feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

Diversity and Inclusion. Is it working?

The most fundamental human need is the need to belong. According to an article published by Victoria Plaut in Scientific American, October 2014, ‘fostering a more diverse workforce in science, technology, and health care requires attending to differences and nurturing a sense of belonging’. Many organizations have launched ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ programs; the goal being to nurture a sense of belonging through education, representation, cultural support, and attention. These programs are great, but are they working? Ask these five questions to find out.

Who is attending the training? Oftentimes training is not mandatory, so participants tend to be either female, or a handful of men already attuned to the value of embracing gender diversity. Perception altering information is shared in these sessions: key gender differences, unconscious gender bias, and the proven return on investment associated with increasing female representation at the board and senior executive levels. Program success is closely linked to who attends the training.

Where are the female role models? Women are paying attention to where they stand in an organization. Touting ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ initiatives, while certainly encouraging, can only motivate them for so long. If the hierarchy is dominated by men and there is little opportunity for advancement, then the return on investment of these programs will be harder to realize.

When are the women involved? It is the small, repeated behaviors that demonstrate whether an environment has an exclusive club mentality or is open and inclusive. Who is being invited for beers or to dinner when a senior executive is in town? Who made the cut for the round of golf? What types of events are being scheduled? Is the bar or restaurant the team picked appropriate for both men and women? Has a key female teammate been unconsciously excluded from the weekly breakfast meeting? If the natural tendency of the organization favours an exclusive culture, then the inclusion initiatives will need extra focus and attention.

What are the women saying? The sure-fire way to confirm that a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ program is working is to ask the women in the organization. Women appreciate what works and tolerate what doesn’t work. Listening to what they say and then acting on their feedback will guarantee success.

How is program success measured? Investing in a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ program without measuring its success is like burying money in the ground hoping for a tree to take root. There is a wealth of measurements that can be implemented. Start small, be resolute in hitting targets, and iterate.

I applaud organizations who have implemented ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ initiatives; many have not even gotten that far yet! The benefits of these programs are ample: understanding the value of the differences between men and women so feminine attributes can be embraced rather than stifled, bringing awareness to unconscious bias so it can no longer permeate a culture, and increasing female representation at the board and senior executive levels so the return on investment can be actualized. Measuring success, hearing the women, checking cultural bias, demonstrating commitment, and educating everyone in the organization are essential ingredients in making a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ program icing on a very well-baked cake.

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