The Power of the Business Leader as a Real-Model for Diversity and Inclusion

The Power of the Business Leader as a Real-Model for Diversity and Inclusion

Sally Todd, CWN President, talks to Tracey Groves, CWN Membership Chair and a 2018 FT and HERoes Champion of Women in Business.

Today the Financial Times published the 2018 FT and HERoes Champions of Women in Business ranking. The HERoes lists celebrate company leaders who support women in business.

Congratulations to Tracey Groves, CWN Membership Chair, Founder and Director of Intelligent Ethics and former Partner at PwC, who has been recognised as a champion of women in business by the judging panel.

Tracey is ranked #48 amongst 100 senior female business leaders who are helping to increase gender diversity in the workplace and effecting the greatest changes in women’s careers both in the UK and beyond. 

CWN President Sally Todd caught up with Tracey to discuss the critical role of responsible business leaders in driving diversity across their business.

ST: Tracey, congratulations on becoming an FT HERo! As an award-winning leader of gender diversity initiatives in organisations, please give us your perspective on why workplace culture and creating the environment for a more diverse and inclusive workforce is so important to business performance?

TG: A culture that fosters diversity and inclusion is one that is built on respect and trust.  With high levels of trustworthiness comes a desire to innovate, to push boundaries and to exceed expectations of performance.  A climate of psychological safety that encourages each of us to take informed risks without fear of repercussion drives high levels of integrity and performance in organisations. 

When we respect difference, Sally, we work with a “we” mindset and a common sense of shared purpose is transformational in unlocking organisational results. A business that values difference is a business that has high levels of self-awareness and cares about its people, customers, suppliers, investors and its impact on wider society.  In my book, that’s not just responsible business, it’s smart business.

ST: Companies take their lead from the top. What actions do we need to see from senior business leaders to treat diversity like other key business drivers to optimise commercial success?

TG: At the very least, senior business leaders must be seen to value and care about diversity. The question is, how can they do that? 

By fostering open and candid conversations about all different aspects of diversity and inclusion (not just about gender and race), by taking a stand against inappropriate behaviour at all levels of the organisation (including the most senior), by endorsing and sponsoring initiatives that drive greater levels of knowledge and understanding about why we do what we do and the challenges of bias, and last but definitely not least, by being held accountable for creating an environment that is built on respect and trust. The power of the business leader as a ‘real-model’ as well as a ‘role-model’ drives a belief that this is the right thing to do and is brought to life by leaders treating diversity as part of the business strategy.

ST: A recent report from The Pipeline suggested that Britain is missing out on a £13 billion gender dividend by failing to get more women into decision-making roles in business. Why do you think substantial barriers to the development of the nation’s top talent continue to prevail and how can we banish them?

TG: I believe that barriers are still there because we are not doing enough to debias the organisational systems, Sally.  We need to look at the policies and procedures based on the evidence of what works to drive equality and reduce bias, so that everyone is treated fairly and the organisation benefits from 100% of the talent pool.  So often individuals set out to do the right thing, and then processes like recruitment, promotion, and reward intervene and result in an unlevel playing field. 

Practical things like using skill-based assessment tasks in recruitment, structured interviews for recruitment and promotions, including multiple women in shortlists for recruitment and promotions (shortlists with only one woman do not increase the chance of a woman being selected), and introducing transparency to promotion, pay and reward processes are evidence based actions that have been tested in real world settings and found to have a positive impact (see Government Equalities Office/Behavioural Insights Team, Reducing the gender pay gap and improving gender equality in organisations, August 2018

 ST: You have aptly said that “women and men need to work together to drive parity in the workplace.” Why do you think resistance still exists to men and women joining in a common endeavour? How can we realistically address such bias, implicit or explicit?

TG: I often wonder why this is so hard.  Since when did equality become a something that only matters to 50% of the population?  Being different is the one thing that you and I have in common, regardless of gender.  We need men to be our allies, to be part of movement that seeks fairness and equity for everyone, regardless of race, gender, orientation or any other characteristic that makes me me, and you, you.  It would be a truly boring world if we were all cut from the same pattern.  Just imagine it! 

Often men personally disclose to me their inner passion for equality but then struggle to maintain their belief in a world where behavioural norms can work against this.  We need to support and encourage men to work with us in driving equality openly and publicly, to be brave and to show that they care. We all stand to benefit.   

ST: More needs to be done to make the business world attractive to women at schools and universities. What can female leaders do to encourage and equip the next generation of (male and female) contributors?

TG: When you are visible as confident, competent and caring senior business leader, why wouldn’t anyone want to be like you?  Add “female’ to that list of attributes and I’ve just mentally shifted (probably) the image of the leader you had in your mind.

We need to see it to believe it.

My belief is that female leaders need to be visible to both men and women in schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace, as champions of difference and authenticity, not just gender.  It’s vitally important that we engage with men and boys whilst doing this; valuing difference is not a gender specific attribute.  We need to empower others, energise their passion for being the best that they can be, and encourage them to envision a successful and healthy career in business as a force for good. 

 ST: The fourth industrial revolution has the potential to create brand new opportunities for those businesses that are innovative, collaborative and agile. How can business leaders best equip their workforce to embrace and prepare for the consequences of new technologies?

TG: The consequences of new technologies are far reaching.  With the opportunities that new technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), will bring, comes potential risks.  The pace and complexity of disruption is unprecedented.  Only those business leaders who are prepared to step up to this challenge will enable organisations and their workforce to thrive, not just survive.  

Will we see the pessimistic forecasts of huge job losses come true or will we see more jobs being created through AI than being lost, as some are predicting?  Leaders need to take ownership right now for transforming the workplace with technology as a force for good, through education and empowerment, with values such as equality, transparency and integrity at their heart. 

Just because something can be automated, should it be?  We need to work out how humans and machines can work together to create a positive impact economically, environmentally and socially.  Hardwiring our core values into creating a technology-driven world will enable businesses and their people to flourish and prosper, not wither.

ST: Finally Tracey, what three key attributes help you when dealing with complex business problems?

TG: I would say the three things that I constantly draw on are, firstly, the courage to be me.  To be authentic, to be real, and to be true to my values and purpose in life.  Sometimes that is easier said than done, but it’s when I perform at my best.  Secondly, my ability to build trusted relationships is so important.  It allows me to hold the mirror up to my clients and say, ‘so what?  why not?  how come?’  They know these questions come from a good place and a desire to drive organisational change with positivity and humanity. 

And thirdly, the ability to have fun and to energise others.  With complexity often comes fear, so breaking down problems into simpler, more achievable tasks creates a powerful momentum and a collaborative spirit that is hugely inclusive and energising.  You’ll be amazed at what we can overcome together. 

@intellethics   @traceyjgroves


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