How to bypass the buzzwords and walk the walk

7 ways to take meaningful action on diversity and inclusion by our Head of Business Nuala Murphy as published in Business Post Ireland.

If I asked you to name five business buzzwords du jour, I’m willing to bet that diversity and inclusion would make the list. There’s nothing wrong per se with buzzwords – our first contact with a new concept might come that way, helping to disseminate important ideas – but they all too often lack meaning or lose power. We add business buzzwords to our websites, scatter them around the office and sprinkle them liberally throughout our corporate communications – without pausing to ask ourselves whether we actually mean what we say.

If you’ve proclaimed your commitment to inclusion without asking yourself some difficult questions about your unconscious bias, or implemented a diversity training programme without gauging what it’s like for people from under-represented groups to work for you, then there’s a chance you’ve fallen foul of the buzzword bandwagon. And as I’ve said, there are worse crimes. Banging the drum for diversity because it’s hip in the business world is better than not making a sound about it – but shouting into the wind ultimately serves no-one. Here’s how to bypass the buzzwords and walk the walk of building a more diverse and inclusive workplace without tokenistic gestures.

Understand the wider context
Gender and diversity aren’t issues that exist in a vacuum. The importance of equal opportunity in the workplace hasn’t drifted onto the business radar by accident. From Me Too to the Black Lives Matter movement, the experiences and sacrifices of people from under-represented groups have helped to shape the narrative that has brought us to this point. Take time to read and listen to those accounts and to amplify those voices that form the wider context of building a more equal society.

Don’t create office housework

Research undertaken in 2019 by McKinsey and LeanIn revealed that while women were stepping up as leaders in the workplace – as well as undertaking the majority of the work when it came to diversity, equity and inclusion – they were also suffering from burnout. Without male allies or champions, the work of advancing diversity and inclusion quickly becomes little more than office housework. 

Recognise the legacy of the pandemic

The pandemic encouraged us to re-evaluate our lives so that people no longer just want a job with a big name employer and a good salary – employees place more value on balance, equilibrium and on impact.

Embark on a journey, don’t tick a box

I have had exposure at scale to many different companies at many different sizes, each on a journey with diversity and inclusion with different resources and competing business needs. I’ve seen that if you don’t have a senior level executive championing equality and shaping behaviour and culture, it’s not going to be embedded in the organisation and that means impact is limited. It’s not a tick-box exercise. It’s a journey that needs to be embraced from top to bottom and back again.  We see a lot of employee of the month initiatives and photos of companies who are recognising the great work of their employee resource groups – and that is all good. But embedding diversity and inclusion is more than a health and wellbeing webinar, or a monthly celebration. It actually needs to be across the board to be successful.

Make it visible

Gender and diversity need to be championed and sponsored in the board room. Senior executives need to act visibly and noisily, spending time listening, communicating and representing the importance of diversity and inclusion at every level of the business, from resource investment to transparency in decision making.

Measure impact

Efforts to advance diversity must be measured and people need to be held accountable, whether that’s in performance, recruitment, decision making or hires and promotions. Equality is ultimately about ensuring different ways of thinking are represented in the room, whether you are making a product or providing a service. 

Ask the hard questions

Inclusion and diversity are ultimately about everyone feeling they can have value and influence and bring their whole selves to work, if they choose to.  It’s not just for numbers; it has to effect change. For all organisations with or without HR departments, it’s vital to ask difficult questions about where the organisation is at. Where does it want to go. How is it going to get there. And which behaviours and practices need to stop, what needs to continue and where to start

Nuala Murphy: Buzzwords lose meaning if they’re not backed up with action | Business Post

If you have not yet joined Diversity Mark on your company’s Diversity and Inclusion journey please reach out to emma@diversity-mark-ni.co.uk to discuss the benefits and process.

You can CLICK HERE to join Diversity Mark and work towards achieving the Diversity Mark accreditation.

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion: Good for Business

Interim Head of Business Nuala Murphy takes a look at why diversity, equality and inclusion have never been more important.

‘Supporting women in work to achieve their ambitions, whatever they may be, has been a focus of mine over the past eight years through my voluntary capacity as a Lean In Network leader. We have seen thousands of women from across all industries benefit from being part of the Lean In Circle programme in their communities and organisations.

Nuala Murphy, Interim Head of Business at Diversity Mark

The benefits have seen eight out of 10 women saying that being part of a supportive group has had a positive impact on their lives, in work we have seen those who wanted a promotion, change in working patterns or indeed change in career, fulfil their goals.

Companies with more women on their boards, perform better. Mixed gender startups raise more money and build more inclusive products. More diverse teams perform better.

Since taking up my role with Diversity Mark, I have been encouraged to see the commitment among the growing number of signatories to their ‘Mark of Progress’ across Ireland and the UK. There is no doubt the pandemic shone a light on the disproportioned work women do at home and in work compared to male colleagues and partners and as such, leaders had to take heed and find ways to better support and enable their employees.

According to the McKinsey LeanIn.org Women In The Workplace study 2021: “At a time when the stakes have never been higher, women are showing up as better people-focused leaders and stronger advocates for diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) they are more likely, than men at their levels, to take consistent steps to promote employee well-being, such as checking in on their team members and helping them manage their workloads.

“They are also more likely to support DEI initiatives and to be active allies to women of colour. But although this work drives better outcomes for all employees, it is going largely overlooked by companies.”

The key findings

More than 90% of companies track women’s overall representation, but only 65% track gender differences in promotion rates.

Almost 70% of companies hold senior leaders accountable for progress on diversity goals – but only 30% hold managers, who play a critical role in hiring and promotion decisions, accountable. Only 34% of employees have participated in anti-racism training in the past year.

Senior-level women are twice as likely as senior-level men to spend substantial time on DEI work that falls outside their formal job responsibilities.

Some 86% of companies say it’s “very or extremely” critical that managers support their team members’ well-being, but only twenty-five percent formally recognise those who do this – and a similar trend holds for DEI work.

When managers take action to promote employee well-being and companies prioritise DEI, employees are happier, less burned out, and less likely to consider leaving their company.

To drive change, companies need to invest deeply in all aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

To improve representation of all women across the pipeline, companies need to double down on reducing bias in reviews and promotions, and they need to hold leaders and managers accountable for progress. But diversity in numbers isn’t enough. Companies also need to create a culture that fully leverages the benefits of diversity – one in which women, and all employees, feel comfortable bringing their unique ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the table.

What action can we take?

You can start and continue your own journey by joining the rapidly growing Diversity Mark community of signatories across Ireland and the UK and commit to building a more diverse and inclusive workplace where all employees can feel valued and supported to do their best work. We want to support you and enable your success in this area. Not only will it help you attract and retain staff, but it will contribute to building a more equal, representative and inclusive society that at the end of the day is good for our economy.’

If you have not yet joined Diversity Mark on your company’s Diversity and Inclusion journey please reach out to emma@diversity-mark-ni.co.uk to discuss the benefits and process.

You can CLICK HERE to join Diversity Mark and work towards achieving the Diversity Mark accreditation.