Across the world we are seeing a number of approaches to increase board diversity. In Australia, the ‘comply or explain’ approach to diversity reporting for ASX-listed organisations will soon be supplemented by a requirement for organisations to publically report against a set of ‘gender equality indicators’ – including (potentially) pay equity. Collectively, these requirements will lift the bar for all organisations - what once may have been considered market leading will soon become common practice.
Bringing it all to life: it all hinges on inclusion
A diverse workforce can be a strategic choice or an inevitable reality (eg global operations). Either way, a word of caution is warranted. Simply ‘having diversity’ will not necessarily deliver positive outcomes. The key ingredient which transforms the theoretical business case for diversity into bottom line results is inclusion – the extent to which individuals feel authentic and valued, and able to bring the full spectrum of their capabilities and energy to the table. Put simply: diversity + inclusion = improved business outcomes.
So what does this mean for organisations? It calls for ‘inclusive leaders’ capable of ensuring that all employees have the opportunity to fulfil their potential, that the benefits of multiple perspectives are achieved and the risks of conflict in diverse teams are reduced. It will require organisations to adapt to the needs of individuals rather than persisting with a one-size fits all approach and will require a greater level of cultural competency amongst all employees. But ultimately, inclusion means change, not assimilation and toleration and will require a shift in workplace culture. And this goes to the heart of the challenge for organisations.