This is the first in a three-part series by Elizabeth Derby, Senior Consultant at JBC. Elizabeth has over 25 years of line and human capital expertise, and is adept at partnering to drive change and results-focused inclusion and diversity approaches — translating inclusion and diversity into talent, culture and business results. 

Last month, the Global Summit of Women’s 2017 Colloquium on Global Diversity, “Creating a Level Playing Field for Women”, generated lively dialogue and networking amongst 75+ participants from all over the globe, galvanizing them around a sense of urgency to intentionally disrupt the status quo.

Motivated by the universal sentiment “We can’t wait 100 years to achieve gender parity in the C-suite!” a distinguished collection of senior-level speakers, brought together by President of the Global Summit of Women Irene Natividad, shared insights and best practices that revolved around achieving more, faster, and better.

Maintaining the Status Quo is Not an Option

The economics of inclusion are compelling, yet there a gap between what the data tells us and the experiences women encounter in their careers.

On the one hand, the McKinsey Global Institute report highlights that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. On the other, the McKinsey/Lean In “Women in the Workplace” 2016 U.S. study demonstrates that “women fall behind early and continue to lose ground with every step.”

This is especially true for women of color in the United States.

In order to advance progress, companies are moving from diversity to inclusion, recognizing that such global issues require locally relevant responses, and adopting Next Practices and bold actions to drive sustainable change.

A Move from Diversity to Inclusion

At the Colloquium, there was a recognition that you need both diversity AND inclusion to drive meaningful results.

Think of “diversity” as who comes in the door at your workplace. “Inclusion” is having a seat at the table and ensuring all voices are Welcomed, Valued, Respected, and Heard℠

“Inclusion unleashes the power of diversity”, cited Lesley Slaton-Brown, Chief Diversity Officer at HP, Inc.

Companies are taking a “next gen” approach that does focus on inclusion and belonging, but there is still work to be done in this arena, as highlighted in the Wall Street Journal article “What’s Holding Women Back in the Workplace?” 

75% of companies in the McKinsey/Lean In global study indicated that gender diversity is a top priority for their CEO, yet less than 50% of employees believed this to be the case.  

There were several takeaway action points for inclusionary leaders, especially middle managers, including:

  • focus on the early steps to women’s leadership – at that first promotion to manager;
  • keep women in line roles; provide access to senior leaders who can serve as advocates for women’s careers;
  • share tangible, constructive feedback with women;
  • don’t judge or label women when they negotiate for a promotion or compensation raise;
  • provide role models and understand what barriers have a gender bias and remove them along the path to leadership.  

To do this it is clear that we must reach “the frozen middle” — those managers who are directly responsible for hiring, developing and advancing talent in an organization.

Middle managers need to be included in the dialogue, and D&I needs to be viewed as a strategic imperative and part of the business agenda.

Global Issues, Locally Relevant Responses

Much research has demonstrated the correlation between having a diverse board and strong financial performance.

Catalyst’s research has found that companies with three or more women on their board achieve a 46% higher Return on Equity, 60% higher Return on Invested Capital and an 84% Return on Sales.  

Yet the “no one size fits all” is evident in countries’ approach to the global issue of gender board diversity. The disparity between “best in class” and “worst in class” is staggering, as highlighted in the 2015 Corporate Women Directors International Report: Women Board Directors of the Fortune Global 200. (Note: Corporate Women Directors International is a project of the Global Summit of Women.)

Quotas have generated noteworthy results in many countries. For others, incorporating gender diversity in corporate governance codes has also increased access for women on boards.  

However, the U.S. has lost ground as other countries, notably those in Northern and Western Europe, have become more proactive. Of the Top 10 companies of the Global 200 list, the U.S. used to dominate the list. Now seven of them are French companies.  

The bottom line is that intentional actions, whether on the part of countries or CEOs, go a long way to realizing our goal of gender parity.

We “need a plan and a movement!” and the time to act is now.

The status quo is not an option!

To find out more about how you can create a level playing field for women in your workplace, set up a complimentary consultation with us today.