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.

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths

It’s about more than #metoo!

The “Me Too” campaign triggered a firestorm of women taking a stand against harassing and assaulting men. Political forums and media outlets, community organizations, and the corporate world are reeling from the impact. Everyone, men and women alike, is on edge; men are defensive, and women are combative. In some circles feminism is a dirty word whether touted by men or women. We are in a watershed moment. We have an opportunity to change the story.

Matt Damon experienced backlash for his comments about the good white men when he stated, “We’re in this watershed moment and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole shitload of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.” Matt Damon was right in the sense that most men are good men, most men are not misogynistic or sexist, and most men see their female counterparts as equal. It is these men who have an opportunity to be on the positive side of feminism.

In 2014, Emma Watson launched the ‘HeForShe’ campaign which called on men and boys to be advocates for equality and to help course-correct when they witness inequality. I implore you to watch her impassioned United Nations speech here. It is unfortunate that the term feminism gets such bad press from both men and women; most women want equal pay, equal opportunity, and to have their right to choose any path honoured. We are not angry and aggressive man-haters. Quite simply, feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes’.

Women are not positioned to drive this much needed change alone. We need good men to have our backs, to pay attention, to disrupt the status quo, and to take a stand when they witness injustice; not because we need to be saved, but rather because making gender equality a priority is important for our collective future. Feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism is nothing to fear. Let this be a call out to all the good men. Let’s change the story together.

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, storytelling

Women are a hot topic. Are you ready?

International Women’s Day this year felt less like noise for me and more like a tsunami of women’s voices preparing to completely transform every level of every industry in its path. The drive toward gender equality is the evolution of business, but the path to success is not paved with a scattering of token women expected to adopt masculine principles.

The point of gender equality is to embrace natural feminine attributes to balance the male attributes that dominate most organizations today: compassion over hostility, open communication over back-room deals, collaboration over competition, and community over individualism. There is a largely untapped market of possibility to be realized by increasing female representation to a tipping point in the board room and at executive levels. At times I wonder if women are the only ones paying attention to the plethora of diversity and gender equality material being published, but then I see a high-tech company like Cisco walking the talk with 36% women at both the board and senior executive levels, and I’m hopeful that this much needed change isn’t going to take the predicted one hundred years to happen.

Cisco isn’t alone. There are many progressive companies educating their teams to prevent gender bias, disrupting the status quo to achieve gender equality, and implementing zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies that encourage women to stay in male-dominated fields. According to a Catalyst.org study, women are leaving STEM fields at the alarming rate of 53% globally and their reasons for leaving have little to do with their capabilities. This begs the question, ‘what needs to change to encourage women to stay so we can benefit from the value gender equality is proven to produce?’.

Women are the authority on the value women bring to the table. We can’t wait another hundred years to realize the benefit of gender equality. And, as Einstein quoted: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’. We don’t know what we don’t know, but by actively driving toward equality, we will witness the next wave of growth and innovation. It is not only going to come from the millennials; it is also going to come from embracing feminine ideals. Are you ready for the future?