Last week I was fortunate to be a panellist at the Management Consultancy Association’s event on the Future of Talent, Diversity and Inclusion. Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, was also on the panel and gave an inspiring presentation. Ann is an expert on gender balance in the workplace and talked both about her own personal story and about how far we in business still need to go.
Two things struck me from Ann’s presentation and the subsequent contribution from my fellow speakers.
- There is irrefutable evidence that business and organisational performance improves as we become more diverse and inclusive. While gender dominated the panel discussion, we all agreed that other aspects of inclusion including ethnicity, lived experiences, personal circumstances, and personality types should not be overlooked. At IMPOWER, we are looking at diversity and inclusion in it wider sense, and the discussion really got me thinking about our clients, and the extent to which embracing inclusion and diversity will help public services transform. From many of the advertisements for senior roles that I see, councils are generally narrow-frame the experience and background they are seeking and often rule out many rich and diverse candidates before the application stage. They simply don’t encourage individuals from outside the sector to come and make a valuable contribution at a senior level.
- There seemed to be a broad consensus that culture was the hardest challenge of all. It is said that an organisation’s culture is the product of the behaviours that the leadership tolerates. It really doesn’t matter what commitments are made, what signs are stuck on the walls, what is said or captured in organisational mission statements if we are not authentic and set the right standards of behaviour. I know that I personally need to learn so much, be more self-aware and be comfortable about discussing the issues that inclusion and diversity raise.
I am an East End Boy, brought up in the 1970s and 80s, whose lived experience is so different to many of my wonderful colleagues at IMPOWER. I am lucky because my team are emotionally intelligent, I know all of them personally and we have a culture that enables me to talk openly about my personal experience and why it has shaped my leadership and management style. Whatever the size of the organisation, inclusion and diversity is really about leadership: it’s about understanding the landscape, calling out exclusive or inappropriate behaviour and being clear about boundaries whether you are addressing your boss, your peers, your direct reports – or your clients or elected politicians. This is our hardest challenge, but we all have more power and influence that we think we have – so let’s begin to make an authentic difference now.
The first thing I did on the way home was to order Ann’s book, ‘Create a Gender-Balanced Workplace’. I look forward to reading it and sharing it across IMPOWER as we continue to understand and resolve the challenges we face and the practical steps we can take to be more inclusive and diverse.