Until recent years, Diversity and Inclusion was the focus of organisations. Today, you can’t think of D&I without considering E – Equity.
Collectively, DEI recognises the value of having different voices come together, where these differences are supported and encouraged, and people have what they need to succeed.
Each element needs to work together to create an environment that supports different approaches, views, and one that is fair and supports equal outcomes, regardless of where the individual starts from.
Diversity is the act of including or involving individuals from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc. It goes beyond gender and age, and extends to individuals with visible and invisible disabilities.
Equity refers to impartiality and fairness, understanding that we all don’t start from the same base and where processes are adjusted to provide outcomes that are as equal as possible to every individual.
Inclusion is where individuals to feel a sense of belonging and have the ability to be their authentic selves.
McKinsey’s May 2020 report found that organisations in the top quartile of gender diverse executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability compared to peers in the fourth quartile, up from 21 per cent in 2017 and 15 per cent in 2014. And the higher the diversity, the higher likelihood of outperformance. The study also revealed that there was a 48 per cent gap in performance between the most and least gender diverse.
Companies with ethnic and cultural diversities also reported the same trend – with companies in the top quartile outperforming those in the fourth by 36 per cent, 3 per cent higher compared to 2017.
In Australia, females make up 31 per cent of all entrepreneurs. The Australian Legal Technology Association 2021 reports that only 22 per cent of Australia’s start up are women led and only 5 per cent of ASX200 CEOs are women. The report also indicates that female representation in technology and the LegalTech industry, lags behind the national participation rate.
Nurturing interest in technology comes from investing in it from the start. In a recent conversation with Thoughtworks, Eglantine Etiemble, PEXA’s Group Chief Technology Officer shared, ‘We need to create an interest in technology from a younger age and create pathways for children to be exposed to technology and its potential.’
And while the conversation on diversity often leads to gender, it goes beyond that.
Diversity also refers to culture, background, education and experiences. Often, however, disability is left off the cards. #WeThe15 reminds us that 15 per cent of the human population have disabilities.
Eglantine adds, ‘Diversity benefits everyone and richer environment for everybody. It offers a much broader range of things for people to explore and express, and perhaps opening eyes that have been closed for a while.’
Unlike equality, equity focuses on individuals achieving the same outcome, allocating resources based on the need of the individual, taking to account that we don’t all start from the same place.
Organisations need to understand that the different barriers and advantages for each employee. When a standard policy is applied without considering these differences, it leads to an inequitable process.
A diversity issue may in fact stem from inequity. For instance, if an organisation struggles to reflect a diverse leadership, it may need to identify the right candidates, and invest in what it takes, be it bespoke training, networking or mentoring, to help them succeed.
Inclusiveness incorporates the considered and intentional actions to help individuals feel seen and heard – a safe environment to speak up without fear, a flexible place to work where they can balance schedules and responsibilities, where different communication styles and ways of working are used.
Promoting diversity does not automatically ensure a culture of inclusion. Even when organisations appear diverse, many have yet to nurture an environment that actively and effectively promotes inclusivity.
DEI in the workplace
McKinsey’s May 2020 report draws on five areas of action:
- Ensure representation of diverse talent
- Strengthen leadership, accountability and capability
- Enable equality of opportunity through fairness and transparency
- Promote openness and tackle microaggressions
- Foster belonging through unequivocal support for multivariate diversity
Understanding that representation matters, the City of Melbourne recently committed to speeding up the commissioning of three statues of prominent women – with only 9 out of 580 statues depicting real women in Melbourne, the issue has been raised as a gender imbalance in public art across the city.
Lisa Dowie, PEXA’s Chief Customer Officer says, ‘– it’s often said, we can’t be who we can’t see and we all have a part to play here. For example, by supporting women leaders on social media, sharing, promoting and advocating female heroes we see online.”
We all have a part to play when it comes to diversity and inclusion
Leadership and accountability
Holding leadership to account through strong company goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), measured by employee perception though surveys and tracking this goal in the recruitment process. And ensuring that this is communicated at an organisational level. Over time, data and analytics will be able to help organisations measure progress.
Fairness and transparency
Building true meritocracies using policies, systems and philosophies designed to remove unfair advantages around talent decisions. Organisations winning at DEI deploy performance evaluators to minimise bias in decision making, support review committees and implement systems to debias recruiting and advancement. Understanding and providing employees the support they need to succeed is also essential to provide equal opportunity.
Promote openness and tackling discrimination
Establish norms and behaviours for open, welcoming behaviour and assessing how leaders and employees are living up to this. Empowering employees and creating a safe space for their voices to be heard – and conscious, deliberate action on feedback.
Creating an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work. While feeling that you belong is generally an outcome, it is supported by clear action from the organisation that comes across through communication and behaviours from its leaders and its people.
Eglantine adds, ‘At PEXA, our D&I slogan ‘Be You’ was chosen by our people – and encompasses our mission for everyone to bring their whole selves to work, every day. We strive to be an organisation that engages the full potential of the individual where innovation thrives and views, beliefs and values are integrated.’
Practice leads to progress
While a lot of progress has been made in the area of DEI in the workplace, there is still room to grow. The business case for DEI is clear – stronger performance, better results. It’s no longer enough to talk about DEI – it’s now time for action. Organisations who successfully and systematically implement DEI, has the potential to inspire, motivate and retain their people, creating stronger team dynamics, and a significant opportunity for the organisation, and its people to outperform.