We are living in a world that is global in nature, interlinked, and at the same time highly polarized. It’s a complex situation that allows fostering of popular opinions or perceptions, and unfortunately, sometimes does not leave much room for unique and creative thought processes.
Our workplaces are very much a part of the larger community and battle with the same issues. There is, therefore, a much greater need now for organizations to be diverse, pluralistic and inclusive.
The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021 highlights that India ranked 140th among 156 countries, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia. The report witnessed a decline in women’s labor force participation rate. Women in senior and managerial positions continue to remain low and the earned income of women in India is estimated to be one-fifth of men. If these figures are to be taken seriously, achieving gender equality as one of the prime goals of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be a pipe dream.
However, all hope is not lost! The pandemic may have shown the way by instilling a sense of solidarity and teamwork as employees sitting in different geographic locations from diverse backgrounds continued to work for months at a stretch to ensure business continuity. Organizations with diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in their DNA were naturally able to conform to new realities and respond to crises as one.
This has further made DE&I more critical for organizational success since the advantages have far too many implications to ignore.
DE&I Impact on Business Performance:
A Gartner report predicted that by 2022, 75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets. It also stated that gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperformed gender-homogeneous, less inclusive teams by 50%, on average. A workplace that is supportive of different perspectives and solutions will always have an advantage, especially during unprecedented times.
Correlation with Innovation:
The Getting to Equal 2019 report by Accenture is succinct when it states EQUALITY = INNOVATION. The research went on to further articulate that a culture of equality—the same kind of workplace environment that helps everyone advance to higher positions—is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth.
Let’s face it, if we have people who all talk, behave and think in the same manner it would be pretty cumbersome. We need novel ideas, and we need non-conformists— mind you ‘not rebels without a cause’ but individuals who believe in standing their ground and providing results that stand the test of time.
Relationship with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG):
Infosys Digital Radar 2022 found that technology adoption has leapt ahead over the pandemic, creating a new minimum standard for companies to meet. It also highlighted a strong ESG commitment to providing a people-focused framework to steer technology in the right direction. Consequently, multiple stakeholders including government, regulators and investors are increasingly attentive to companies that account for women’s representation and participation as an important part of their DNA.
Inclusive Company culture:
A work culture that provides a secure platform for a diverse set of employees, including women of color and LGBTQIA+ employees, to thrive will considerably aid in areas such as employee retention and engagement. Interestingly, the Deloitte Millennial Survey spoke about how Millennials will comprise of 75% of the global workforce by 2025, and would want to work for organizations that foster innovative thinking, develop their skills and make a positive contribution to society.
Enhanced Brand Reputation
Women in Business and Management: The business case for change 2019 report by International Labour Organization shared findings that indicated enterprises with equal employment opportunity policies and gender-inclusive cultures were over 60% more likely to have improved profits and productivity, and they were almost 60% more likely to experience enhanced reputation, greater ease in attracting and retaining talent and greater creativity and innovation. Companies that are known for their DE&I strategies are the ones that become a preferred choice of the workplace for employees and even their customers. This also translates to satisfied employees and customers leading to strong brand equity.
All of us need to be aware of and become strong advocates in promoting an equitable environment that encourages women to lead, provides a safe haven for LGBTQIA+ employees and is accepting of reimagining ideas that are distinctive and perhaps ahead of their time.
There is a popular saying that inclusion stems from the top. Maybe now it is time for a new definition that articulates that it stems from each and every individual.
The pandemic may have further exacerbated an organization’s need to embrace DE&I but it falls to each and every one of us to now carry the baton forward.