True Diversity Is Much More Than A Drive By

“For you and me, sex is not a competition
For you and me, sex is not a job description
For you and me
We agree—
But that’s just us
Reaching for the alien shore…”

—Neil Peart (writer and musician)

At the tail end of my run, I walked engrossed in my cool down, my music and my thoughts. I half-looked back over my right shoulder to make sure there were no cars coming – and whoosh – a black blur shot past me on my left.

Startled into flight or fight I spun around and just about fell over. But it sobered me quickly, elevating my heart rate and focal strength to new heights.

What was I thinking? I thought. About everything else but where I’m at obviously.

Yes, I made it home intact and more in touch with my immediate environment, but it actually got me thinking about everything else ironically. Like the article I had read earlier in the Washington Post about Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff reviewing the pay of his entire workforce (all 16,000 employees) to make sure both males and females are compensated fairly based on the work they do and their performance. He was quoted as saying, “When I’m done there will be no gap.”

Right on. Admirable and exciting not only for how this may impact Salesforce.com’s overall employee and business performance, but also how it may help spur further change at other companies.

But why now? What’s the motivation that shot past Benioff and other progressive business leaders doing similar change management initiatives around gender diversity and performance?

Is it the fact that study after study now reveals the impact of gender diversity on technology business performance is powerful (which includes pay equity as well)? According to a report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a teams’ collective intelligence rose with the number of women in the group. Is this possibly because of the women’s higher performance on tasks that required social sensitivity? I would say yes. Gallup research does show that women leaders tend to have significantly happier, more highly engaged teams.

Also, according to economist research referenced in an amazing report from Mercer titled “When Women Thrive Businesses Thrive” from November of 2014, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost GDP in the US by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the United Arab Emirates by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%. The fact that women invest more of their household income than men the overall wellbeing of their children and their communities, greater gender diversity in the workforce could dramatically impact quality of life globally.

In January of this year (2015), McKinsey released a study showing that gender diverse companies had financial performance that was 15 percent higher than the national industry median, and ethnically diverse companies had performance that was 35 percent higher than the national industry median.

Also according to McKinsey, an investigation of 89 European companies with the greatest gender diversity at the top management level found that, on average, these companies’ financial performance was higher than average for their business sectors. In particular, these companies demonstrated superior return on equity, earnings before interest and taxes, and stock price growth.

There are business leaders who are doing more than just being accountable according to the same Mercer research report referenced above, and those organizations where leaders are actively involved in diversity programs have more women at the top and throughout the organization as well as more equitable talent flows between women and men.

Plus, more women will move into top roles over the next decade globally, everywhere but North America unfortunately. The TalentCulture #TChat will be live in Cork, Ireland this week for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit, and according to a University of Cambridge study has observed that Ireland is fifth in the world for female economic power, ranking just behind Australia, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

In Ireland, women are in positions of seniority in a staggering number of large global tech businesses – Apple, Microsoft, PayPal and many others. And academic institutions in Ireland are now seeing businesses and STEM-based industries focus more heavily on the gender diversity agenda.

In fact, there’s been a lot of exciting work over the past decade developing talent pipelines in Ireland for example, developing and sustaining new models of industry-academic partnerships. For example, VMware in Cork has grown from 1 employee 10 years ago to 800+ employees today by adding approximately 100 employees per year to its workforce. In excess of 40% of these new employees have been recruited from partnerships with local academic institutions.

The approach adopted in this case is an example of how organizations in Ireland are now innovating in the talent pipeline space and generating competitive advantage from partnering with academic institutions such as the Cork Institute of Technology, as distinct from following the more traditional option of just simply hiring from the pool of graduates that the academic institutions decide to produce.

It’s not lost on talent acquisition leaders about how hyper-competitive it is out there to recruit the best people – both women and men alike – with the skills needed for the work demands at hand. I’m sure there are many other examples of the whoosh-blur changes from around the world culminating in and not a moment too soon. The new State of Talent Acquisition survey data from ERE Media underscore how vital speed-to-hire and workforce planning are to organizations (as well as current hindrances).

In a recent interview with 1to1media.com on the topics of diversity and inclusion, PeopleFluent SVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Alys Reynders Scott, an inspirational mentor to me and many others, states that leaders – the big L’s and the little l’s – should be all about building a palpably inclusive culture that delivers the promise of a diverse workforce with business success is the best thing any organization can do to attract the next wave of highly qualified diversity candidates into the business.

Because the investment to attract and retain with a true diversity agenda that impacts the world of work for the better is much more than a drive by.

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