Change Management, Gender Empowerment, Inclusivity, Leadership, Recruitment, Strategic Change

Ouch! Another year on, and your board room is still with 1 black woman, still better, she ticks other boxes too

Today is the day when organisations will publish statements of how great they have been working towards women empowerment, and some will even throw in the UN SDG5 for a top-notch touch. The day, when the world acknowledges the 49.6% of humans alive!

A few days back EM2030 made it clear that the 2030 gender parity will not be attained, and why?

No country has achieved the promise of gender equality envisioned in the SDGs

EM2030. ‘Back to Normal’ is Not Enough: the 2022 SDG Gender Index (Woking: Equal Measures 2030, 2022).

For the 2015-2020 period, the figures for UK are unpromising, showing a -0.8 SDG gender index change. UK is in fact one of the 24 countries which fall in the 80-90 SDG gender index, nonetheless, there has been no positive progress from 2015-2020, a period well before the pandemic, while Israel, another country in the same range is the sole country with fast progress in those 5 years. In fact, Israel has seen its SDG gender index rise by 3.1 points, making its breakthrough into the 80-90 range, while the UK and Slovenia both had the largest drop in that range. Perhaps, the staff at the Ministry of Women and Equalities were busy with Brexit. Of the only 10 countries that made fast progress, none is geographically located in the Western world, with perhaps only Armenia having some close ties with the EU. These unfortunate figures reinforce that the socio-economic status of a country is not directly proportional to the ground-level works being done for gender equality. Put simply, high or low socio-economic status alone does not influence the will to make changes in the right direction. Then what factor can best positively influence gender equality in the right direction?

One of the many reasons why gender equality is lacking overall is because we lack gender equality in leadership. Deloitte’s 7th edition of Women in the boardroom A global perspective, released last month, shows slow growth towards female representations in board rooms. The analysis was extrapolated from a data pool from 10,493 companies in 51 countries spread over disjoint geographical areas, and included 176,340 directorships. In the UK, all industries seem to be roughly around the 33% gender representation target which was set for the end of 2020. But the biggest promise to deliver perhaps is the changes brought by the Finacial Conduct Authority in July 2021, enforcing companies to disclose gender and ethnicity diversity on their board and the changes to the Charity Governance code in 2020, focusing on EDI and integrity. The question that begs to be answered is:

Does the 33% of gender representation in UK boards also include the 14% of non-white, 2.7% of LGBTQ+ and 18% of disabled workforce? What does your board look like?

Picture showing different representations on boards

This is not the Wordle of the day, this is an easy comparative assessment guide for your board. It shows representations in a 5-member board.

  1. All white male members
  2. 1 white female
  3. 1 black female
  4. 1 female with disability
  5. 1 LGBTQ+ female
  6. The famous wildcard member who ticks all the boxes
  7. The ultimate goal

We are all too familiar with those top 6 scenarios, with the wildcard scenario becoming more and more common, that it goes unnoticed on a daily basis, one of those scenarios that we categorise as positive discrimination. It is that one staff who is tossed around, overworked and exploited as a tokenism approach to discrimination.

Have a look at your department’s management team, and your organisation’s management team, if you find you are in a typical wildcard scenario, it is as good as Scenario 1. You are probably asking yourself why. Simple, Scenario 6 is positive discrimination at its worst, a scenario where no one else understands why diversity is needed in the first place, except the wildcard member.

If you are reading this post from the senior management lens, and find yourself in the wildcard scenario, you better erase your slate clean and start all over again, look at your board from a fresh perspective and open an external critical review of your organisation’s agenda and processes. You know it is what you need to do, you know you have the authority and money to do it; it is preferable if the initiative to fix a problem comes from within the organisation rather than from outside.

If you are analysing your organisational management board from a non-influential lens, perhaps as a staff with no managerial role, you can still roll up your sleeves and do your bit. How can you get representation information on your board? Ask your HR department to give you a written statement that your board is diverse and that you are not in a wildcard scenario, without HR revealing any confidential information of course. If they have nothing to hide, they will willingly provide you this information, and take it as an opportunity to celebrate their understanding of the need for diversity and most particularly the skill of effectively implementing diversity. If you get a no, then you better gear yourself up to challenge the status quo of your organisation. Do not be a silent observer, the world has too many of that already, but most importantly, do not wait for #IWF2023 to start doing something. Do Something Now!

Considerations

While this example only illustrates a board of 5 members, you can extrapolate the representation for a bigger board, although this is relevant only to some degree, as in a larger board, there are more influencers to representations, particularly external partners and funders.

This post is just a teaser, to make you stop and reflect. A follow up post with the how to achieve the ultimate goal, that is, Scenario 7, which represents a board where, all members understand the need to diversity, accept diversity, and collectively aim to be allies against discrimination. Watch out this space for the follow-up post, because women’s day is everyday.

Where you can find out more:

  • Modern slavery in UK HEIs (https://tinyurl.com/23tp58wv) – A piece highlighting the overexploitation of POC staff within UK Higher Education in order to meet institutional antiracism agenda. It reinforces why scenario 6 does more bad than good to your board.
  • EM2030. ‘Back to Normal’ is Not Enough: the 2022 SDG Gender Index (Woking: Equal Measures 2030, 2022). – This is one of the reports referenced in this post. You can read the report at https://tinyurl.com/43trf7d3 and watch the summary video at https://tinyurl.com/28tdymyx
  • Deloitte: Women in the boardroom A global perspective – 7th edition https://tinyurl.com/2p9cku99 – This is the Deloitte report referenced in this post. MSCI ESG Research Inc. undertook the boardroom diversity data collection covering nearly 10,493 companies in 51 countries, more than 176,340 directorships spanning Asia Pacific, the Americas, and EMEA. The report includes data as at 19 March 2021.
  • What big data can tell us about women on boards https://tinyurl.com/42a6ncfk – A piece that highlights that underrepresentation of women on boards are across all industries, based on data from the OECD Analytical Database on individual Multinationals and their Affiliates.
  • Charitiy Governance Code – Principle 6 6. Equality, diversity and inclusion https://tinyurl.com/28vx4npn – You can read and watch some of the changes made at: https://tinyurl.com/4pxnzpjs

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