By Amy Poynton and Mithran Doraisamy
The issues of inclusiveness and diversity have had a significant and encouraging level of attention since 2010 through initiatives such as the recommendation by the ASX that companies disclose gender objectives in their annual reports and the establishing of the Male Champions of Change group by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.
The most startling examples played out in the extraordinary prejudice and hate showed by the US president-elect including the rhetoric of building walls, vilifying and sexually harassing women, and religious registration and segregation. These thoughts and actions are seemingly acceptable by some parts of our society.
In Australia, there was a recent example on social media regarding a simple photo of two senior leaders meeting Ita Buttrose. All three people in the photo are women. All three are senior leaders in their fields. However, the comments about the post were about the attractiveness of one woman, the fashion choice of another and lastly that Ms Buttrose was the subject of one commentor’s sexual fantasy. There were zero comments about event or the achievements of the women.
No doubt Ms Buttrose has dealt with this sort of attention throughout her successful media career, however it struck us that such commentary that would have been unlikely had she been a man. Sadly, we can just hear the response of social media commentators to this observation: “Geez, they were just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?”.
We have seen businesses being formally recognised and awarded on the success of their advances in inclusion and diversity in the workplace, yet too often the individual experience can be different.
We came across a woman who was returning from parental leave after having twins. She needed more time allocated to family commitments and asked if she could work four-days a week. She was given redundancy because it was deemed that the role had to be full-time.
Rather than being distracted by such stories, there are three things leaders can do to renew their focus on meeting their business inclusiveness and diversity objectives.
First, what you pay attention to gets the attention of your people. It is imperative that leaders role-model the importance of the strategy and goals by incorporating it into the way you work every day.
Secondly, you need to ensure your leadership team and the board strongly support the inclusiveness and diversity agenda.
Finally, you need to measure and monitor the progress of your goals.
Right now, there is a real risk of disconnection between what you meant to say and what is heard as your corporate message bumps against the tsunami of different (and sometimes fact-free) external messages.
We recommend that you remain vigilant about what you say and how you say it. Then, consistently do what you say.
Amy Poynton is an executive and consultant specialising in performance improvement and transformation. Mithran Doraisamy is an executive, consultant and board member specialising in strategy, digital and transformation.
This article was originally published in the AFR. Read the original here.