Symposium highlights: The Business Case for Diversity

Leadership, involvement, and perhaps most importantly people, are very much on top of our agenda here at Workz. We were thrilled to shed light on the fact that leaders must involve and evolve. To make the most of the talent pool, diversity and inclusion is more important than ever. 

Diversity is not a trend, it's business critical for modern organisations. This was the theme for our first symposium of 2019. Here, we have gathered the main points.


Reflection exercise

We started the afternoon with a reflection exercise that you might benefit from sharing with your colleagues at lunch. We asked our guests:

  • Where do you look for inspiration on diversity, who inspires you?
  • On a scale from 1-10 how diverse do you consider your company?
  • Does the culture in your organisation encourage diversity?


Looking outwards - facts and structures

Charlotte Kirkegaard, the Director at E-QUALITY, urged us to look at the facts. Yes, some women in the C-suite will eventually leave because they prefer to spend more time with their family, but this goes for just 40%. However, from her surveys and interviews with top male and female leaders, Charlotte found that the majority of women leave because they feel left out of decision making, lack recognition and are paid less than their male counterparts. This is why when talking about diversity, through the gender lens or not, we must be careful not to rely on assumptions. With our facts straight, we can begin to talk about gender diversity. And most importantly, dare to talk about it.

Some structures are more useful than others when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Policy papers and female mentor programmes are often not effective because they are not integrated in organisational culture, they are an afterthought. According to Charlotte’s studies, a transparent career path will have a bigger impact. The recruitment process and how to make the next move must be easy to decode by all employees. It should be clear to everyone what is needed to take the next step up.


Looking inwards – brain and behaviour

Next up was Tina Moe, author of Leadership of the Future. Her focus was on what she calls purple leadership. A new concept of the leadership paradigm presented in her book. The idea is that both men and women develop a mix of feminine (red) and masculine (blue) approaches to handling tasks. Our preferences are based on our genetic makeup and our experiences in life. Red and blue approaches are placed at each end of a spectrum. Regardless of our gender, we may focus on action and move fast from A to B, which is a blue trait. Or we may focus on the process and try to find the best route from A to B, which is a red trait. 

Between the two antipodes lies the purple way of leading. Tina’s claim is that future leaders must accommodate the entire spectrum in terms of leadership actions and expectations, and that purple leadership makes more employees feel met and understood. This paradigm is an attempt to talk about competence rather than gender, and underline that we are complex human beings with brains that may take red or blue action, or anything in between, depending on the specific context.


Looking at best practice - integrated inclusion at ISS

Lotte Hjortlund Andersen, People and Culture Director at ISS, reminded us that diversity should not be considered a project, but rather an indisputable part of the business plan. Diversity and inclusion have been an integrated part of the ISS strategy for more than a decade. A key to this is respect of the individual based on the idea that ‘one size fits one’. This means looking at the individual, not looking a minority groups. This is especially important in a global company with employees representing 118 nationalities. No internal courses or programmes at ISS are targeted at e.g. women or non-Danish speaking employees. Everything is made a general offer.   

The business case for diversity has become evident at ISS and internal studies show that not only does inclusion drive innovation and employee engagement, it is also required by customers and essential in attracting young talent. This discovery has led ISS to make unconscious bias a focal point in their leadership training. This training is supported by the Korn Ferry competence framework, which is also a favourite here at Workz.


We thank all our guest and expert speakers for making the day a great success. If you want to make sure do don't miss our news and events, sign up for our newsletter Friends of Workz.