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Why Fit In When You Were Born To Stand Out? : The Case for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

There’s no question that diversity and inclusion is good for business. But, Tom Verghese explains why a new approach is needed. 

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be hearing from a number of high profile procurement leaders on the topics of diversity, equality and women in procurement.

Diversity in our workplaces is important. It’s widely acknowledged that diversity in our leadership teams matters. It’s imperative for any organisation that wants to achieve and remain competitive. Diversity helps to generate new ideas, drive creativity, and meet market needs; it also reflects our own communities. While the benefits are many and varied I want to draw your attention to a recent body of research ‘Diversity Matters’ conducted by McKinsey & Company.

Diversity Matters Study

One of the key findings from this study is that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity were 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median.

The authors contend, based on other studies and the correlation in this study between diversity and performance, that the more diverse an organisation is the more successful they are at winning top talent, customer orientation, employee satisfaction and effective decision-making.

While this research paper found that no organisation performed well in all areas of diversity (it is a very select few who do) it highlights the ongoing demand for diversity training programs.

Diversity policies and approaches tend to be country specific. However, traditionally the common approach in countries such as the UK, U.S and Australia has been to adopt a single diversity program that covers all areas from gender and age, to race, ethnicity, sex, religion and disability.

I contend that one of the problems with this approach is that some more visible areas of diversity such as gender, have received more focus than others, namely race and ethnicity.

A new approach to diversity is needed

A new mindset and approach to diversity needs to occur. The overall current characterisation and management of diversity is too broad, it commands greater depth.  In other words, a more individualised, tailored approach is required, it needs to be ‘unbundled’.

At the same time, I would go one step further and posit that diversity in any organisation or workplace cannot be fully realised without an equal and complementary focus on inclusion.

The challenge of inclusion is not in producing a diverse workplace; diversity is rather the natural outcome of inclusion. If we define diversity as all the ways we are different – that which is the human condition, then inclusion is our ability to value, recognise and appreciate these differences.

It is possible for organisations to hire a diverse workforce, however, without the necessary corresponding inclusion policies.

We see ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups start to form and those in the ‘out’ groups (typically those people who find themselves in a demographic minority) less likely to stay in their roles.

Attraction and retention are equally important partners in any organisation’s D&I journey; they must therefore be given equal effort and intent. If we focus back on our gender example, inclusion on a basic level means making women feel welcome and valued in the workplace. This can be reflected in policies such as: flexible work arrangements for men and women, allowance for career breaks, available role models, mentoring opportunities, and affinity groups.

It is worth noting that these types of policies will differ across different societies or cultures. Organisations that work across borders must consequently be aware and knowledgeable of these implications.

Managing a diverse organisation

Diversity and Inclusion is not an easy undertaking. Managing a diverse organisation is far more difficult than managing a homogenous one, and it requires a completely different skillset.

Leaders must step up to the challenge and in many cases push past the latent philosophy of maintaining status quo – the ‘why change something if it is not broken’ attitude we all too often still see represented in the homogenous recruitment policies of organisations.

Specific programmes that develop, monitor and promote ongoing continuous improvement need to be implemented.

Some examples are unconscious bias training, cultural intelligence training, mentoring, or executive coaching. These programs provide greater rigour, understanding and appreciation that make real headway into changing attitudes, behaviours and outcomes.

Why, What and How?

In conclusion, I would like to put forward three questions organisations can ask in order to pursue an integrated approach to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I):

  • WHY – Organisations must establish the reasons why D&I is important for them
  • WHAT – Organisations must educate their leaders on D&I, bias and its impact on decision-making
  • HOW – Organisations must examine the policies, procedures and processes that systematically re-enforce the current state

Further to improving diversity and inclusion, organisations and their leaders must visibly demonstrate that they believe in the value of D&I and assert why it is a priority in a manner that influences, promotes and inspires others to also commit.

As the authors of ‘Diversity Matters’ point out we “must do more to take full advantage of the opportunity that diverse leadership teams represent… we live in a global world that has become deeply interconnected.” This research serves as an ongoing reminder of the headway that we have made to date in countries such as the U.S and U.K in diversity. But it also highlights the benefits to be gained and that there is still much work to be done.

Join the women in procurement conversation in the Procurious Bravo group. 

If I Could Turn Back Time: Advice To My Younger Procurement Self

Imagine if you could go back in time to when you started your first job. Wouldn’t you love to reassure yourself it was all going to be ok or offer some advice on how to navigate the next few years of your career? 

ashatan-f/Shutterstock.com

Procurious recently launched Bravo, a new group seeking to address gender disparity in the workplace, and celebrate and empower women working within procurement.

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be interviewing a number of high profile procurement leaders and seeking their advice on how we can help other women to get ahead in their procurement careers.

Michelle Baker is Global Procurement Director: IT and Business Services Categories at  SABMiller Procurement.

In this interview Michelle discusses the issues that affect women in the workplace, advice she would offer her younger self and why she loves procurement!

Michelle will also be attending this year’s Big Ideas Summit as a panelist to talk about Global Risk assessments.

What have been the most successful approaches organisations you know have taken to decrease gender disparity?

  1. Putting gender disparity on the leadership agenda of issues to address.
  2. Balanced slates in recruitment.
  3. Making gender disparity a talking topic across the whole company, irrespective of people’s gender.

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

Leading and developing people in diverse global teams (and not just gender diverse, but race, religion, age, sexual orientation  etc.) has been fantastically rewarding personally.

My greatest accomplishment in the workplace is  that I am still curious and excited about the work I do after so many years:  IT’s evolution has  meant I have to constantly hurry to keep up!

What issues currently affect you as a woman in procurement?

I don’t think diversity is an issue exclusively to procurement.

But, looking back, I think the absence of positive role models in senior roles made it more difficult to navigate corporate politics than it needed to be.

Who are the most influential women in your life?

Too many to mention!  I have a healthy group of friends and family that go back to my early days at university in South Africa and many others scattered across the countries in which I’ve lived.  They each offer their own special support, whether they know it or not,  in my development.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you?

It keeps me endlessly curious and allows me to have direct contact with what a range of senior stakeholders in my company are doing and trying to achieve.

If you could offer your younger self two pieces of advice, what would they be?

Find a mentor, and never stop learning.

Some of the Procurious team joined Michelle at a Women in Procurement Breakfast last year at ProcureCon IT.

Following an  insightful discussion,  everyone said  the two pieces of advice that they would offer their younger selves.

Michelle put together this fantastic infographic to represent the group’s responses.

Let us know the two pieces of advice you’d  like to offer your younger self via the Bravo group. 

Join the  Big Ideas 2017 conversation and register as a digital delegate 

The Glass Ceiling For Women In Procurement and Supply Chain – Myth or reality?

If the glass ceiling is a figment of our imaginations, why do so few women make it to the top? 

Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock.com

Procurious’ new group, Bravo, celebrates women in procurement- Join the conversation here.  

This article was originally published on Jennifer Swain’s LinkedIn profile

There’s a lot of talk about the glass ceiling for women. Do they really exist and what can be done about it? I decided to really give this situation some thought to try to understand WHY there are so few females in Head Of or Director level roles within supply chain, procurement and logistics.

Traditional Logistics

Up until fairly recently there were certain industries / vocations that were considered either man’s work or women’s work. The stereotype twenty years ago that girls want to grow up to be Nurses and boys to work as Engineers is now very outdated to most.  But it’s legacy does still live on in some businesses.

Logistics definitely comes under the former stereotype of being a “man’s job” and still to this day this view point can be found in the culture of some warehouse operations.  Granted, the page 3 girls plastered on the walls may have disappeared for the main.

But, I have witnessed on occasion women with more talent being overlooked for opportunities, with an extreme case where I was asked by one company owner how old the woman was as he was concerned she was going to go and have children in the next 12 months and he would have to pay maternity!

Numbers game

Possible due to the lingering perception of point one, it is a fact that far fewer women than men enter into a profession in Logistics and Supply Chain in the first place. Obviously then, it stands to reason that if the ratio of men to women in entry level positions is heavily-weighted to the male of the species, that as you move up the career ladder this ratio will still apply.

Biology

 I preface this by saying that I am possibly the biggest feminist I know (to the chagrin of my other half sometimes) but I am also pragmatic and, having had 2 kids myself, do believe that, for most women, having kids brings with it a reassessment of what is important and the need to have a work / life balance.

I have a number of male counterparts who I worked with earlier in my career who reached Director level before me – not because they were better than me, but because they hadn’t taken 2 years out to have a family. Of course, there are  stay at home dads too but it is less common. Crucially, it should be a woman’s choice how they manage family and working life and society needs to make this easier.

Lack of Applications

When I advertise on ANY platform, the ratio of male to female applicants can be as much as 40:1.  Now I appreciate that part of this is down to point 2 above, however I also feel there is much more inertia on the part of women to push their careers forward.

I feel that some women believe it is not worth applying for certain roles as they think it would be a pointless exercise and their application would be overlooked if there is someone with very similar experience and skills also applying and who also happens to be male.

It has also become apparent to me that men and women view a job description in very different ways.  A man will look at a job specification and highlight all the things he CAN do, and apply for the role on the basis that he may tick 70 per cent of the boxes.  A woman will look at the same job description and look at all the things they CANNOT do and NOT apply because they don’t tick 30 per cent of the boxes.

Now this I know comes across as a sweeping generalisation – something I am always very wary of, but I personally cannot come up with any other explanation as to the lack of applications I get from women and I know you are out there as we are connected on LinkedIn!

So, these are the main reasons why I feel there may be restrictions in place to women achieving the upper echelons in business.  More importantly, what can we do about it?

Improve the Talent Pipeline

We need to get more women into procurement and logistics.  We need to raise awareness to young talent at college or university as to what an amazing career in procurement and supply chain can be.  If more females take entry level roles, it stands to reason that there will be more females climbing the career ladder.  Secondly, equalling out the gender ratios can only help eradicate any sexism still lingering in the industry, which again will assist in creating equality in promotion.

Help to Stamp Out Sexism and the Glass Ceiling

I do appreciate that sexism in the workplace is a rare occurrence these days. Most professionals of both sexes are accepting, progressive individuals who judge people on their skills and experience, not their gender. However sexism DOES still exist.  I have experienced first-hand and I know my experiences are not unique.

It can feel like a scary thing to do to stand up to those who display sexist behaviour but there are procedures in place and help available to assist anyone experiencing this type of discrimination.  At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, if you don’t bring it to the attention of those who can do something about it, the glass ceiling situation will never get better, not just for you but for your successors.

Positive Mental Attitude

Cheesy maybe, but true!  This probably applies more to us ladies who are in male-dominant environment because we have to feel confident in our ability to push ourselves to move forward in what can sometimes feel like a hostile environment because of our minority status.

I welcome any application from people of any colour, race, religion or gender and if there are question marks around your suitability for an opportunity, this is something I will be happy to discuss with you and either put to bed any fears.

Procurious would love to hear your thoughts and comments on Jennifer’s article.  Is your procurement career being haltered by a glass ceiling?  Join the Bravo group  here to take part in the discussion.