Senior HR professionals have long understood the benefits of a truly diverse workforce, and have subsequently debated the best ways to achieve wider inclusion. However, where diversity for diversity’s sake can be relatively easy to attain, accomplishing truly ‘authentic’ diversity may prove more of a challenge.
True professional diversity means creating teams that are genuinely representative of society as a whole, with not only mixed gender and ethnicity, but also variations in physical ability, age, and socio-economic status.
There is a growing and compelling body of research which supports the fact that organisations which are reflective of the communities they operate in enjoy greater profitability. For example, according to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters 2014 report, companies in the UK with ten percent higher than average gender and ethnic diversity on management teams enjoy almost six percent more profit. But where do we begin to pipeline these authentically diverse teams of the future?
There are arguably multiple answers to this question and I’ve previously referenced numerous examples of company initiatives that have been designed to address this challenge, including the likes of Apple. However, while multiple businesses are looking to address the diversity challenge, there have to date been relatively few examples of actions that have resulted in demonstrable success. Until now.
The recent Airbus and GEDC Award for Diversity, for example, is one initiative that is successfully addressing the need for innovative solutions to promote the issue of authentic diversity.
This annual award, presented by Airbus, the leading aircraft manufacturer, and the Global Engineering Deans Council (GDEC), the international organisation for engineering education, seeks out and rewards schools, universities and other bodies that are striving to promote diversity within the engineering sector. The hope is that, by recognising and celebrating these schemes, the sector will better reflect the communities it serves in the long-term.
The winner of this year’s award illustrates not only the fact that there is movement in the diversity argument, but also that new approaches can yield impressive results. Marita Cheng is the founder of Robogals Global, an initiative designed to inspire girls aged 10-14 to choose engineering and technical careers, and to create a global community of engineering students committed to the cause of greater diversity.
Through a varied programme of workshops, training, student challenges, a Robogal Ambassador project and dedicated outreach to rural and regional areas, Robogals has so far reached over 20,000 girls worldwide, through a largely volunteer workforce of university students. In six years, it has grown from a single university chapter to an international organisation.
It’s inspiring to see such innovation in the quest for diversity, with the hope that such a programme will act as a beacon to others in the STEM sectors – and beyond – in the future. But what is really impressive about this case study, and the others recognised in the award, is that they don’t just address good ideas and aspirations, they recognise and reward initiatives that really work. In my view, this is what we need now in diversity and inclusion – action that delivers tangible, measurable results.
It has never been clearer that quotas are not the complete answer for creating a socially-representative workforce. The new era of diversity management relies on us recognising and rewarding inspirational strategies that not only promote diversity, but also encourage the organic development of well-rounded, socially diverse teams.