Despite the growing interest and commitment from both practitioners and scholars in ‘diversity’ and ‘diversity management’ over the last three decades, inequality and discrimination persist at the workplace, globally.
Despite the growing interest and commitment from both practitioners and scholars in ‘diversity’ and ‘diversity management’ over the last three decades, inequality and discrimination persist at the workplace, globally. This alarming observation, pointed out by several studies and many observers, is also highlighted by the findings of the latest study of the EDHEC Open Leadership Centre, at the EDHEC Business School, France.
The study, carried out among 767 people within organisations, found that:
Participants rate their organisations just above average in terms of diversity and inclusion (6.2/10 on diversity, and 5.5/10 on inclusion);
On gender equality, perceptions are below average—the overall score is 4.9/10;
Women are more critical than men in their perceptions of diversity and inclusion (for diversity, women gave an average score of 6.1/10, while men gave a score of 6.6/10; for inclusion, women gave a mean score of 5.3/10, while men gave 5.9/10);
When it comes to gender equality, women attribute a score of 4.1/10, while men rate it at 6.8/10. These results point to the need for an alternative approach that could accelerate progress on diversity and inclusion.
Traditional diversity programmes—formalised HRM procedures, surveys, diversity training, performance evaluation, networking, mentoring—haven’t met their promises. In this study, EDHEC Open Leadership team proposed and tested the hypothesis that putting leadership representations and behaviours at the heart of diversity policies and practices will lead to effective and lasting transformations that favour diversity and inclusion in organisations. Leadership representations: This can be an important impediment to diversity improvement within an organisation. When the characteristics expected of a good leader are associated with ‘one specific profile’, all other profiles are less likely to be identified and perceived as ‘leaders’ or ‘potential leaders’. Hager Jemel, the director of the EDHEC Open Leadership Centre for Diversity & Inclusion, said that leadership is particularly associated with vision and charisma, and the most representative traits of a good leader are being strong, energetic and willing to take risks. “In the collective imagination, the image of a leader is strongly linked to heroism and carries ‘masculine’ connotations. This narrow representation excludes many profiles from the population of potential leaders—for example women, but also men who don’t match with this image,” Jemel said. The study noted that transforming leadership models will open up positions of responsibility to a greater diversity of talent and contribute to the progress made by companies on diversity and inclusion.