Diversity of thought delivers real value

The article below was written by Emma Kane, CEO, Newgate Communcations.

This week it was my pleasure to Chair a panel discussion for the Financial Services Forum on Women in Marketing.  Importantly, the audience included a number of men; we can only make progress if people – irrelevant of gender – understand that diversity delivers real value, it isn’t a threat. Businesses that get it right perform better than those who don’t.

If leadership solely ‘looks’ white, heterosexual and male, then it is harder for those who don’t fit that mould to imagine themselves in that place. Organisations that fail to embrace diversity are failing to recognise that their customers and clients are not all clones of themselves. Without diversity of thinking, how can any organisation be representative of the wider community?

While the composition of boards has been a topic for some time, and yes Virgin Money has recently announced that their entire board will be made up with women, I personally think it’s all about balance.  However, we are certainly at a pivotal moment – #metoo #timesup, the 30% club reaching 27.9%… We are definitely moving in the right direction.

In under three weeks’ time, all companies in the UK with over 250 employees will have to post their Gender Pay Gap reports on their websites. I suspect that many will be anything but balanced but it will make sure that the issue is firmly on the agenda.

Equal pay and gender pay gap are different – it has been a legal requirement for 47 years not to pay someone less for the same job because of their gender. The Gender Pay Gap shows the percentage difference in hourly earnings and bonus figures for male and female employees.

The gap exists in many companies because there are still more men than women in senior roles and more women than men in lower paid, less skilled roles. So, what’s the answer? As with all these things, there is no quick fix but there are things that can be done to ensure the problem is addressed and businesses are more balanced to their benefit and society as a whole:

  • Ensure you have a 50:50 shortlist and ethnic diversity when hiring – if you don’t, you are not doing it right
  • Look for the growth potential when hiring someone not necessarily for the finished product
  • Do not only hire in your own likeness – make sure shortlists are representative
  • Put mentoring programmes in place to fuel the pipeline
  • Give unconscious bias training
  • Have anonymised CVs in your recruitment process
  • Ensure you have greater female participation in your graduate schemes
  • Drive inclusion through policy by introducing flexible working, return to work schemes, and parental policies
  • Ensure you have a workplace where people can thrive and leverage who they are not what they think they are expected to be
  • Be brave and bold
  • Demand that your suppliers and partners who work with you have a diverse team

Business leaders have a duty to speak up in order to challenge and change things when they believe things are unacceptable and to shine a light on great people and celebrate their success.

To set in context how important it is that we get it right, the most recent report from TheCityUK states that the financial services sector makes up 10.7% of the UK economy and employs 7.3% of the UK’s working population, totalling 2.2 million people. It remains the UK’s largest tax paying sector, contributing 11.5% of the total.

So, out of those 2.2 million people, how many of the young women among them are getting the support and opportunity to make the transition to become tomorrow’s leaders.

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