Its been a week focused on diversity here in Sydney with Mardi Gras at the weekend and International Women’s day on Tuesday. I was lucky enough to grab 15 mins of my son’s school assembly yesterday where they were celebrating diversity – and the sound bites that came back that afternoon where inspiring to hear. It reinforced to me the importance of raising awareness of diversity issues and the important role diversity plays in our lives particularly our places of work and education.
If you haven’t done so, this is a call to action to discuss diversity and to take the #pledgeforparity at your next team or peer meeting and to also reflect on your own experiences of diversity and what you can do to foster diversity and gender parity in your work place.
So here are my own reflections and an agenda to develop actions for your next team meeting.
I‘m fortunate enough to have worked in organisations, which recognise the importance of diversity; this has helped reinforce the important role diversity plays in developing great teams and businesses.
It is not just important for business performance, but can be individually rewarding, sure we all muddle through but striving to achieve, being engaged, involved and achieving your potential is what makes people ultimately happy and get up in the morning, for me diversity is happiness.
My role enables me to support diversity as we help bring together diverse teams and capabilities to make change happen successfully in organisations, this is hugely rewarding. We also support female leaders and aspiring leaders as we help them manage change in their organisation, enabling them to play a strategic role and for me my #paritypledge is to continue to do that but to also think about other ways that I can further support women in leadership outside of my role.
Last week I read an article about a female entrepreneur and her journey of entrepreneurship and motherhood. She highlighted the negativity that can come with announcing your expecting when you’re a starting or growing a business.
She spoke about an investor who had responded negatively, this made me think about my own positive and negative experiences as a female entrepreneur. Firstly I met an investor a few weeks ago and their reaction was quite different, I’m also expecting and their reaction was well we all just get on with things and that was inspiring and encouraging, and I probably needed it.
But it also irks me that people offer their opinion way to freely on what a woman does from comments in lifts from colleagues chiding about when to have another child to negative responses when asked what I will do with the business when the baby arrives.
So another individual pledge is to come up with positive ways to encourage different ways of thinking and not just let those moments pass i.e. nice ways to say no just because I am a women does not give you the right to have an opinion about how I live my life or my career.
Help women and girls achieve their ambitions
I’m pleased I’ve managed to register for walk in her shoes again this year and one of the pledges is to support women and girls, this campaign also highlights the impact on communities that supporting women and girls can have.
Challenge conscious and unconscious bias
I reflected on a time that a colleague reminded me that in my role as a team lead I wasn’t including him sufficiently in our team activities, I appreciated his encouragement for me to consider my own bias and how that impacted on my behaviour and actions. That moment has always inspired me to think about bias and inclusiveness, as it turns out not only was he good at managing up and creating great teams he had capabilities and potential that I had not really understood before then.
Diversity a key to growth
Economic growth is an important topic for us all, we are in an environment of low or stagnating growth currently. It’s as critically important for entrepreneurs to understand the opportunities for growth and the global growth challenges. Diversity is a key for growth in many respects inequality dampens growth, limited diversity in foreign & government policy, leadership and boards and the workplace all play a factor in limiting the potential for growth. We need to continually reframe our thinking about economic growth in terms of diversity.
Create inclusive, flexible cultures
I saw a statistic that 34% of businesses in Australia are operated by women and this is rising; while this is very positive and has significant positive economic outcomes. I hope however that it is not in response to a lack of flexibility in the work place or opportunities for women, and at the same time it is very exciting and inspiring to see the rapid achievements being made by female entrepreneurs.
100 years to achieve gender parity
EY’s Women’s fast forward campaign is a marketing gem, we love statistics and this one really sticks. Apparently it will take over 100 years to achieve gender parity from today.
I thought about the generation before me; and how inspiring our mums and women were in their journey and in roads in the workplace. I wondered how they would feel about this statistic and whether when they started their careers if they had felt back then, that in 2016 we would still be over 100 years away from gender parity. It’s easy to be disheartened but at the same time this is in total conflict with that key role diversity will have to play in economic growth.
Technology as an enabler for change
Finally what will be the role of technology? Another sound bite is “Today is the slowest pace of change we will experience the rest of our lives.” — Robert Wolcott, Kellogg School of Management. The pace of social change is likely to increase enabled by technology and at the same time if technology is to be that enabler then we need diversity in technology as well, otherwise it could be that the opportunities are reduced. Work is underway in the technology space to improve diversity and innovation leaders are increasingly championing the cause.
Here is your team agenda and ideas for personal actions
At your next team meeting:
• Make your #pledgeforparity at the international women’s day website and share with friends and colleagues
• Encourage the team to visit the website and read the pledges from business and global leaders
• Discuss the pledges and create / agree on 3 action items that you and your team can achieve in the coming weeks.
• Ask the team to come up with 3 individual actions they can take themselves to improve their own lives in regards to diversity and #genderparity
• Consider and discuss how diversity is a factor in your teams success
• Recognise the diverse views, cultures and capabilities in your team