It is one of the enduring paradoxes of working life: Advancing women in business life seems common-sense but in practice appears to flounder and not make the headway we all expect. The reasons for this were a topic of discussion at the recent OECD Gender Forum – Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now, where I joined a distinguished group of participants, including government and business leaders. It was clear from our discussion that challenges remain.
Take diversity for example. Deloitte Australia has recently carried out ground-breaking research (“Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup?”) in the manufacturing, retail, and healthcare sectors. When modelling the relationship among diversity, inclusion and business performance, the research found that when both diversity and inclusion were high, there was an uplift of some 80 percent in perceptions of business performance. Buoyed by these results, the research was widened to include customer service, innovation and engagement. And the same thing happened: Perceptions of business outcomes are always significantly higher with high diversity and high inclusion. Another finding was that where employees perceive their organization is committed to and supportive of diversity, and where employees feel included, they are 80 percent more likely to believe they work in a high-performing organisation.