When we think about Diversity and Inclusion, we automatically think of particular groups of the working population: women; BAME; LGBTQ+, a growing number of groups which get smaller in membership size, all of which require the ‘right’ response and support from every employer. A daunting challenge, which is often dependent on leaders who are a member of none of these groups, and who therefore struggle to see what needs to be different, and to know how to make change when they don’t see as an issue! The reality is that much of the focus and media noise is on what’s wrong, not on how to make it better, and eventually right. We talk about the ratio and numbers that represent ‘right’, but we don’t have a shared understanding, if any, of how to get there. That massive gap between where we are now and where we want to be is filled by a fog of ‘it’s all too difficult’, ‘it’s up to someone else’, ‘it’s different here’, ‘we don’t have the money’.
The focus of my business for the last 13 years has been how to cross that gap. So, in this article I’m going to turn the telescope to show a different view to expose an everyday bias which affects the majority of us, and all organisations, and which also provides a more accessible case for leaders and colleagues to buy into. It raises the priority of inclusion and makes it more obvious how to close the gap for everyone.
The light-bulb moment came when we were looking at the contribution to value gap experienced by different group as recorded in the 2019 Women’s Sat Nav to Success Research Survey.
This is a key measure of inclusion, as measures the difference between the extent to which people speak up (contribute whenever they can and should) and the extent to which their contributions are valued. We first identified the gendered difference in the 2018 survey. Men reported no gap. Women reported a 19% contribution to value gap: 69% reported speaking up consistently but only 50% reported consistently having their contributions valued.
However, in 2019, we found that part-time employees experienced a 40% contribution to value gap, with less than 3 in 10 able to report that their contributions were consistently valued. This was despite the fact that full-time and part-time profiles of ‘highest level of education’ were the same.
Something about being part-time results in a dramatic drop in the value being placed on their contributions. ‘Part-time’ carries a status – perhaps we should say a stigma – which results in a bias that then carries through to lower levels of support such as mentoring, lower levels of fulfilling work and – surprise, surprise – reduced levels of motivation to progress.
Thinking about the status of different groups at work led to this obvious recognition.
All organisations have ‘hero’ functions.
These are functions without whom the organisation would not thrive, apparently. In commercial organisations it is often sales, sometimes marketing, sometimes finance. In legal firms it is often the partners who focus on the big-bucks transactions. In engineering it might be the innovators.
You are probably shouting at me now saying ‘no, you’re wrong. It’s x function in our business!’, but you’ve got the point.
The heroes get listened to. They dominate agendas. Their plans are backed. Their tantrums are forgiven and forgotten. Their budgets are approved. Their mistakes are looked at constructively and minimally. Their wins are celebrated. There behaviour towards others accepted.
This means that all the other functions, or groups, are listened to less. Are bumped down/off the agenda. Have their plans and ideas overlooked or re-attributed to one of the heroes. Their behaviours are scrutinised. Their mistakes punished and held onto in long-term memory. Their budgets hard fought for, and first raided. Their wins are treated as good luck, or just not really of significance.
The impact? Well, we’ve all been in their situation either from time to time or on an ongoing basis, if we’ve been outside the hero function or not seen as the heroic part of project team. And we disengage. Our contributions reduce in frequency, and the strength of effort we put in behind them can diminish. We do our best for the right outcome for the organisation, but with a heavy heart and one eye on the door. The impact on the organisation is really clear – it underperforms.
These are experiences that managers, leaders and all of us can relate to.
Organisations must ask the questions:
- Who are our heroes?
- Who don’t we value, listen to, or engage with? Which functions? Which types of contributors to process and projects?
- What are the costs: to the business? To its stakeholder? To individuals?
When we scope out the impact – as we have done with organisations – there are lots of noughts and negatives involved in the numbers, lots of opportunities missed and talent quashed.
The solution is to accept that this is yet another everyday bias, where we unconsciously value members of certain groups less. Unconscious bias training won’t change that.
However, just as we have all had to learn the fundamental steps of a job role, a basic process, or tech updates, we all need to learn the steps of ‘open consideration’ and ‘balanced attention’ to ensure we involve the right people at the right time, and listen to them to engage their skills, drive and knowledge for the best set of outcomes. Sure, learning a new set of behaviours or process can be clunky and cumbersome and there are leaders who think they are too good to learn. However, what was once awkward and clunky soon becomes a habit. A habit of success for every dimension of an organisation and all its stakeholders.
These are the new habits to acquire.
These will restore our organisations and our economy as we emerge from the covid-19 crisis, more rapidly and robustly than otherwise.
These will address the gender pay gap, BAME and LGBTQ+ inequalities. This makes diversity and inclusion the cornerstone for success that it should be.
Coming out of Covid-19 employees will expect different. This is how to deliver it.
These insights were made possible by our annual research programme. The 2020 Sat Nav to Success Survey is open now. Please take part https://womenssatnav.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/2020
Presentations of the 2020 Sat Nav to Success findings and roadmap commence in the autumn via webinar. You can book your organsation’s dedicated webinar now https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/103476717648.
The final instalments from our From ‘Retain’ to ‘Recognise’: How to Close the Gender Pay Gap series sharing the insights from the 2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey here and on LinkedIn will be:
- Leveraging the positives: the hidden strategies that already make the difference.
- Bringing it all together: The roadmap for success.