While diversity and inclusion are not new topics, they have seen renewed focus given the #MeToo and #Timesup movements. Recently, I’ve seen leaders working to get better results within their organizations with respect to diversity and inclusion. This is not just the politically correct thing to do. Studies have shown that inclusivity, diversity and engagement equate positively to productivity, profitability, quality, employee commitment, and retention, as well as to innovation and creativity. In fact, a recent report states that “companies have increasingly begun to regard inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage, and specifically as a key enabler of growth.”
In some cases, however, while there may be an increased focus on these issues within organizations and among employees, the desired progress is either slow or unrealized. If you’re a leader and not up to speed on the issues of diversity and inclusion, it’s worthwhile to take the time to strengthen your knowledge and your actions.
In November, Jamesbeck Global Partners conducted a forum on Women in Leadership. It focused on the asset management industry, where women lag men not just in top positions, but in all “roles touching money.” The panelists, all significant leaders in the industry, shared examples of ways they’re stewarding their organizations toward more inclusion and equality. What struck me most is the personal commitment, courage, and persistence they’ve demonstrated in creating change, not only within their immediate environments, but in their industry. I applaud Jamesbeck panelists Margo Cook, President of Nuveen Advisory Services, and Sarah Melvin, Head of the Institutional Client Business for the U.S. and Canada, for how they’ve championed themselves and others. Additionally, Bob Gottleib, former Partner and Chief Human Resources Officer of KKR, and Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid, both contributed insights and practices for including and supporting women in leadership.
Forbes recently highlighted two women in the pharma industry who have undertaken an initiative to advance people of color. What impressed me about these women is the way they’re forging the path forward and not letting the absence of something stop them from creating the outcome they want. In some cases, they’re doing so by partnering more effectively inside their organizations to get the right support through sponsors and programs. These individuals are also not waiting for the problem to be solved by someone else. They’re forwarding the conversation and taking action to make a difference.
A third example comes from a group that initiated and implemented a series of conversations at senior-leader levels targeted at understanding ways gender inclusion and equality were being thwarted at their firm. In response, they created an open dialog on real-time issues. These conversations resulted in actions both individuals and the firm may undertake to bring about greater inclusion and success for all genders. What stands out to me about this example is how engaging others in dialog about a difficult issue can yield a multitude of benefits. This is yet another example of leaders acting with courage and passion for others.
John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” To current leaders I pose the following questions:
- How are you learning more about diversity and inclusion?
- How are you helping those around you dream more, do more, and become more?
- Are you aware of how unconscious bias plays into your leadership? It’s human nature to be drawn to people like ourselves.
As a leader, one of the most important roles you play is stewarding your organization into the future. Engagement, inclusion, and generating the best possible results are all key aspects of succeeding in the future. So how are you ensuring your organization is evolving on the issues of diversity, equality, and inclusion?
 The Business Case for Gender Diversity: Update 2017, Huffington Post, April 30, 2017.
 Delivering Through Diversity, January 2018.
 James Beck: Women in Leadership breakfast panel, November 15, 2018, New York City. www.jamesbeck.com
 How These Founders are Redefining the Pharmaceutical Industry for Women of Color, Forbes, November 30, 2018.