‘Diversity and inclusion should be treated like any other business initiative’

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, talks to workingmums.co.uk about the CMI’s first Women’s Conference and what needs to change for businesses to reap the rewards of a more diverse workforce.

Mature Women

 

Diversity and inclusion should be treated like any other business initiative, with managers either being rewarded for doing well or penalised if, despite being given tools and encouragement, they block progress, the CEO of the Chartered Institute of Management said.

Ann Francke said there are two schools of thought when it comes to how to encourage managers to do more on diversity and inclusion: one is to make it part of the reward structure for managers and the other is to treat it like a health and safety issue ie that managers not promoting it despite being given tools and encouragement to do so should be fired. “It’s a carrot and stick thing. I think it is better to use a carrot when you can, but if you have people actively blocking it you should look at using a stick,” she says.

Francke was speaking after the Chartered Management Institute [CMI] held its inaugural Women’s Conference on 19th May. The conference was focused on leadership after Covid and came about partly due to the impact Covid has had on women’s career progression. Evidence suggests that women have been affected more negatively than other groups. Another reason for the conference was to look at practices that emerged from the pandemic which might be beneficial to women’s progression, including more flexible working and more empathetic leadership teams.

“It was a good opportunity to stock take,” says Francke. On flexible working, she said that there is a lot of best practice emerging with regard to hybrid working, with 84% of managers surveyed recently saying their firms have adopted hybrid working, with most being more productive as a result. Other comprehensive global studies corroborate this, with one showing the higher productivity and efficiency involved being equivalent to 5% of salary.

“Hybrid working is a good employment practice and makes perfect business sense,” says Francke – even for those who cannot work remotely. She says the focus on different ways of working that hybrid working brings enables conversations about greater flexibility across the board, for instance, giving frontline staff more input into the times that they are scheduled to work, encouraging more job shares and promoting greater empathy and compassion as well as more engagement with employees.

Asked about the current backlash against remote working from some quarters, Francke says: “It is not surprising that the traditional power base is leading the charge against home working. They are the most comfortable with the old ways of doing things. The workplace is designed around how they want it to be designed. Those trumpeting about previous ways of working are those who have benefited most from them: generally white, well educated, older men.”

Conference highlights

Francke says the highlights of the inaugural conference for her included the focus on the importance not just of hiring more diverse talent, but ensuring that talent progresses and is able to see people like them succeeding.

Another important takeaway was that employees require an intersectional approach which is aware of all the different aspects of a person’s life that affect their experience in the workplace.  Francke emphasised, too, the importance of including and engaging men in gender diversity initiatives and in employee networks. She cited research showing employers who involve men in gender diversity initiatives reap the most benefits.

“Hybrid working is a good employment practice and makes perfect business sense.” Ann Francke

Francke said that both women and men win when there is greater gender equality. The CMI’s latest research, however, shows some men think gender diversity has gone too far. Moreover, says Francke, others may only be paying lip service to it. There is a risk that the pressure to ‘return to normal’ could see workplaces reverting back to traditional power structures. This would be detrimental, she said, adding that it is important for people to feel ‘uncomfortable’ if we are to move forward.

Gender pay gap

Asked about the gender pay gap, Francke said the experience of Covid showed that if reporting is not mandatory many employers don’t comply and added that the pay gap has got wider during the pandemic. Interestingly, she says, gender pay gap reporting was the only business reporting policy paused during the pandemic. This was despite the fact that it was clear early on that women’s career progression would be more adversely affected by Covid than men’s.

Francke [right] added that the CMI would like to see reporting expanded to include employers with over 50 employees [currently it is only compulsory for those with over 250 employees] with action plans being mandatory and a wider range of pay gap reporting introduced, including ethnicity pay gap reporting.

She said that action plans should be practical, granular and metrics- and target-based, just like any other business initiative, given the evidence is clear that diverse organisations perform better.  “Employers should avoid vague, grandiose, non-statements that say nothing or are defensive. Gender pay gap reporting should be treated like any other business initiative,” she stated. More use should be made of metrics, for instance, to look at the impact of different patterns of working on career progression, given we know that flexible working affects this.

An evidence-based approach is improtant across the board. The pandemic has shown that measuring people on outcomes rather than presenteeism is a game changer. Francke says many leaders were surprised that those who were the most productive during the pandemic were not necessarily the people in the office who ‘talk a good game’ and play office politics. Zoom meetings were a great leveller and allowed managers to focus on what gets done and by whom.

The bonus gap

Francke also spoke about the importance of reforming the bonus structure to make it more objective, given that in sectors such as financial services it is a big contributor to overall earnings gaps between men and women. In addition, Francke would like to see promotion being more proportionate. At the moment, women often occupy the lower tiers of an organisation.  The gap widens as they move up the ladder into what Francke calls a glass pyramid.  “Women are not being promoted proportionately. If they were it would eliminate much of the gender pay gap,” she says. Doing so, means using data, focusing on outcomes, addressing bias and microaggressions, promoting role models and encouraging men to call out other men on bias.

The CMI is working on how to keep the conversations begun at the inaugural conference going and hopes this will be the first such conference of many. “It was very successful,” says Francke. “There is a huge interest in this.”



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