Diversity has, for many people, become synonymous with gender. But diversity isn’t just about the number of women around the boardroom table. It encompasses all aspects of the human condition, from gender to ethnicity, sexuality, social background and age. At its heart diversity is about recognising, celebrating and fostering difference.
And it really matters. Countless studies have shown the link between the diversity of an organisation’s workforce and its financial performance.
Diverse and inclusive organisations draw on the broadest range of talented people, which enables them to attract and retain the best people and seek out the widest spectrum of views. Ultimately this creates stronger teams, who make better business decisions, and, in our case, deliver a better service to clients.
So how do we turn the dial on diversity? And whose responsibility is it? In my experience, diversity needs constant, close attention for any lasting change to take place.
We’ve found it needs to be on the board’s agenda on a daily basis, rather than once in a blue moon on International Women’s Day. Cultural change inevitably takes time, but at EY we have set targets with teeth and made leaders accountable for those targets in order to help keep the agenda front of mind.
It’s also vital that we invest in developing people for the future so that we have high potential talent coming through every level of the business. That’s why at EY, we have introduced maternity coaching schemes, a Career Watch sponsorship programme, employee networks, and inclusive leadership training. We are also giving all of our people, greater choice over how, when and where they work, to help flexible working become the norm rather than the exception to the rule.
However, perhaps one of the most powerful steps that any organisation or individual can take is to recognise and celebrate role models. Role models inspire, motivate and prove that barriers can be overcome. From my own experience I have seen how good role models can have a transformational impact on an individual or team. Each of us has skills, attributes or experiences that would be valuable to share with others.
We all have a part to play. The challenge is too great for government or business to tackle alone.
Liz Bingham, is EY’s Managing Partner for Talent, UK & Ireland