Diversifying Your Thinking as an Organization

people development transferable skills Oct 29, 2022
hands representing diverse employees

The pandemic has seen a disproportionate number of women leaving the workforce. It's not surprising given that the closing of school and daycares disproportionately shifted the labor of childcare to women. 

The latest study on women in corporate America by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company is also not very encouraging. Women are burned out relative to their male peers and they are not being compensated for their efforts.The study found that "43% of women leaders are burned out." Perhpas more troubling, "Less than half of companies provide training for managers on how to minimize employee burnout and make sure promotions are equitable."

We have been talking about getting women into senior roles and getting women onto boards and getting equal pay for work of equal value for years and yet it simply is not happening. 

I've rejected corporate life in favor of doing my own thing. I've "opted out" and I suspect a lot of other women who might otherwise have been groomed for the c-suite have as well. My decision to leave corporate life came down to me getting sick of being asked to be someone I'm not: to be tougher, to be less emotional, to be more motivated by money, to be less concerned about other stakeholders, dial down the stilettos, and dye my hair. And although I did well, playing the game, I found it exhausting. My ADHD brain required a different work-style than what was on offer and it's exhausting to bring your best self to work when you're asked to check parts of that self at the door.

And it's far worse for BIPOC, LDBTQ+ and disabled folk. 

For every woman I know who has leaned in and pressed through in spite of all the nonsense, I know many more who have opted to move into a non-business field or raise kids for a while or start their own businesses, because they could no longer stand being stifled. They discovered that there is a world out there -- outside the corporate kingdom --  where not only do you not need to cloak you unique qualities, but you are rewarded for them.

Our leaving corporate life matters. And it matters not just in a way that makes it embarrassing for companies when faced with statistics about the compilation of their executive suites and board rooms. It matters because organizations are cheating themselves out of one of their most powerful tools: the diversity of thinking that comes from hiring different types of people. Diversity of thinking prevents organizations from falling into groupthink or making assumptions based on similar biases. Diversity of thinking ensures that better decisions are made and projects are less likely to fail. In order to make great strategic decisions, we need folks of different religions and cultures and political leanings and sexual preferences and gender orientations and neurodiversity and economic backgrounds and styles and world-views and philosophies and personality types and ages with eyes on our business. Organizations should not have diversity policies in place because it's embarrassing or illegal if they don't (although legislation and social pressure is still needed.) Organizations should have them in place because it makes them better and smarter and more creative and more effective, and better reflects their client base.

The trouble is, people tend to hire in their own image. I worked as a recruiter for a number of years and most companies are insistent that the candidate be "a good fit" with their current corporate culture. Sometimes, this is code for internalized racist, sexist, and ableist policies.  Often, it's because it seems less risky to hire the same kind of folks one has always hired even though there it's been proven that diversity of thinking leads to better decisions and stronger companies.  

Smart corporations will find ways to identify and develop diverse talent. The first step is to hire someone skilled in diversity training to help identity biases in the corporate culture (we'd be happy to connect you with some excellent folks who work in this area). Another step is to identify places in the organization where there are gates and gatekeepers such as hiring and promotion practices. It's essential that recruiters and managers in charge of promotions are aware of hidden discriminatory practices such as insisting on hiring talent 1-3 years out of university for technical roles instead of reskilling or upskilling other workers. Not only is that an inherently agist and economically-biased practice, but it means that organizations are missing out on a whole pool of employees who can be upskilled in the technology and have transferable skills honed through years of lived experience. 

We have developed a framework to help organizations access the talent pool of folks who have left the workforce and now wish to rejoin the corporate world. Hiring biases often exclude these folks from the traditional recruiting process so we offer training tools to help organization identify, hire and - most importantly - develop and retain these highly skilled employees. To learn more about this, click here


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