What does a diversity and inclusion policy look like in today’s workplace? Does it make any real difference?
In the latest episode of The Variants Analysis podcast, our host Adrian O’Connor speaks to Chianeva George, C.P.A, CFO and CHRO at The New Georgia Project, about the reality of diversity in finance, what we should be focusing on, and how sustainable approaches to D&I hold the potential for long lasting change.
If you haven’t yet, you can listen to the full episode here.
According to research from McKinsey, 65% of companies have at least one woman on their executive teams. That number sounds encouraging, until you dig further and see that overall representation sits at only 15%.
“When you take a deeper dive and you look at the senior leadership, it just looks one way. So for me, it’s more of a marketing thing than a true intent,” explains Chianeva.
That same McKinsey study shows small gains in terms of representation of ethnic minorities in senior management, with a 1% increase from 2017 to 2019. That percentage point is particularly disappointing considering the overall representation of people of colour in senior positions is still sitting at around 13% in the UK and US.
It’s been shown that gender diversity in particular – and a focus on D&I in general – is good for company performance. Studies have found that companies embracing diversity are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than those that don’t.
Having people from diverse backgrounds in senior positions is especially important, as this creates an environment where future decisions are made from a representative place.
Chianeva highlights that a more diverse board of directors is a very small part of the solution: “Is the lack of diversity a symptom, or is it the actual problem? For me, it’s a symptom of something far bigger. This is what happens when you create a structure that is designed, for one, to create a dependency.”
Dismantling that system and creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and encouraged, then, is key.
Hiring biases express themselves in many ways. Hiring from the same kinds of colleges or universities, having an exclusive interview process, or being strict about interview environments can all skew the types of candidates you have in your interview room.
“Many companies say they only want to hire somebody who's Big Four trained. Now, if you always hire your team from the same four companies, you're reliant on the diversity pool of those same four companies in order to feed you,” Adrian explains.
Moreover, the hiring manager’s prejudices and perceptions of candidates play a large role in the eventual outcome of an interview. It’s been found that nearly 60% of decisions are made within the first 15 minutes of that conversation, meaning any preconceived notions about a person are likely to heavily influence the final decision.
In fact, in many cases, the biases of hiring managers play a role in who even gets a call for that first interview.
There have been several studies on the effects of identity markers like name, race, location, age, and universities attended. One particularly jarring example is a US study where researchers created resumes for black and Asian applicants.
On some of these resumes, racial markers were removed, while others were left untouched. 25% of black candidates whose resumes had their racial identifiers removed received calls for an interview. Only 10% of those whose resumes were unedited received the same. For Asian applicants, 21% received a call if their resumes were scrubbed, while 11% of the untouched resumes prompted an interview.
It’s typical to hear the terms “cultural fit” or “seems like a nice person to hang out with outside of work” after an interview – and while it’s perfectly normal to want to employ someone who’ll adapt well to your working environment, that’s exactly how uniform workplaces are created.
Implementing interview panels is a good way to break this cycle – but only if that panel is more representative itself. Similarly, blind challenges or CVs can clearly be a helpful exercise in removing unconscious bias from the initial selection process.
“The way that you address this issue isn't by creating another position, or another nice title, and putting this all over your marketing. It's… let's dismantle this,” Chianeva explains. Too many companies view D&I agendas as a one-off, public exercise.
In reality, the process requires buy-in from all levels of the business and a willingness to learn about the things that aren’t working. Fostering a space where conversations about these issues can be had and teams can work together to find viable solutions is crucial.
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