By RAINA RADZAIF
Have you ever felt more like an invisible bystander than part of a team? Then you’ve experienced the powerfulfeeling of being the “other”.
This means feelings that you are not truly embraced as part of the team, feeling excluded from opportunities and subsequently separating yourself further.
In an organisational setting, this usually means being set apart from the power structures at the top.
The ‘other’ women
Women often find themselves as the “others” in male-dominated workforces and this can affect everything from morale to career advancement.
There are consequences for being the “other” in Europe.
According to the European Commission report entitled Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union, European women earn 16.4% less per hour compared with men, 19.1% in the United Kingdom alone.
Although this may not be the case for every woman in every working environment, in our male-dominated business world, it is an all too common experience. When women are excluded, organisations lose out on their talent.
Catalyst’s latest study, Anatomy of Change: How Inclusive Cultures Evolve tracks Rockwell Automation’s progress as the traditionally male-oriented organisation strives to become more inclusive for women and minorities.
“There’s always been an ‘old boys’ club’ mentality at Rockwell Automation. Teams often gathered after work at sports bars or places where women wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable. In meetings, women’s ideas weren’t always acknowledged.
“Sales leaders, usually males, would present projects to senior management, instead of letting their team members do it. We weren’t intentionally leaving others out – it’s just that we never thought of doing it any other way,” says Jeff McGee, the channel sales manager.
“Now I suggest lunch meetings instead of drinks after work. I make sure that everyone’s ideas are heard in meetings. I recently supported our mostly female operations team as they presented their great work to sales management.”
Change can only be created if organisations begin to listen, understand and invent solutions that address the barriers that women and minority groups face. This goes a long way to building a strong pipeline of diverse talent.
“Being inclusive helps us to recruit and retain top talent. We can’t completely change the work culture overnight, but we’re on the right track.
“The real proof of change will happen when we can look at our organisational chart and see diversity in the leadership. I want to be part of that culture!” McGee says.
In 2012, Thomson Reuters launched a co-ordinated approach to create a global strategy on diversity and inclusion led by Patsy Sciutto-Doerr, the global head of diversity and inclusion and corporate responsibility.
Fostering gender inclusiveness, supporting and developing female talent, and advocating women as equal partners in the success, achievement and profitability of the business is one of the key pillars.
The first action taken by Sciutto-Doerr was to work with the chief people officer and senior vice-president for talent and development to create a “Women Advisory Task Force”.
It is made up of a group of male and female senior business leaders from the organisation. Mission: To ensure female leadership development and advancement to senior positions in the organisation.
“When the C-suite is focused on these issues it brings increased visibility and shows that the organisation is taking diversity and inclusion seriously,” says Sciutto-Doerr.
The task force launched targeted career sponsorship opportunities which identified and developed high-potential women leaders by enhancing leadership skills and sharing strategies for business success. Task force members and other senior business leaders mentor, coach and network with participants to further add “a personal basis” to their work.
The task force recommended the introduction of global flexible working policies, impacting Thomson Reuter’s employees in more than 100 countries.
“We recognise that all of our employees can potentially experience events – such as relocation, having children, or needing to care for family members – which impact their working life. We’re committed to supporting our employees as they make these decisions.”
The results: maternity leave has been increased by 5%, paternity leave has increased by 10%, and flexible working arrangements, e.g. working from home, or splitting time between offices, made easier.
Such moves are also about changing the culture and attitudes, from senior leaders downwards, which have traditionally held women back. It is not enough to simply increase paid leave; you have to transform the attitude around maternity leave.
“We are now training our managers to support their employees throughout the entire process. We want to ensure a smooth handover when they leave, help them stay connected with the organisation while they are out, and help them reintegrate back when they are ready to return.
“The more diverse talent you have, the more you drive innovation, and the more you drive revenue and profitability. You have to cast the broadest net to reach the best talent.”
Diversity and inclusion lens
The diversity and inclusion strategy carries a tremendous impact on employee engagement, resulting in a more engaged, better-trained workforce.
“We see our diversity and inclusion agenda as a real lever for driving business. Customers have the same priorities we do, and are facing the same challenges. Sharing best practices enables organisations to gain added touch points within the customer’s organisation, cultivating broader and deeper relationships and leading to more business”, says Sciutto-Doerr.
Thomson Reuters has since become a thought-leader in this space, conducting and sponsoring research into gender dynamics.
The focus now is to integrate this progress into its day-to-day operations, and ensuring that employees, from senior leadership down, automatically approach their roles with a “diversity and inclusion lens”.
“We want our diversity and inclusion efforts woven into everything we do as an organisation,” she states.
In conclusion, diversity and inclusion of women in organisations can be achieved when all stakeholders are on the same page to make it happen.
Focus on inclusion
To get the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time and at the least expense, senior management should first focus on providing inclusion training to male managers and later expand the training outward within the organisation.
The results are much more powerful when men, who are often in leadership positions, act as role models.
Whilst men didn’t cause the problem, it’s their responsibility as leaders to drive this inclusive behaviour and be part of the solution.
Catalyst Study on Anatomy of Change: How Inclusive Cultures Evolve Key Findings
– Managers improved on five key behaviours for inclusion. These include:
- Critical thinking about social groups
- Taking more responsibility for being inclusive
- Inquiring across differences
- Listening emphatically
- Addressing difficult issues related to differences
– Managers were more likely to acknowledge that inequities exist.
– Increase in workplace civility and decrease in gossip.
– Having multiracial friendships mattered.
– Those who cared the least about exhibiting prejudice changed the most.
Raina Radzaif is a learning and development practitioner with a leading Malaysia-based multinational corporation. Contact her at email@example.com