Equal Opportunities, Resilient Businesses 03.6.2024 | Melissa Gunshon

March plays host to a handful of important observances: Ethnic Equality Month, International Woman’s Day, and Women’s History Month. At the heart of all of these is the call to learn from the past and recognize our similarities while acknowledging, appreciating, and respecting our differences – in both our personal and professional spaces.

Racial and ethnic equality, gender equity and social inclusion are critical to safe, productive, resilient workplaces, but it hinges upon active participation from all stakeholders across the organization. And so much of this starts with education. Lean in and listen up to the voices of the underrepresented and commit to being a trailblazer of change so that the statistics are a lot less stark for the generations that will follow us.

Hollywood Does Gender Equity

If you’re a visual learner – or heck, just a die-hard Diane Keaton fan – it’s worth checking out the 1987 classic, “Baby Boom”. While a few decades old, the film hits home that success is out of grasp for many unless businesses prioritize equity, inclusion, and equality within their culture and processes. Including women. Or people of color. Or those who are differently abled.

Here’s the breakdown: New York City businesswoman J.C. Wyatt (Keaton) is married to her high-powered executive job and on track for promotion as a partner. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she inherits a baby after the death of a distant relative. Not only is she competing with others in her office for the chance at partner in the firm (specifically a young, unmarried male), but she’s now spending her free time looking for nannies, learning how to change a diaper and juggling meetings and bottles. Eventually, her senior managers find out about her life change and decide to let her go because “she’s no longer at the top of her game”.

JC and her colleagues share the commonality of vying for the firm’s partner position, contending with long hours, multiple meetings, and sleepless nights. But J.C. now has the added workload of being a single mother.

Thirty-seven years since Baby Boom’s debut, are we closer to cultivating workplaces where women are supported and given the same access to opportunities? Errr, not quite.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report (conducted by the World Economic Forum), in the United States, the gender pay gap remains significant, with women earning 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women are also underrepresented in leadership positions, with only 29% of senior management roles held by women.

Closer to home in the world of workforce mobility, in a global workforce of roughly 40% female, only 1 in 5 international assignees are female. To address this, we need to ask why.

  • Are mobility opportunities flexible and supportive enough to meet the needs of different demographics?
  • Are minorities, like women, being overlooked for assignments due to assumptions or biases (i.e., Sandy won’t want to take that assignment because she won’t want to be away from her children for two months)?
How can we encourage more women and minorities to seek advancement opportunities through relocation?

Break the Bias: The fact remains that company cultures have supported the long-held assumption that women are less likely to want to move because they prioritize family needs before career. For minority groups, concerns about the inability to fit into a new environment or “foreign” culture would be an insurmountable obstacle. Breaking these assumptions is a first – very necessary – step. Women and minority groups want to progress in their careers and hold decision-making roles, so naturally, they are open to mobility opportunities that will bring them closer to these goals.

Support your Talent: Whether they are just entering the workforce or are seasoned experts, employees are looking for and expecting support. So progressive companies are supporting the recruitment of a broader demographic by offering opportunities and incentives that are in tune with what would motivate people to take on either a domestic relocation or an international assignment.

Mobility is a launchpad for your leadership pipeline, so ensuring that your program is inclusive and accessible to a broader talent pool will also deliver a strong ROI. After all, in today’s global marketplace, diverse organizations have the upper hand. And the numbers support this, over and over again:

  • A McKinsey & Company report found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity in management were 36% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.
  • Another McKinsey study revealed that gender-diverse companies were 25% more likely to outperform their peers financially.
  • Research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that diverse companies produce 19% more revenue due to innovation.
  • A study by Deloitte found that inclusive teams are 80% more likely to meet or exceed business objectives.
In Conclusion…

The primary focus of DEI is to work towards changing workplace cultures that hold damaging beliefs towards marginalized groups. A blend of knowledge and representation from a wide range of communities can encourage participation from marginalized communities and foster a workplace culture where everyone feels valued, psychologically safe, and free to be their authentic selves.

In the modern world of work, prioritizing these values now goes beyond being a “good corporate citizen”; it has been proven to drive organizational success. In other words, as a company, if you’re not actively working towards cultivating a culture of belonging, you’re leaving money on the table!

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Written by Melissa Gunshon

Joining Weichert in 2022, Mel is a Business Travel Coordinator and a passionate advocate for DEI. She lives in Texas with her partner, their son, a cat, and a few cows.

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