows someone else is doing his job while he’s at home so he can focus on his family. However, his partner is always aware that tasks and emails are piling up in her absence and that inevitably draws her to her phone or laptop even when she’s not in work.
And he made a strong case for more flexible working. He said almost every job can be done as a job share. “We all think we shouldn’t do our job as job share,” he said, “but we all can.”