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THE WORKPLACE OF THE FUTURE IS DIFFERENT AND NEW LEADERS ARE REQUIRED FROM ALL GENDERS, CULTURES, AND BACKGROUNDS

by Allyson Zimmermann, Executive Director, Europe, Catalyst

Men run about 95% of S&P 500 companies and continue to hold the majority of power in corporate America. In Germany,  none of the 30 members of the DAX stock market index has a woman CEO, and over a third have no women on their boards.

The default leader, up until now, has been a straight white man. However, the rapidly changing nature of the workplace has made creating diverse and inclusive workspaces more important than ever before. Organisations must take intentional action to change their cultures and allow new talent a pathway to the C-suite.  

The workplace of the future must embrace diversity and inclusion

Diverse teams and inclusive cultures that leverage their multitude of strengths, backgrounds, and perspectives will do better in the workplace of the future. Having diverse teams makes companies more competitive—it increases innovation and productivity, leads to better performance and problem solving, reduces groupthink, and enhances decision-making.

Incredible advances in technology, in particular, have turbo-charged the need for diversity and inclusion; with AI shaping our future, it should be of great concern to the tech industry that only 12% of leading machine learning researchers are women. The danger is that rather than reducing bias, future innovations will reflect the biases of their creators or learn the biases of their “teachers.”

In STEM, as in all fields, women need opportunities for advancement that allow them to contribute equally to a company’s decision-making processes.

The workplace of the future must offer flexibility for men and women alike

Catalyst research shows that among high-potential employees, women and men are equally likely to use flexible work options, and 90% of employees in organisations with flexible work options aspire to a C-suite job. However, when these options are not available, women, unlike men, will downsize their aspirations by almost a third.

Flexible workplaces need to be a benefit for all, and not an accommodation for just a few.

Women of colour and other marginalized groups face unique challenges in the workplace. The workplace of the future must bridge divides and make intentional actions to positively impact women across intersections of diversity.

Employees are experiencing life, both personally and professionally, through the lens of gender, race, ethnicity, and other aspects of identity. Emotional Tax’, as defined by Catalyst, is the combination of feeling different from peers at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity and the associated effects on health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work. Employers need to acknowledge the intersectionality across race and gender, and rise to the challenge of understanding the unique issues faced by employees who reflect more than one dimension of diversity.

The workplace of the future must reward inclusive leaders

Leaders who take deliberate, intentional action to accelerate diversity, inclusion, and gender equality are called inclusive leaders and should be rewarded by organisations. Inclusive leaders also have a zero-tolerance policy for exclusionary behaviours such as sexual harassment.

Senior leaders’ actions to support women can include championing flexible work policies, modelling the right behaviours, getting involved with company-specific gender equality initiatives, and sponsoring a high-potential woman (because sponsors, unlike mentors, will advocate for protégés  behind closed doors).

To advance, women also need to have access to profit-and-loss positions, as well as those high-visibility assignments with large budgets and teams, i.e., the ‘hot jobs’. Catalyst has found that women are often overlooked for ‘hot jobs’, and instead are gated in ‘development’ programmes.

The workplace of the future requires leaders and teams from all genders, cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Inclusive, diverse leaders can propel this transition by creating innovative, dynamic workplaces where employees feel connected to and supportive of one another, and where everyone can advance and thrive.

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