50/50 by 2020? Not without a new approach

The latest figures on female membership of FTSE 100 Boards show a slip back from 26.1% in 2016 to 26% now, and a worrying reduction in female appointments to Boards, with women making up 29% of appointments to UK Boards in 2016, down from 32.1% in 2014.

So…with this paltry rate of success is it realistic to think we can achieve parity in any company or even 33% by 2020? After 40 years of focus on achieving gender balance is it time to think about taking a different approach?

I have recently been having very interesting and refreshing discussions with David A Evans, MD of The Diversity & Innovation Company, a social enterprise which has been established to send business leaders on real life immersion experiences with UK charities and Indian schools to change the way they think.

David set up the company after he had an epiphany when attending an International Women’s Day event aged 48, and found himself feeling uncomfortable and like a fish out of water as only one of three men in an audience of 600, and with an agenda and focus that was all about women and not men.

Up to that point David had always considered himself to be more than sensitive to the needs of advancing women in the workplace – his wife ran a very successful business and he had two teenage daughters whom he had always advised not to accept any constraint on  their career ambitions.  David explained “I immediately thought we need to provide this experience to male graduates on day one, so they gain some awareness of what it is like for women in the workplace, and hopefully carry that memory with them at pivotal points throughout their career”.

At that point David decided to set up a company to provide actual immersion experiences to business leaders to challenge existing norms and broaden leaders’ thinking.

We are now of the view that something in our existing business psyche is holding us back from making breakthrough progress – leaders understand the value of diversity, but experience it through their own life filters.  What we need is an approach that allows us to experience diversity in its purest sense and to understand – one person at a time – how we can benefit from that experience When leaders can develop greater self-awareness and empathy for others, many benefits flow.

To achieve this, David and I decided to collaborate and bring a fresh new approach which will lead to the breakthrough in diversity we all desire.

So if you have any qualms about the existing conventional approaches to improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, or any concerns about not achieving your company’s stated targets of female representation at certain levels, or any unease about whether the existing corporate structures and governance processes are the most conducive environment to encourage women (and, in fact, the future workforce more generally) to operate with the same long hours and stressful conditions which the predominantly male leadership operate….then join our debate about how we really can change the thinking.

David and I are looking for courageous influencers who want to consider taking a different approach, and who want to try alternative approaches to driving diversity of thought and inclusion in the workplace.  Drop me a line if you would like to attend some round table events we will holding in the near future and some new interventions we are planning.

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