Sarah Liu: How to inspire parity in the workplace

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Diversity is a no brainer, everyone knows it matters.

But the reality is that there is a fatigue around this topic and an increasing need to reinvigorate the conversation.  But how can we do this? 

Based on our experience across four countries, countless industries, too many diversity panels to count and consulting some of the most recognised brands globally over eight glorious years, we have witnessed first-hand what companies do that has enabled them to turn talk into action and turn their D&I goals into a (sustainable) reality. 

What's their secret? Put simply, they go beyond diversity and focus on inclusion

Inclusion ensures your diverse employee population is working to their full potential.

Diversity is having the numbers, Inclusion is making the numbers count.
 
For gender equality, diversity is the number of women you have, inclusion is making sure those women are given the opportunity to work to their full potential.
 
Some companies already have many women in their workforce, but the company lacks the culture to enable them to thrive. We need to focus on how to include and advance them.
 
Diversity doesn’t guarantee inclusion and inclusion is what is going to make the biggest difference as it creates trust and involvement. Further, the culture of inclusion needs to be owned by everyone, not just HR.
 
So, what does this actually look like? Enter "The ABC of building an Inclusive Workplace."
 
Atmosphere

  • Operate with full transparency and Include everyone by default - regardless of positions
  • Welcome and celebrate differences - don’t ask anyone to “fit”
  • Highlight and promote inclusive behaviour at every level and in every corner of the business

 
Belonging

  • Establish a sense of belonging for everyone - At each point of the process, can everyone feel a sense of belonging or does this start to whittle down the further they progress?
  • Proactively and intentionally invite all to comment and participate – Trying to solve a complex business issue? Invite members from varying departments to weigh in. Encourage openness and debate.
  • Contrary to what you've been told. you should sweat the small stuff. If you hear a comment or view that doesn't sit right and/or contradicts the work you are doing to drive inclusion, call it out.

 
Community

  • Create communities based on interest, purpose, passion area, demographic – Encourage cross-functional relationships and peer-to-peer collaboration
  • Continue to develop strong leadership habits and accountability to listen to the needs of everyone on your team
  • Best practice is ongoing – the important thing is to find what works best for your organisation through trial and iteration 
 
On a more tactical level, structured programs can help to work towards inclusion:
  1. Diversity doesn’t happen organically - it requires deliberate, intentional and structured programs to make it happen. There are no right or wrong here.. 
  2. Explore both internal and external programs depending on your company priorities, objectives and internal capabilities
  3. Have structured programs across all layers of the company regardless of seniority. Consider also the benefits to combining and mixing the different career levels to drive diversity of thought and inclusion.
  4. Structured programs are not only for women, it’s important to also educate the men. 
  5. Build-in programs from the very beginning ie. upon Induction into the organisation so that a culture of inclusion can be integrated from the beginning. 
  6. Based on our global knowledge and access to varied approaches, our recommendation of training coverage would be: 
      • Public Program for emerging female talent
      • Internal women’s program to fast track
      • Frontline manager training on bias and leadership
      • Executive leadership training on inclusive leadership

The Top 50 ranked diversity organisations ALL have structured programs in place to attract, advance & retain their emerging female talent. Coincidence..? We think not.  


What are your thoughts? How are your initiative’s faring? We’d love to hear from you on what works, what doesn’t. Thoughts, feedback & everything in between are welcome. Just hit reply. We always love hearing from you. 
 

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Further learning:

BookInclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change 
Technology: AI-backed writing platform Textio, provides guidance on gender-neutral language, particularly at the recruitment stage of the cycle
Quiz: This Gender-Career Implicit Associations Test has been developed by Harvard University, and gives a good indication of your own biases. 

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