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Why Your Diversity Strategy is Failing

Fabian Dattner
11 Oct 2019

This following chart in this article was put together by Jamie Crain, Enterprise Director of Dattner Group.

The intention was quite simple: can we identify how long will it take for any given company to reach gender parity?

As it happens, we can, yet the picture is not great.

The factors influencing the outcome include:

  • Growth in headcount
  • Current percentage of women
  • Overall attrition rate
  • New recruits who are women
  • The improvement of recruitment processes for selecting women over time

In essence, to increase the percentage of women in a workforce you either add more women when your business’ headcount grows, or when people leave, you replace them with more women than men. This is easier said than done.

Take for example, an “average” business with 33% women currently, with moderate growth and average attrition. It will take 10 years to achieve parity. And that assumes that women will be selected for 55% of all available vacancies from today onwards. If, like many businesses, the target for women recruits is 50%, parity will in fact never happen, until nearly every single role in the business has turned over.

All this assumes of course, that businesses can get it right should they choose to. But it is very hard. It isn’t just about intent, nor even action. It is about the right actions.

Our experience tells us that using traditional recruitment methods will only get you part of the way.

Without significant energy and thought behind how to attract, select, promote and retain women, achieving parity at all levels in an organisation is an enormous task.

So the message is clear: If you want to change the dial, you will need to act dramatically. But there’s more to it.

Without significant energy and thought behind how to attract, select, promote and retain women, achieving parity at all levels in an organisation is an enormous task. Fabian Dattner

The UNFCC is predicting we now have 8.5 years to get our act together in order to deal with the consequences of climate change and we think a VERY big part of this is attracting, selecting, retaining and promoting women.

What’s the data for this? Just do your own Google search. There is a significant volume of data supporting this assertion.

It is possible that if more women were leading, then diversity and inclusion would no longer be on the agenda. Why? Because women believe, on the whole, it is vitally important. We don’t just think it is important, we feel it is important. We worry about exclusion and we genuinely do what we can to hear voices different from our own. I think in our bones, children are different to begin with and we learn to love all of them by and by, our teams are different, and we try to care for them, the elderly are not like us but we will watch over them nonetheless. We worry about the animals, the communities living on the streets, the sick and the infirm. We worry about the woman collecting water and walking endless kilometers back to her home. We care deeply about what we take from the earth. We worry about our future and we care about our past. When we talk about ‘Mother Earth’, we sense her presence.

Does this sound farfetched to you? To a very significant number of women it doesn’t.

I am the CEO of a global initiative to advance the visibility of women with a STEMM background leading for the greater good. We started in 2016. At the time, this 12-month leadership program called Homeward Bound, which culminates in a very large group of scientists going to Antarctica, had some 12 sciences and 8 nationalities. Today, in the fourth cohort, 4 years later, we have 36 sciences, and 46 nationalities. How did we do this? We just made it a priority. We thought it mattered so we acted accordingly.

So here’s what you can do to advance diversity and inclusion:

1. Have many more women leading.
2. Value and promote collaborative effort, not individual achievement.
3. Celebrate learning over fault-finding.
4. Stop talking about pay parity and have pay parity (note that it is women who are paid less, not men).
5. Decide today to target equal numbers of women on your executive and senior management team.
Remember, you do not need to be an experienced engineer to lead engineers, you need to be a very
good leader.
6. Scrutinise your Employee Value Proposition with fresh eyes. Listen to the feedback.
7. Overhaul your advertising, recruitment and selection processes: large and micro-aggressions or
biases that eliminate talent are everywhere; get experts who know what to look for to help you (it’s
in the language we use, the capabilities we are seeking, the way we weight certain attributes, the
panel of selectors etc.).
8. When you bring women on board remember they are more effective together; they think in ‘we’
rather than ‘I’ terms; create communities of practice.
9. Remember, neither men nor women know what women can really do together to change the world
for the better – we haven’t been together long enough or in large enough numbers.
10. If you are a man, listen and seek to understand rather than be understood.
11. Value inclusion, collaboration, legacy mindset over short term measures, competition, and
aggressive styles of leadership.

Good women are everywhere. A lot of them just don’t want to be discovered by incumbent leadership.

Fabian Dattner is a leadership expert and founder of Homeward Bound. Author of four books about leadership, three-times finalist in the Telstra Businesswomen of the Year awards and named as one of Australia’s 100 Most Influential Women, Fabian is down-to-earth, informed, entertaining and provocative and an outstanding and much sought-after facilitator and panelist

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