The value of equality and diversity in the workplace

The Global Women’s Leadership Programme hosts a panel event about the value of equality and diversity in the workplace and best practices to implement it

How does society benefit from effective diversity and inclusion initiatives in business? What are the strongest enablers in institutionalising inclusion in the workplace? The Global Women’s Leadership Programme sought to respond to these questions and more in its ‘Inclusion and diversity: very unfinished business’ webinar, hosted by the Business School (formerly Cass).

Dr Canan Kocabasoglu Hillmer, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Programme and Reader in Operations and Supply Chain Management moderated the event and welcomed panellists Alison Maitland, the Chair of the Programme’s Executive Board and writer, coach and consultant; Dr Heather Melville OBE, Director and Head of People Networks and Client Relationship Programmes at PwC UK; and Chris Parke, Founder of Talking Talent.

Diversity vs inclusion

Dr Kocabasoglu Hillmer began the event by asking the panellists how they define diversity and inclusion.

Ms Maitland distinguished diversity from inclusion.

“Diversity is the vast mix of individuals, identities, backgrounds and perspectives that exist in society. Inclusion is about creating environments in which all those individuals can thrive,” she said.

"It is harnessing ‘our collective superpower’.”

Mr Parke raised the difference between equality and equity, wherein equity is the practice of acknowledging the privileges and disadvantages each individual brings to the table.

“We need to unlock the potential of diversity and help people realise their full potential," he said.

"To develop inclusive leadership teams, you might need to treat people slightly differently.”

Dr Melville highlighted the importance of understanding what exclusivity looks like to better understand how to become more inclusive.

The value of inclusion

Not only is inclusion in the workplace ethical but it also makes economic sense.

Dr Melville maintained: “It’s a mindset - we must understand the importance of inclusion, because it is the right thing to do. It is the most commercially viable thing to do because a diverse and inclusive company attracts the best talent. Diversity of thought creates a better business environment in which better decisions are made.”

Ms Maitland agreed. When she and co-author Rebekah Steele were researching their book, INdivisible on leadership, diversity and inclusion, they created a framework on how diversity increases the three P’s: performance, preparedness and purpose.

“When a firm is inclusive, performance improves; innovation, productivity and collaboration go up and groupthink goes down,” she said.

"Firms also become more prepared and are readier to face challenges and opportunities.

"Finally, diversity gives firms purpose."

How to implement inclusive diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace

Dr Melville also believes it is important to make a business case for diversity in the workplace to senior leadership.

“Inclusion is an important part of how we structure business and we have to invest money in it," he said.

"We find the time, research and funds to invest into new products, but if diversity and inclusion demonstrably improves performance we should also invest money in that."

For a business to become more diverse and inclusive, the key to implementing successful initiatives comes from senior leadership.

“Senior leadership needs to buy into diversity and inclusion," said Mr Parke.

"You need to make a business case for creating an inclusive workplace and your firm must have a purpose. Having a strong operational and HR function can help strengthen these initiatives.”.

Senior leadership also impacts company culture. Dr Melville affirmed: “We must pay attention to company culture: are our employees able to speak up and disclose issues? Are we able to listen? To address an issue, we must be able to listen to our employees, and communicate what we’re doing and why.”

Mr Parke agreed and said: “We all have a need for psychological safety."

"We must create spaces which make everyone feel safe to have courageous conversations and explore what gets in the way of inclusion.”

Alison Maitland is the Chair of the Programme’s Executive Board. A former long-serving journalist at the Financial Times, she is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Business School and the co-author of ‘INdivisible: Radically rethinking inclusion for sustainable business results.’

Dr Heather Melville OBE is the Director, Head of People Networks and Client Relationship Programmes at PwC UK and supports the development of BAME talent early in their careers. She delivered a series of thought leadership forums to address the lack of Black talent in leadership roles.

Chris Parke is the Founder of coaching and consulting practice Talking Talent. After a career in investment banking and organisation consulting at Barclays and PwC, he retrained as a business psychologist at INSEAD and wrote his PhD thesis on how organisations could better support women’s careers through parenthood.

Watch the full event recording.

Find out more about the Global Women’s Leadership Programme.

Byline: Eve Lacroix, Postgraduate Marketing Officer and Board Member of the Global Women’s Leadership Programme Executive Board.

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