By Lisa Jones, Corporate Partnerships Lead at Women on Boards
Recently I had the pleasure of partnering with TAF and hosted an event looking at Why Diversity Matters. We covered a lot of ground in the talk and I’m pleased to share the highlights with you:
The importance of a diverse workforce
Diverse teams perform better. We need teams of people with different views and lived experiences who ask difficult questions and challenge our biases. We need teams that reflect the society we sell to or serve. Why?
- Diversity confers expertise. Most of us are happy to listen to an IT expert regardless of their background.
- Diversity enables innovation – Different people hear and see different things. By bringing together a wide range of perspectives, you achieve new and better ideas.
- Diversity enables problem-solving – Watch the film The Imitation Game about Alan Turing. Diverse teams also change the way you think!
What issues surrounding diversity need to be addressed?
Diversity is not impactful without inclusion. Diverse teams are more complicated to manage, particularly for leaders not tuned in to working with different groups. They must understand individuals and their backgrounds and accept that people who are not like them think and work differently.
Good leaders are rare and have trained themselves to be collaborative because it is not easy. They have systems in place to ensure they make everyone feel involved.
Diverse groups need role models they want to follow. They need to feel represented and have access to opportunities to progress. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.
What does the structure look like? How diverse is the leadership? What’s the organisation’s culture? There’s no magic fix, but it’s those at the most senior level who can create meaningful change.
How can we tackle these issues?
- Train your leaders on Inclusion
- Collect and understand your data: by division, department, country
- Train and support team leaders on collaboration
- Encourage disagreement
- Listen to and actively manage your minority networks
- Have an interview and promotion process that aligns with performance
- Focus on ‘fixing’ the minority, aka asking them to adapt to old styles of working
- Rely on minority leaders to lead the change
- Assume minority networks will fix the problem alone
- Assume that casual cross-mentoring will work
- Just put minorities on the interview panels
High-performing organisations work hard to be inclusive because they know it doesn’t happen by chance. It requires active effort.
There is still a long way to go!
Our 2022 report ‘Hidden Talent’ monitored the board diversity in the FTSE All-Share companies below the top 350.
- 50% of UK firms in FTSE All-Share ex350 have no women in C-Suite positions
- 44% of firms have not achieved the target of 33% women on boards
- A quarter of boards (25%) have one director of colour, up from 16% in 2021 – but 75% of boards are entirely white
Despite the challenges, progress is slowly being made and with continued effort, we can create more inclusive environments where everyone feels valued.
Lisa Jones is part of the Corporate Partnerships team at WB directors and would be happy to talk further with any TAF members to look at how WB Directors can support you when it comes to increasing the diversity of your organisations.
Lisa Jones is in the Corporate Partnership Team at WB Directors, and recently spoke at a talk alongside other female leaders, looking at ‘Why Diversity Matters’. Lisa has spent her business life in marketing communications agencies, and secured her first board position in an agency, which was a significant moment in her career, as it allowed her to understand the key issues boards are faced with. At the time of her election to the board, diversity was not on the agenda, but she is delighted to have witnessed a major change in this area. Lisa is passionate about supporting others to reach their full potential in their careers, and enjoys sharing the practical approaches she’s learnt over the years.
WB Directors works with a wide range of organisations to inspire change and ensure that they support their talent with the most relevant programmes for their professional development.
Outside of WB Directors, Lisa is an active business angel investor and board Chair for the London based charity Regenerate, helping to transform deprived communities from the inside. Lisa is also a NED at The Feel Good Bakery and has been known to pick up her golf clubs occasionally – if only she had the time to improve her handicap!