2. “Cultural fit” is often at odds with diversity
Heerman believes that “Cultural fit can, and has, inadvertently eclipsed diversity goals. This is quite evident in places like the tech sector, where the whole concept of “fit” has been applied by hiring managers to find people that “think like me” or even “look like me.” If the hiring managers are not from a minority group, and a good many are not, then the cultural fit default often prompts the hiring of people that look, sound, and think like the people already populating an organisation’s workforce.”
So what practical steps can organisations, regardless of size, do today to accelerate the glacial progression of women?
Heerman gives 4 areas of focus that could make a difference:
1.Start at the front end with a push to redesign recruiting and hiring practices to avoid bias and question sacred cow criteria. It’s rare that we question long-standing hiring criteria, especially when it’s defended by the concept of “cultural fit,”. But it’s important to challenge these criteria to see if inadvertent filters are present. For example, executives of a golf association decided they wanted to hire more women. However, a long held hiring criterion was that employees needed to be low-handicap golfers. That automatically weeded out a lot of promising female candidates, who may have been very good at their jobs but bad golfers.
2.Put a different face forward. The perceptions of candidates will be largely determined by the person they meet on the other side of the table in a job interview. A major financial institution recently decided to ban male leaders from conducting interviews at their alma maters, out of a concern that these interviews did nothing but produce a cadre of “mini-mes”. Instead they expanded the recruiting team to include a more diverse group of interviewers.
3.Dispel myths to educate. A railway decided it wanted to hire more women in certain key areas of the company. This included train conductors — one of the most male-dominated roles of all time. The railway’s HR leader decided to expose candidates to webinars hosted by female recruiters, hiring managers, and women that formerly or currently worked as conductors. This clearly and powerfully dispelled the myth that women could not be train conductors. The strategy not only increased female applicants, it increased the hire rate of females in multiple jobs across the company.
4.Use leadership development programmes to build a diverse pipeline of leaders. While Affinity programs are great for networking and support, history has shown they don’t significantly improve the leadership diversity within an organisation. You need to embed diversity objectives into all your talent development processes, particularly leadership development. Track the results of these programmes. Are they building a more diverse pipeline of talent and leaders? If the outcome is not as diverse as planned, then you need to go and make sure you respected the diversity imperative at the front end of these programmes.
With the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) indicating that closing the gender pay gap could add £150 billion to the UK economy and with many studies showing that organisations with females on the board tend to perform better than those without, it’s clear why the goal of workplace diversity has never been as important as it is today. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the fair thing to do. And it’s the commercially savvy thing to do.
Let’s hope in another 100 years, this is no longer a debate we need to have.
As originally seen on the Lee Hecht Harrison Penna website.