Proven Strategies for Diversity and an Inclusive Culture with Maureen Frank CEO and Founder of emberin (Part 3 of 3)
This is the third and final post of our in-depth look at proven strategies for diversity and an inclusive culture. Click here to read from the beginning, Part One Or click here to jump back to Part Two
8: Flexible Work is Part of Inclusive Leadership
I see that some organisations, and many of you will have this experience, are very inconsistently applying flexible work. It’s very manager dependent. Two people in the same organisation have vastly different experiences. You need to get rid of some of that inconsistency. I think that’s getting very granular with managers on the “how to”.
To me, the “push back” on flexibility comes from fear. It’s fear around things for example: “Well, if I give it to this person, do I have to give it to that person?” How am I going to manage this situation where I’ve got part of one person, part of someone else, or whatever the flexible work arrangement might be? The thing is, that in order to get rid of that fear, we need to up-skill managers on the “how to” of some of those practicalities. We also need to recognise that sometimes managing flexible work arrangements can be harder than what leaders are used to. You need to train them and help them with that process.
We want women banging on the door to say, “Give me that job.” We’ve been working, as I mentioned, with 20,000 women over the last 10 years. We have a real formula for success, where we’ve had some outstanding success around getting women to throw their hat in the ring. Again, you got to do it over a period of time and you’ve got to understand that it’s about behavioural change. That change won’t happen overnight.
You’ve got to challenge, but you also have to do it in a way that resonates with women. This is my point, and I think it is very much a part of inclusion; my philosophy is that the engagement of people in business is different. It’s unique to every individual. Women, as a group, are engaged differently to men as a group. I know that it’s a sweeping generalisation, because you always get exceptions to the rule.
I’d like to think of selling employment to women similar to selling a product to women. If you’re selling a lipstick to women, you would market that product differently to the way you might market a lipstick to a man, typically. If you agree with this statement, then maybe the way that you might mentor and support women through their careers just might be different as well. Again, I’ll re-emphasise, it’s not about fixing women, it’s about giving women the confidence to do things their way. We want them to bring their differences to the table.
10: How far Along the Journey are you?
It is really important for you to understand this, because to me, if you look at the first 2 boxes, that’s where most organisations in Australia are. They have a bit of an understanding of unconscious bias and how it plays out in the work environment. That’s a dangerous place to be. You’ve got to move quickly to commit, act, and champion. Otherwise, you’ll actually go backwards. You’ve got to move from that basic knowledge to, “Okay, what does this mean in terms of my accountability and the actions and the things that I need to do?”
What works is creating an inclusive culture, and it’s really important to understand that inclusion is way broader than our traditional views of diversity, which is more about around equal opportunity, affirmative action. Inclusion is about innovation, collaboration, and increasing engagement. You can tangibly see the business case that arises if you can see movement and increases in those 3 fields.
To me, I think inclusion is about taking action getting everyone’s voice head. That’s what will drive business performance. When I say everyone, I really mean everyone. What I see in organisations is that because of our biases and because of the way we dub people as talent and non-talent, is that we really under-utilised a good proportion of our human capital in organisations.
What if we were actually able to bring out the strength’s in every single individual in an organisation? What if you are able to leverage all of your human capital? What impact would that have on your bottom line? I think it would be significant. I think that’s important. We’ve had lots of conversations over the years around the engagement of men in the diversity conversation, and certainly some of the biggest champions of diversity that I know are men; however, I think inclusion makes that tangible connection really obvious. It’s about saying every individual, so men, women, whatever your race, whatever your ability is, it’s about finding out what’s unique about you so that you can truly bring yourself to work.
We all agree that creating an inclusive culture is our goal. It’s good for business. It creates more engaged employees. We all also know that each of us have unconscious biases. The thing about that is you need to say, “Well, so what?” If you want to be a leader that is a high performing team, you have to educate yourself on the how to. That’s inclusive leadership.
How can you do that? Using our program, Courage: Inclusive Leadership in Action. Some of you may be aware that we had a program for many years which we started with Telstra, which resulted in their catalyst award win, which was a program designed to engage men who wanted to understand how to champion gender diversity. This is the second edition of this program launched last year.
It’s the practical how to, and it takes leaders through what do I do in this situation, how do I deal with resistance. It does deal with the basics of unconscious bias, but it moves that quite quickly into challenging merit. It goes into the detail of the “how to” of flexibility, and the “how to” creating a collaborative team, how do we really create an inclusive culture.
I’ve done some awesome experiments with this program. We have been using it in organisations to set up the inclusion champions of change. Some of the experiments that have come out of those leaders have absolutely blown me away.
To me, it takes courage to acknowledge that merit is subjective. This is at the heart of inclusive leadership. The question is, are you ready? Is your organisation ready? My view is that if you’re not ready, don’t do it. Don’t jump in. I’ve seen so many organisations jump in and not really getting it right. You are perceived as being inauthentic, and you can actually do more damage than what it’s worth.
I’m sure a number of you have a few questions. If you do, please feel free to email them through to us in the team, and we’ll look forward to touching base with you again in the future. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1800 306 698.