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Diversity in the workplace: Why we need it now

What will the world look like for women in 2118? Fairer – if the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report is to be believed. Its 2017 index estimates that it will take until then to achieve global gender parity in the workplace, based on the current rate of change.

As we mark this year’s International Women’s Day, we look at past and future developments to #PressforProgress and think, act, and be gender inclusive in business.

The gender pay gap vs. women in leadership

The causes of the gender pay gap run deep and are often linked to women having different work-life patterns to men. This includes working in less lucrative sectors, taking career breaks and filling more part-time roles. However, our Closing the gender pay gap report for global law firm White & Case highlights that this forms a much broader debate about equality, race and social mobility issues.

The business benefits of women in leadership are clear. And our interview with lawyer and Oxford Saïd alumna Kelly Carter crystallises this. Yet we continue to see huge differences in the salaries of men and women. Carter works for Gold Fields, Australia, in mining – one of the most male-dominated industries on the planet, according to EY. Gold Fields employs 2,500 people, and just 16 per cent of them are women. There are no other women in the Australian executive team.

Worryingly, EY’s 2016 research reveals that there are only 35 women on the boards of the world’s 30 biggest mining companies. That’s out of a total 377 board directors.

Why diversity in male-dominated industries makes business sense

The benefits of having diversity in the workplace go far beyond profitability. Kelly Carter states that, ‘there have been numerous instances in the mining industry of both spectacularly poor corporate strategic decision-making and incident management.’ So, has anything been done about this? Carter explains that ‘this has given cause for reflection, and the industry has started to see the issues that can be created by having homogenous teams, leadership groups and boards. There’s a recognition that a team or board with diverse perspectives and experience leads to better decision-making.’

Carter’s position is clear: greater diversity in Gold Fields’ management means a greater range of ideas. That means attracting more women and people from more varied ethnic backgrounds into the mining industry. One of the ways she has sought to do this is by speaking to children from primary school age up about the industry.

She says: ‘I recently had a five-year-old boy say to me: “I didn’t know a lady could be the boss of a mine site.” I find it fascinating that from such a young age, children can have strong ideas of “boy jobs” and “girl jobs”. This can have a direct impact on whether girls feel comfortable gravitating towards science, technology, engineering and maths-type activities. I’m very passionate about encouraging schools to really challenge that,’ she says.

How private equity is responding to the diversity challenge

Another industry battling with female representation at senior levels is private equity. Level 20 is a not-for-profit set up to counter this and boost women in leadership across European private equity. The organisation’s goals to achieve more diversity in the workplace are ambitious. They want women to account for 20 per cent of senior roles by 2020, up from just 5 per cent in 2015.

Last year, our own private equity title Real Deals reported on Level 20’s initiatives, which include networking, mentoring and a toolkit to help firms determine best practice during recruitment and appraisals. But while there has already been recognition that much work is still to be done to attract and retain women in leadership – particularly in private equity ­­– the need to #PressforProgress has never been stronger.

If you’d like to find out more about our client content and how we can help your business communicate in a more inclusive way, please contact us.

Or sign up for a free online trial of Real Deals today.

By Hannah Stodell, Editorial Director

Photography by Steve Wise