The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, observed on March 8th, is “Balance for Better.” The objective is to raise awareness of discrimination and gender equality. From the stock room to the board room, more and more consumers are urging companies to take a stand on social issues—gender equality being one of them. In fact, Edelman’s recent 2018 Earned Brand report finds that nearly two-thirds of consumers want companies to take a stand on social issues. This pressure is pushing brands and CMOs to weigh in on issues related to diversity and inclusion. From Gillette’s controversial ad to Nike’s ‘Dream Crazier’ campaign with Serena Williams, companies are leveraging their brand platforms to connect with consumers outside of typical marketing initiatives. Standing by the sidelines is no longer an option. As Jessica Powell, former VP of communications at Google poignantly states in her article, “It is particularly during times of strife, particularly when consumer trust of companies is low, that brands [need to] take a stand.”
As a brand marketer and communications professional, I believe it is important for companies to communicate their corporate values. But it is also equally if not more important for leaders to fulfill their brand promises by reflecting internally and investing in building truly diverse and inclusive workforces.
According to the 2018 Women in the Workplace report, published by Lean In and McKinsey, since 2015 corporate America has made almost zero progress in improving female representation. Women are underrepresented across every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all, lagging behind Caucasian men, men of color and Caucasian women. Most companies say they’re highly committed to gender and racial diversity, but 20 percent of employees believe their company’s commitment feels more like lip service than real action.
Here are five ways to advance diversity and inclusion beyond public relations, advertising and corporate reputation:
Defy conventional measurements of diversity
Most companies still rely on counting the number of people within their organizations by gender, ethnic and racial categories as a demonstration of their diversity and inclusion commitments. While this is a good starting point, these numbers do not paint a full picture. Do the employees feel safe and supported at work? Are there mentorship programs in place to advance their careers within or beyond the organizations? Have companies identified and corrected everyday phrases that contribute to microaggression? Are companies measuring the overall impact of a diverse workforce to their customers, culture and surrounding communities? Instead of measuring diversity by raw numbers and percentages, companies should measure by outcomes and impact.
Kill the resume and overhaul traditional hiring practices
Hiring practices are broken and full of biases. For over 100 years, hiring leaders have relied on the resume, an antiquated tool that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, to screen job candidates. Resumes have no statistically relevant correlation to job success. In fact, research shows that using resumes to determine hiring decisions actually increases implicit bias and disadvantages those without traditional markers of societal success, i.e. education, previous job experience, wealth and social networks.
At Catalyte, we use AI and data science to identify anyone who has the potential, regardless of background to become a software engineer. We’ve managed to build a technology workforce where nearly half of our software developers do not have four-year college degrees, and the ethnic makeup of our workforce tends to mirror the communities where we are based. The technical staff in our Baltimore headquarters is 25 percent African Americans, compared to 29 percent for the Baltimore metro area. Our engineers come from all walks of life. We have developers who used to work at Starbucks. We have developers who used to be artists. We even have developers who earned PhDs.
Extend diversity and inclusion commitments beyond the C-suite (and beyond marketing)
The Lean In and McKinsey Women in the Workplace report says that while 76 percent of companies have articulated a business case for diversity and inclusion, only 13 percent have taken the critical next step of calculating the positive impact of diversity on the business. At Catalyte, we see this breakdown happen almost every day in our conversations with leading companies across the world. While the C-suite is making public statements about their commitments to diversity, the commitments often do not translate into clear action items for middle management and their employees to make these initiatives happen. Also, few employees understand the positive impacts that diversity and inclusion bring to their line of work.
Diversity and inclusion impact everyone, not just PR, marketing and HR
As a 160-year-old company, Guardian Life Insurance has taken measured steps to overhaul its image and culture to survive and lead in the digital age. Guardian’s CEO Deanna Mulligan is partnering with the firm’s CHRO, CTO, CIO and Chief of Staff to rethink talent management and evolve their workforce to keep up with the dramatic changes impacting the insurance industry. The executive team meets every Friday to discuss talent transformation needs and partners with organizations such as Girls Who Code and Year Up to bring more minorities into their workforce.
Build products and services that contribute to inclusivity
In 2013, SAP launched its groundbreaking initiative, Autism at Work, a program that leverages the unique abilities of people with autism to foster innovation. Since its inception, the program has grown within SAP and has served as an example for other technology companies to create similar inclusion programs of their own. Today, SAP employs over 140 people across the autism spectrum and in 12 countries.
Put your money where it really matters
In last month’s Super Bowl, it was reported that CBS charged a record $5.25 million for each 30-second ad. Imagine the progress companies can make if some, or even a fraction of those dollars, are diverted to initiatives that can truly deliver impact instead of flashy commercials.
According to the International Women’s Day website, the day celebrates “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” Look for opportunities not just on International Women’s Day, but every day, to be a change agent in bringing equality into the workplace.
– Emily Chong, head of marketing