I often chew the cud with an old friend of mine about what is wrong with the world of work. Whenever we are together the conversation somehow gets around to the role of women and minority groups and how to get greater diversity and representation in the workplace. It is not an easy subject yet one that has exercised my mind for some time.
How do you end up with an organisation that represents the breadth of experience of the society it serves? This is not the same as having exactly the same societal makeup.
His experience has been one of enforced targets, beyond mere tokenism but where people were employed based upon gender or ethnicity rather than merit. This he felt lead to poor management due to over-promotion, exacerbated by the command and control structure where he worked.
My experience has been one of working in organisations where the numbers looked acceptable yet jobs were split along traditional gender roles.
Both of us felt that the problem lay in getting good people from all walks of life to the position of being able to compete for jobs as they became available and that this required the system to be accepting of gender and ethnicity. The problem lies with the system rather than the people.
I was taken back to the Dynamo conference this year where I heard Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon speak. She is, among other things, the co-founder of STEMettes. Her presentation spoke about unconscious bias, which must play a large role in recruitment practices. It is much easier to relate to people that look like us and have come from similar backgrounds. She talked about being intentional about inclusion rather than leaving things to the chance of unintentional exclusion.
She described how your culture is the average of who you have in the company and your culture won’t change without a conscious effort. Simple things can make a big difference, such as not closing your job advert pool until you have interviewed at least one underrepresented group.
It is not good enough to say that the best candidates have got the job when you have done nothing to help others to come to the table, nor to say that nobody applied when the advert makes it impossible for them to do so, nor to say you don’t know how to address the issue when you do nothing to find a solution.
It is not good enough to stick with the status quo. We all need to be intentional about inclusion.