Both men and women need a workplace where they are encouraged to be authentic and have a voice, says Laura Quigley, the senior vice president for sales in Asia Pacific at IAS. She explains that the leader must ensure that the quietest person in the room is encouraged to voice their opinion.
It’s hard to argue with the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), given the decades’ worth of studies showing that a diverse workforce measurably improves decision making, problem-solving, creativity, innovation, and flexibility.
Singapore made headlines last month after posting the highest percentage of companies with women as chief executive officers, according to a global Deloitte study. The record-breaking number? 13.1%. While the progress is worth appreciating, we still have a long way to go.
Despite topping the list in the chief executive officers category, Singapore placed 28th out of 51 ranked countries in terms of the percentage of board seats held by women with 17.6%. The city-state also ranks lower than some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, namely Malaysia (24%) and the Philippines (17.7%), which ranked 18th and 27th respectively. The top spot was held by France.
Companies spend millions on anti-bias training each year. The goal is to create a more inclusive workforce, and thereby more innovative and effective. Studies show that well-managed diverse groups outperform homogeneous ones and are more committed, have higher collective intelligence, and are better at making decisions and solving problems.
Drawing on some of the best practices from IAS and other firms and leaders I have encountered I’m sharing a few actionable pointers and acting on these will stand you in good stead.
You can’t be here if you can’t see her
It is extremely critical to have women leaders come out in numbers and open up about their journeys, their setbacks, goals, challenges, support networks, etc that got them to where they are now. Stories shape social narratives. The more stories we share of successful women, the louder their voices and representation get and reach women across the world and create a ripple effect to get more women to seek the same opportunities and support network.
Representation of diverse talent
This is still an essential driver of inclusion. Companies should focus on advancing diverse talent into executive, management, technical and board roles. They should ensure that a robust, bespoke business-driven case for DEI exists and is well accepted while being thoughtful about which forms of multivariate diversity to prioritize (for example, going beyond gender and ethnicity). They also need to set the right data-driven targets for the representation of diverse talent.
Strengthen leadership accountability and capability for DEI
Companies should place their core business leaders and managers at the heart of the DEI effort—beyond their HR functions or employee resource-group leaders. They also need to strengthen inclusive leadership capabilities among their managers as well as their executives, and more emphatically hold all leaders to account for progress on DEI.
Enable equality of opportunity through fairness and transparency
Companies must ensure that there is a level playing field in advancement and opportunity, in pursuit of true meritocracy. Companies should deploy analytics tools to build visibility into the extent to which promotions and pay processes and criteria are transparent and fair. They should de-bias these processes and work to meet diversity targets across long-term workforce plans.
Promote openness and tackle microaggressions
Companies should uphold a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behavior such as bullying and harassment— and actively build the ability of managers and staff to identify and address microaggressions. They should also establish norms for what constitutes open, welcoming behavior, and ask leaders and employees to assess each other on how they are living up to that behavior.
Variety of voices
Both men and women need a workplace where they are encouraged to be authentic and have a voice. The leader must ensure that the quietest person in the room is encouraged to voice their opinion and not for the sake of inclusivity alone but because study after study has established how it makes good business sense to have diversity and inclusiveness in decision making. Having been on many industry panels, I personally would like to encourage women to join panels, express their views, be seen and heard, and become active agents of change in the workplace and industry.
Finally, change starts from within and leaders must start mentoring and empowering their teams. Doing so can help employees balance productivity, well-being, and a sense of connection in the evolving future of work. Businesses must treat DEI initiatives as an essential and dynamic part of their business, and an ongoing review of the workforce and a response to changing needs are necessary. The employer must establish procedures for periodic review of DEI initiatives and goals.
Laura Quigley is the senior vice president for sales in Asia Pacific at IAS.
This article was first published on The Drum.