Diversity beyond metrics
A few interactions I have had over the last month:
Interaction 1: My daughter plays football (soccer). She started going for football classes about a month ago and is one of the 4-5 girls amongst many boys. This was a sport she picked for herself and wanted to play. From the time she has started going for classes we have had quite a few people (most of them well educated) surprised about her choice of sport.
Interaction 2: I was at a DNI (Diversity and Inclusion) seminar. While there were a lot a relevant discussions and debates, the one thing that was interesting in the entire seminar was the underlying pun that was constantly made including things like, ‘we listen to our spouses at home, no reason for us not to listen to women in the board room’.
Interaction 3: I work with a foundation called ‘Dads for Daughters’. The idea is to educate boys (largely teenagers) about eve teasing and molestation. We ran a few sessions with various groups of boys and interestingly found the biggest drivers for eve teasing are ‘dressing’ and ‘peer pressure’. The underlying theme seems to be that dressing is a direct representation of culture and anything that is perceived as inappropriate is termed ‘uncultured’ and hence the right to tease.
Interaction 4: A few of us were discussing the challenges for hiring in today’s age. One of the comments that came up was figuring out the background of a women candidate based on how long they have been married and the age of their children before hiring. It was interesting to note that these data points were significant influences in hiring decisions. The rationale was that while the people in the discussion personally did not want to create a bias, due to the aggressive nature of projects they simply could not afford someone taking long leaves or provide too much flexibility.
Women’s day just got over. As always, there was a lot of hype, seminars, shopping discounts and coverage on this topic. Yes, it needs all the attention that can be given. There is a ton of amazing work that individuals and organizations are doing to create awareness and drive diversity and inclusion. The corporate world has taken the DNI (besides gender, diversity includes ethnicity, nationality, disability, education, sexual orientation, religion and age) initiative head on and is changing things around.
While to begin with, it seems relevant to have metrics and targets to drive home the point in the long run, two things need to change for a larger impact – One which organizations can influence and one which the people who work in those organizations can influence at a personal level.
1. To be equals: Until we start seeing everyone as equals, some of this is not going away. It is even more relevant in today’s ever changing business world with a millennial workforce, demanding agility and comprising of globally networked teams. With so much happening, organizations need to align people, drive purpose and enable outcomes in an environment that is equal for all. It needs to start with leadership. Sensitizing and working with them to drive unbiased, balanced, non-judgmental decisions is a big ask from their own personal development programs. Yes, the metrics is important but we need to go beyond.
2. Teach our sons: While organizations build a culture of diversity, each one of us who works in them can do our bit at our homes. Be ‘equal opportunity parents’. Teach our sons on how to respect each other, educate them that tasks at home have no gender distinctions and everyone contributes. Also, respect individual preferences and choices.
There is enough data to tell us that companies that champion diversity drive better results. Like Malcolm Forbes said, ‘Diversity is the art of thinking independently together’. While it will take us some time and possibly a few generations, let us try and be equals and teach our sons to be as well.