Each for Equal – International Women’s Day 2020

It Is generally accepted that we have underestimated the challenges associated with achieving equality in the corporate world when it comes to attributes of gender, race ethnicity and sexual orientation amongst others. This is despite significant investments of time and money and the lure of substantial rewards from robust financial and human “dividends”.

Whilst we’ll never know the exact cost of inequality, we do know without doubt that a culture of equality can make or break the financial success of your organisation.

 

The value of equality

At Symmetra we believe, equality:

  1. is a social justice issue, and the right thing to do
  2. is a business issue, with significant financial impacts
  3. impacts human emotions, and an individual’s life experiences matter.

Some useful attempts have been made to place a financial value on reaching the goal of equality in our workplaces and societies. For example, McKinsey calculated the financial value of achieving gender equality in Australia would add 12% to GDP.

  • Given the IMF is forecasting economic growth of 1-3% in mature economies such as Australia – this is a dividend well worth making a focussed commitment to.
  • In Asia Pacific, a similar growth rate would add approx. $4.5 Trillion and China $2.6 Trillion and globally $12 Trillion!

More complex is valuing the “human” dividends associated with achieving equal positive emotion in your workforce.

  • Employee surveys commonly identify the emotional experiences of “diverse” groups in organisations, is significantly different to the “dominant” group.
  • There are a few progressive companies which have financially valued the impact of this unequal human experience: For example, the German software organisation, SAP, knows for every 1% improvement in their corporate culture index, they realise EU75-85M per annum additional (SAP integrated report 2019).

It’s worth calculating the dividend associated with achieving equal positive emotion across your workforce. It could be a material sum!

 

So, why hasn’t the pace of change been more pronounced?

And more importantly – what can we do about it?

Of the 5 areas the above McKinsey study highlights as critical to achieving extraordinary financial growth, the two within an organisation’s remit are about attitudes and values. In our 24/7 switched on world, we may have little time to stop and give their impact appropriate consideration – i.e. our true attitudes about women’s roles and work in society and why they are underrepresented in leadership positions.

Wicked problems rarely have simple answers – and changing a millenia-old social structure that leads to inequality is the perfect definition of a “wicked problem”.

So what then IS the “solution” to creating equality? Our experiences at Symmetra tells us, the answer is:

There is nothing more powerful than Culture to either ENABLE or DISABLE any change initiative.

The recent Hayne Royal Commission, referenced the critical role of CULTURE as key to achieving deep and consistent change in the banking and finance industries, rather than more legislation & governance. But this principle can be applied more broadly to any organisation: equality comes about when the culture of an organisation is free of bias, values diversity and manifests a high degree of inclusivity.

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