The Role of Organizations in Creating Diversity in Leadership

It’s 2020 – why are we still fighting the battles of inclusion in leadership for ANYONE based on their gender, skin color, or ability?

In the last decade, women have made incredible strides.  In 2018, women made US history with more women than ever elected to public office. And between 2008 and 2018, among the companies in the S&P 1500, there was a 51% increase in women on boards and a 67% increase in women in top executive positions.

Yet for every woman CEO of S&) 1500 companies, there are four men named John, Robert, William, or James. And as we look at the leadership pipeline in organizations, we see that men and women are equally represented at entry levels, but the ratio of women to men decreases at each level after that.  When men and women at each level are differentiated by the color of their skin, it is clear that white men and women are better represented than men and women of color. 

So, we’ve clearly got an issue that results in women and people of color not moving up through leadership levels at the same rate as are white men.  If representation is important (and it is!), it is critical that we identify what is getting in the way and move it OUT of the way!  When we were interviewing senior women for Kick Some Glass, one of the barriers we learned about was not seeing “people like me” as leadership role models.  Whether a person is a young child, an adolescent, a young adult, or in the middle of their career, envisioning oneself in a leadership role is more likely when they see that someone like them has already achieved that kind of role.

Let’s talk about some of the processes that organizations can focus on. First, they need to ensure a broad approach for identifying candidates at all levels of leadership.  It is not good enough to work through networks or post job openings on websites.  The people likely to be attracted by those approaches will be similar to the current slate of leaders, so the resulting diversity of experience in candidates ultimately hired is likely to be low. Organizations need to post job openings to the schools, websites, and communities that draw different pools of diverse talent. Once they’ve attracted a diverse set of candidates, the people assigned to interview the candidates need to be diverse – candidates will draw conclusions about the organization’s diversity (whether accurate or not) based on the people they meet during their interview process. 

Once hired, organizations should focus on developing and promoting a diverse set of employees at each level or in each job category – starting at entry levels.  You can’t correct lack of diversity at the very senior levels if you haven’t been growing your pipeline of diverse and talented leaders from the time they are very junior. Approaches including talent review planning, career pathways, sponsorships, mentorships, challenging assignments, leadership development programs, and employee resource groups are excellent approaches to developing and creating visibility of a diverse talent pool.

Connect with me to learn more about what organizations can do!