The No. 1 Thing Most Diversity & Inclusion Companies Leave Out

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June 15, 2024 at 1:27PM UTC
Research shows corporations are spending $8 billion annually on diversity & inclusion programs. A recent study reported diversity-department budgets at Fortune 1000 companies average around $1.5 million per year. However, despite substantial investments, many report they are still not getting the intended results.
The "2019 State of Inclusion Survey” by Deloitte highlights that despite great intentions most organizations are far away from making progress. "Our survey clearly reveals that even well-intentioned organizations have much work to do to close the gap between the overarching goals and the actual experiences of their workforce," said Joe Ucuzoglu, Deloitte US CEO.
According to research, traditional diversity & inclusion programs fail. Many are designed to improve the external working environment for women: tackling unconscious bias, addressing equal pay, creating flexible work arrangements, helping women learn essential skills such as presentation skills. All this work is crucial for reaching great outcomes. However, the reason why these efforts are not yielding desired results is that even when the practicalities of the working environment are changing, people’s core beliefs are not. 

You can't teach someone how to respect another person and her ideas.

It is the internal change that is required from both women and men for everyone feel respected and valued. And this is the reason these traditional training methods don’t work. Diversity & Inclusion training is not like other types of training in the workplace. It’s not like teaching them how to learn a practical skill, create a powerful social media campaign or learn to use the latest technology.
Internal change touches on individual’s core beliefs. In the case of many women those core beliefs have been set to below optimal levels for many years, even decades. Women’s contributions have not been respected or their ideas valued and as a result many are afraid to express themselves authentically. Women may also make conclusions about the company subconsciously, such as “I have to choose between a career and a family. I will not be supported.” and they leave before addressing their fears with their manager.

When women feel secure and confident in their own skin, they are not afraid to show their full potential.

To ‘fix’ this doesn’t mean we need to fix women, quite the opposite. It’s about giving women an opportunity to grow, flourish and become strong within themselves. If women are encouraged to go after their own goals and dreams and define their own kind of success they will get the space to become who they really are. Respecting women's values and the way women communicate and lead is not the same as moulding them into what the system wants, which has been the traditional approach by companies trying to help women to achieve in male dominated environments.
Companies who are committed to diversity and inclusion will want to tap into women's desires to be successful in their careers and reach their full potential. When women feel confident in their own skin they can walk into any room without fear of unconscious bias or bullying because they can handle themselves. When women start believing in themselves it will also help men appreciate what women are bringing to the table. This doesn’t happen over night and requires real commitment from individuals and companies.
When HR Director Birgitte joined DrivenWoman woman she wanted to learn 'the art of confidence'. She had recently been appointed to the company board and felt intimidated with her male peers. In this article she records all the steps she learned to fully feel confident, to the point she started to lead rather than react to her company's male agenda. And it was only when she showed up in her boss' office with a new four point leadership plan that he was fully able to appreciate what she's got to bring to the table. That change started within her and was not delivered by external D&I training.

Understanding female ambition.

There’s a lot of focus on getting more women into leadership, but there's more to  female ambition than reaching a big job title.
"Research shows that only 18% of women aspire to occupy the C-suite. I believe one of the reasons is because raising kids squeezes their time so we lose patience and tolerance for the petty power games and office politics. It becomes more important for work to be meaningful," concludes Marisa Orr, author of Lean Out, and a former Google and Facebook executive.
When another Marisa, a DrivenWoman member in Switzerland, wanted to return to work after having two kids her key driver was not just to get back to her career. "I don't want to leave my children behind for anything average," she said about her ambition. Joining DrivenWoman helped her not only to find fulfilling work, but to negotiate a working arrangement that works for her and manage career and family balance so that she can flourish at both. 

Empowerment is for everyone.

Mentoring programs yield results but are usually available for top female leaders only. We are yet to come across an organization who’d see the entire female workforce worthy of empowerment. Just imagine if all women would feel comfortable expressing their ideas and feeling fulfilled at work! Female empowerment is not only about getting more women into leadership, it’s about making the most of every individual and welcoming their creativity.
There are two components to empowering women: the external and the internal component. Spending a lot of money on the external and nothing on the internal doesn’t make sense as companies are not getting the results they want. On the other hand, spending money only empowering women internally would mean they’d all leave if the workplace is not treating them well.
Companies who have programs in place for improving both the external factors and who help women become strong within themselves will see the best ROI for their D&I investment.

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This story originally appeared on DrivenWoman. DrivenWoman is a female only empowerment platform and accountability network, that helps ambitious women to achieve their goals and dreams by creating positive habits one step at a time. Thousands of women around the world have joined our program and are achieving their life goals, which range from entrepreneurial dreams to career change or simply being more confident in their own skin and enjoying life in the present moment.

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