- Mar 18, 2021 11:01 pm GMT
Whether you’re looking for fresh ways to solve old problems or new headaches cropping up around you, problem-solving is a business imperative—the solution: a healthy mix of creativity and innovation. Creativity is the mental ability to develop unique, strategic ideas and concepts. Innovation is a natural extension of creativity, the process of transforming ideas into tangible, deployable solutions.
There is no better way to spark the strong, out-of-the-box thinking needed to solve today’s workplace challenges than by hiring a diverse team of employees and empowering them to share their unique perspectives. This includes introducing women, of all races, into executive and board roles.
There is no better way to spark the strong, out-of-the-box thinking needed to solve today's workplace challenges than by hiring a diverse team of employees and empowering them to share their unique perspectives.
People with similar demographics—including age, race, and sex—think in similar ways. These similarities are the Achilles heel of strategic discussions. Likeminded leadership teams find it more challenging than their diverse counterparts to walk the proverbial mile in someone else’s shoes. Their sameness hampers their ability to hear and pivot to serve their customers and employees truly.
Celebrating Women Who Challenge the Sameness Conundrum
On that vein, I’m encouraged by all of the momentum around women’s history month. Dating back to 1995, this month was established to celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize specific achievements in various fields. In March, we also had the honor of celebrating International Women’s Day. Our ability to survive is dependent on continued globalization, and this day allowed us to reflect on and celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world.
“It’s no accident that the countries that have enjoyed an economic takeoff have been those that educated girls, and then gave them the autonomy to move to the cities to find work,” writes Nicholas D. Kristof, co-author of an excellent book I’m reading, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”
Here are some compelling stats making a case for women in the workplace:
- A higher representation of women in C-suite level positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders (Fast Company)
- Organizations with above-average gender diversity and employee engagement outperform companies with below-average diversity and engagement by 46% to 58% (Fast Company)
- Companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues (Harvard Business Review)
We Aren’t There Yet
Yes, March allows us to reflect on those taking courageous steps to move us forward towards more diverse workplaces, but Women’s History Month should also remind us how much more needs to be done. When it comes to advancing workplace equality by building safe spaces for diverse thinkers to flourish, many company leaders are still grappling.
When it comes to advancing workplace equality by building safe spaces for diverse thinkers to flourish, many company leaders are still grappling.
While gender and other imbalances in the workplace are a global problem, those of us in the United States can start by analyzing what’s standing in our way at home. In this country, a whopping 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs are still white males, reports Forbes. When you consider that white males only represent 35% of the American population, current CEO statistics are not a reflection of the diverse populations they serve.
This is baffling when you consider the proven upside of diversity.
Stepping Up to Close the Diversity Gap
The solution to advancing diversity in the workplace isn’t to demote or fire white males. I’ve worked for and with a multitude of excellent white male leaders throughout my career, and I am grateful for all I’ve learned from them. Solving the diversity dilemma, if it exists at your company, requires that you ask yourself the hard questions:
- Do I understand and embrace the benefits of diversity in the workplace and elevating women into key leadership roles? The Forbes article, “The Results Are In: Women Are Great For Business, But Still Getting Pushed Out,” provides some good food for thought.
- Is diversity truly lacking at my company? If you’re not sure, your website’s leadership page is an excellent place to take inventory.
- What’s holding me back? If diversity is lacking in your organization, it’s essential to dig deep into your worldview and challenge what’s preventing you from hiring people who don’t look and think like you. This will likely require a heavy dose of leadership change management to get the rest of your team on board.
According to William Sloane Coffin Jr., “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.” The onus is on business leaders to figure out what’s standing between you and the tremendous ROI you can gain by elevating women and other diverse individuals into leadership roles.
During the month of March, while we celebrate the history of women in the United States and women’s global achievements, there are plenty of resources available to get you started. The sooner you get going, the faster you’ll reap the benefits of the creativity and innovation that a diverse workforce can only deliver.
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