What's the end game of diversity?

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We asked HR professionals where they think the D&I agenda is headed over the coming years

Liz Nottingham, executive HR director for EMEA at advertising network R/GA London, says:

“Unconscious bias starts at the age of four. So by the time a 47-year-old executive rocks up in the boardroom we are dealing with 43 layered years of life to unravel. Little wonder it feels like a big job. So now we find ourselves positively embarking on a corrective education as we all embrace unconscious bias workshops. Yet still it is not enough. The end of the road will not be reached in my working lifetime. But we need to remember, for example, that we have made huge progress from the days of the Dagenham Ford car plant strike, which resulted in the Equal Pay Act. Change at a human level takes time. And as I love to say: remember that the ‘only person who likes change is a baby with a wet nappy’.”

Payal Vasudeva, MD at Accenture Strategy and Accenture’s human capital and diversity executive sponsor, says:

“Government legislation keeps the dialogue going and keeps diversity on the agenda. Take the gender pay gap legislation – the fact is your numbers are your numbers. They force you to think about what to focus your attention on.

“Organisations need to take accountability and set their ambition. Yes the government says what is required but where do you want to set your own ambition and aspiration? For example, for us with gender we want to be 50/50 globally by 2025. We’re currently at 40% female. It should be about pushing the bar, not just about meeting a target or ticking a box. We absolutely can’t take our foot off the pedal. This is not about checking lists and meeting a bunch of numbers.

“This isn’t just an HR thing. It’s managed in a programmatic way, driven by data and analytics, not for targets’ sake but because we’re thinking about the culture we want to create. HR can enable but business leaders need to front and champion this.”

Joan Hodgins, Europe HR director at Diageo, says:

“Our commitment has led to greater diversity at the most senior levels, with more than 40% of our board being female. Our executive committee is also 40% women. Creating a diverse culture requires implementing initiatives that will change your business over the long term. You have to be prepared to go above and beyond, and to continually review your approach. It is not possible to make change happen overnight.

“Right now there is increasing public scrutiny on businesses to take a greater lead in cultivating a truly diverse workforce. As a result all businesses need to think carefully about how to remove barriers and ensure their employees can fulfil their potential. It cannot be a tick-box exercise.”

Leigh Lafever-Ayer, HR director, UK and Ireland at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, says:

“Coming from the US, I do see how they [government targets] can help drive change quickly. But why not support businesses in a holistic way to achieve diversity targets and provide resources to help business make better decisions and drive change?

“Government targets won’t really set standards that push organisations that perform well in diversity to the highest standard.

“HR directors and business leaders have to be committed to diversity as a strategic and competitive advantage. It is really clear which businesses have it on the strategic agenda and which businesses don’t.”

Rochelle Chopamba, vice president of human resources at Astellas, says:

“D&I policies that are rigid and constraining (for example including quotas for employees from different backgrounds) are not necessarily the best way to bring about change. They tend to reflect poor practices that occurred in the past and often define diversity in a very narrow way – say in terms of race, gender or age – when true diversity is far wider-reaching; spanning expertise, personality and experience. I believe D&I policies should be designed to inspire rather than restrict. They should focus on ensuring leaders understand and believe in the value of diversity, and help this mindset flow throughout the organisation’s structure and culture.”

Further reading

What's wrong with D&I?

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