By Amy Horton, Chief Product Officer, Talon Outdoor.
Today, everyone agrees that a balanced workplace and diversity at industry events are important. But diversity is not just the responsibility of those who are themselves diverse. In Out of Home, more work needs to be done to address the imbalance of diversity at a senior level. For balance to happen, it requires action from individuals who have got to the top of their professions without their gender, sex, sexual orientation, colour, social background, mental or physical ability having been a consideration or hinderance. Acknowledge that people who are not white, middle-aged and middle-class men and whom you are not related to, need a hand up the ladder.
It is no longer good enough to suggest that it is the fault of the diverse community that they have not achieved C-Suite status. Instead, engage in the joy of taking personal responsibility to help. If you are a senior leader in a business, ask yourself what are you personally doing to give those around you who may not look and think like you, a rung up onto the top table.
But why bother?
The benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce are well documented but here is a list from that respected business publication – Forbes:
- Greater innovation and creativity
- Diversity provides a range of skills
- The business will be boosted
- Happier employees
- Increased productivity
- Understand your customers
- More talent to choose from
- Higher revenues
Proving that these advantages are tangible at an individual organisational level is hard, but who wants to build a company without them?
Focussing on the gender aspect of diversity; in her brilliant book “Create a Gender-balanced Workplace,” Ann Francke explains that for women in the workplace specifically there are 5 pitfalls that prevent gender balance:
- Women are more likely to receive critical feedback based on gender.
- The Confidence gap between men and women
- Lack of Sponsorship – this is more supportive than mentoring, but active promotion of junior female managers
- The motherhood penalty – 65% of mothers say that having children negatively impacted their career
- 80% of women have seen inappropriate behaviour or remarks based on gender, preventing women from being themselves.
But what to do about it? Again, from the same work, here are 5 things senior leaders can do today:
- Address and target your gender pay gap
- Embrace flexible working
- Put in place a well-run sponsorship programme for women
- Make recruitment and progression practices gender-aware
- Use men as change agents to challenge stereotypes and set an example that it is ok to champion women.
Taking personal responsibility for diversity and inclusion requires time and effort to help others. A positive example of a senior male leader doing this is Paul Polman who was CEO of Unilever for 10 years until 2019. He topped the FTs “HERoes” list and was the founder of the UN initiative Heforshe;
“In everything that we do we apply a gender lens… it creates a very strong commitment because the influence we can have across our value chain is significantly higher than the influence we can have by looking only at our own shop”
“You have to be incredibly thorough and disciplined about your merit system and to counter all these perceived arguments like, “Ah, now he’s promoting women but they don’t really deserve it or they haven’t shown the leadership; you know [it’s only] because he wants to achieve these numbers”
When you are looking to engage but see a lack of diverse people to include, seek them out and encourage those who aspire and have the ambition to be representative of our industry. Do something to foster the talent you will have in the lower levels of your organisation. Take it upon yourself to ask why the organisations around you don’t have a diverse representation at C-Suite level. Question it and do something to help rather than put the onus on people who have yet to reach the highest positions within a business or industry thereby absolving yourself of personal responsibility.
For the Out of Home industry, the need for diversity is even more important. Our medium connects with a huge array of different audiences. In everything we do, we should be able to capitalise on the benefit that out of home is naturally inclusive and should be a go-to for brands who have community representation at their heart.