What does the ‘D’ word mean to business and public sector leaders in 2013? Is it necessarily a good thing? Is it just a whitewash? Has it ceased to be a fashionable priority for 2013? We interviewed over 200 leaders from our network. This is what they said.
Headhunters Dr Curly Moloney and Dr Helen Yallop interviewed over 200 leaders from their network of senior executives and non-executives from business and the public sector. They asked what ‘diversity’ meant to them, and what leaders need to think about in future.
Here is a brief summary of what they said:
The term ‘diversity’ runs the risk of being associated with tokenism and box ticking. Leaders need to evaluate what kind of diversity is required on a case-by-case basis, based not only on ethics but also on commercial need.
Today’s leaders need to be visible champions of their diversity policies.
It makes sense to think of ‘diversity’ in terms of differences of thought and experience as well as diversity of biological difference (sex, race, disability etc.) Diversity of thought, experience and approach was shown to have real commercial value, especially in the Boardroom.
Leaders know that diversity of biological and cultural difference is appreciated on ethical grounds, but they need to be more alive to its commercial value. A diverse and intellectually stimulating environment is essential for attracting and retaining talent, especially in an increasingly global marketplace.
We are living longer, working for longer, and we are expected to peak earlier than ever before. Existing workplace cultures run the risk of being increasingly ageist.
The preference for younger leaders is inherently gendered: both men and women are increasingly squeezed during parental years, but at present women are compromised legislatively and culturally.
We will soon welcome a new generation of leaders who have grown up with the assumed value of diversity (just as there is a new generation of leaders who have grown up with technology). They will have a very different set of cultural references and will face very different questions and problems.
We need to nurture a culture of aspiration in all our young people. Business practice needs to be in tune with nurturing talent in early life, education, and recruitment entry points.
In undertaking the review, our aim was not to be conclusive or didactic, but to be provocative: to encourage critical thought and debate.