15 Feb Reflecting diversity
Promoting diversity within the workplace isn’t simply a device for gaining social kudos or a nice to read sentence within the annual report. Rather, diversity and inclusion are now recognised as positively contributing to a range of business benefits including a strengthened boardroom and more customer focused outlook.
So much so that in a recent speech the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, opened by commenting that in order to pursue its mission the Bank “must reflect the diversity of the people it serves.”Admittedly Mark Carney then acknowledged that he was the 120th male Governor of the Bank of England; but change has to start somewhere and he went on to outline the efforts which the Bank has done to widen its diversity and inclusion program.
The speech marked the end of the Bank’s inclusion fortnight which saw over 1600 people take part in more than twenty events, all designed to boost the way in which diversity and inclusion are viewed. With diversity still in far too many instances being seen simply as a matter of gender it was refreshing to hear Mark Carney highlight the way in which diversity is not simply confined to identity (gender, ethnicity, age, disability and so on) with cognitive diversity (our thinking and approach to problem solving) being equally important.
It’s an area which those boardrooms which are looking to boost their own levels of diversity would do well to consider. Whilst it can be a positive step to seek to appoint more women or people with different ethnic backgrounds, if all your appointees arrived at the boardroom via similar or identical school/training/university routes then you are unlikely to have the true range of cognitive diversity which you need to benefit your business. And with Mark Carney identifying increased trust, better decision-making, innovation and adaptability as well as more effective communication as benefits of a strong diversity and inclusion policy, there is a lot at stake for businesses which have yet to fully embrace the diversity imperative.
Whilst it is beneficial for boardrooms to deliver consensus, that agreement should not come about through groupthink or through individuals falling into line behind one strong character. Having a debate, bringing a wide range of opinions and outlooks to bear on strategy will help boardrooms to better devise a policy which is in the long-term interests of the company, its customers and its investors.