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Breaking down barriers: Diversity and Inclusion in the C-suite

Amidst this somewhat difficult time, we must still look at values and strategies and understand our business needs and requirements. Diversity and Inclusion across the C-Suite is a topic highly communicated and explored across industries, how can we break down the barriers surrounding D&I to create better results and improved decisions.

The route to the C-suite is not an easy journey for anyone, it takes dedication and endeavor. It can be a path littered with challenges and pitfalls for most people and only the most dedicated employees get there, but for some, there are additional barriers that get in the way. As most of us know, this is particularly true for women, the LGBT community, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities. The recruitment industry still wrestles with getting diversity and inclusion right. The issue is that it is frequently failing to appeal to diverse talent thanks to inclusivity concerns in the workplace. Many organizations are wising up however and are looking to up their diversity game with the changes being both tough but also financially rewarding.

Issues of discrimination

Demonstrating the magnitude of the fight facing a large number of the workforce is a host of research that shows a lack of representation at higher levels. Research characterizes many senior management teams across the industry as wholly lacking in diversity in the C-suite. Diversity in leadership is a subject that has most certainly been a real conversation starter, especially since the #MeToo movement has pushed the issue to the forefront. Discrimination of women is not something that can be thought of as work-based culture anymore.

Now as a priority, the UK’s top firms are on track to achieve the target of over a third boardroom positions being held by women in 2020. Although it has been said in a recent government-backed review that there is a systematic lack of support for women to make headway into the C-suite and other leadership roles. The report found that of the 923 senior positions in organizations held by women, only 25 women had been selected as a chief executive. Clearly breaking down barriers in the C-suite still has a long way to go and diversity needs to be promoted.

There is good reason to value diversity in the top roles of organizations. A 2018 Mckinsey report ‘Women Matter, Time to accelerate’ suggests that diverse staffing and leadership at the top can improve a business’s operating results by as much as 55% and boost the return on equity by 35%. Diversity equals higher financial returns for businesses, and it increases the net knowledge of service users. McKinsey unearthed a statistically significant correlation between improved financial performance and diverse leadership. Businesses with the most ethnic diversity at higher levels are 33% more prone to have better profitability than firms that do not.

How to break down the barriers

There are a number of ways that people can be supported to chart a course to the C-Suite which is a key target for leaders of successful businesses. Sponsors within the organisation can be influential in facilitating advocacy for those that are facing discrimination and help to advance careers. Mentors are another method that can be offered by organisations to provide advice and guidance to individuals to help to develop a career. Mentorship is valuable but sponsorship for those that face discrimination by people in power is vital. Mentors can offer direction to employees about routes to professional development whereas sponsorship can be useful in advocating a person for important openings and offer direct access to critical social networks that open up more opportunities.

Peer networks can easily be set up and encouraged so peers can become a valuable source of support to cope with impending fears about discrimination. They allow people to get advice on how to handle it. Broadening what you know can be an important shift from being an experienced expert to being seen as a real leader. With the help of the advice and experience of others who have been in the same position, this is a fundamental way to break down barriers.

As a result of recent conversations around diversity and inclusion, many organisations are adopting to even take a new approach in recruitment. This is one of creating new and evolving roles that are designed to specifically concentrate on ensuring equality throughout the organisation on all levels. The formation of C-suite positions concentrating completely on workplace diversity and inclusion offers new opportunities and highlights how inclusion needs to be a business priority when considering financial returns and the morale of staff. Recruiting tactics must be guaranteeing that new employees are incorporated into a positive working culture and that they have had a role in creating this culture, meaning that they will be more likely to want to stay.

As more women and other diverse groups join the C-suite, it is a growing belief that this will lead to a downscaling of traditional ideas and practices that have spread through the recruitment industry itself and hopefully breakdown the barriers further. However, breaking down barriers and increasing the viability of diversity and inclusion in the C-suite is an ongoing process.

To discuss your D&I strategy for the C-Suite, talk to the Scale Search team of experts.

By: Rebecca Lauder-Fletcher

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