Why a diverse workforce can become a competitive advantage

There is something wrong with the way society perceives Leadership and not enough is being done to modernise the thinking in this space. A lack of diversity in the workplace can be limiting your organisation to achieve its full potential. There has been a lot of conversation about this issue, but is it making a difference on the ground?

Over a two week period I spoke to a number of female colleagues from different industries and three common complaints remain;

  • They can struggle to deal with aggressive behaviour, which could be tone of voice and body language.
  • They can often be expected to take on team jobs like take notes or arrange parties or arrange collections.
  • There remains a very thin line between humour and offensive banter

It is difficult to understand how these actions can impact someone. As a person of Asian decent, I know how it used to feel when I was judged based on my skin colour. It is not only demotivating and degrading, but it becomes a limitation to what you can fully achieve. When you tell women, either directly or indirectly, that they are not good enough due to their gender, then you are also telling males that it is ok for them to continue to behave as they are doing today.


Men and Women may have different skills; Women can sometimes be good listeners, they may have experienced personal development and training whilst brining up kids. They often are great at managing their time, often managing different things in the household. The reality is though, in today’s world, men and women don’t behave traditionally and so you cannot pigeon hole either gender and that’s why we need Gender Equality.


Until we start seeing changes made at senior levels, it will not break the wheel. There are still too many organisations in the world today who have a Senior Leadership team that is made up mostly of 45-60 year old white males.


So where can changes be made?


Recruitment & Recognition – the way we recruit should change, in order to get the right person for the job. Women can have the same experience and ability as men do, they should not have to further prove this. This is true also where there are promotion opportunities; these should be open to all.


Working patterns – Men and Women are both now asking for flexible working, so they can do things like pick up the kids from school. In difficult economy, you could look to people with the right skills who want to work part-time, in order to keep your payroll costs under control.


Attitudes – our attitudes to how traditional leaders should behave have to change. Leaders should inspire, support and develop their teams. They don’t have to be the brightest or had the most time in organisations. Sometimes those people are not suited to lead at all and are more effective in a delivery role.


The important thing about Diversity is that it actually makes business sense. We live in a diverse world and by having a more diverse workforce and leadership team, you can get additional perspectives into the top level strategic discussions that happen. If you want a logical reason, then think of the increased opportunities for your organisation.


So, why not use today, International Women’s Day to make a small change in your life or work today?