Gender Diversity : A story to keep the negative press away

Today, if you host a panel discussion and not have women on the panel, be sure that you will be trolled for that. 

The deeper understanding of how this pressure is not really helping can be understood with the story of a leaders from a large MNCs. 

In 2019, I asked a client of mine why, when most of their competitors were talking about smart initiatives, they were talking about gender diversity? The client looked a bit put off, but responded by saying that they thought the CEO had been raked over the coals for not having enough women in leadership in his previous role, so he was now making sure that didn’t happen again. I wondered, was all this really being done to keep negative press away? It appears so.

As we see more and more male champions for gender diversity agenda kicking in, we also notice a trend: avoiding bad publicity and courting good publicity. A lot of the leaders have gained huge accolades and mentions for their efforts in the gender diversity field. 

I  will never forget how the former CEO of Danone got a mention in the United Nations when Anne Hathaway, the gender diversity ambassador for the UN said, “We need leaders who can make this change happen and when we talk about these leaders, I think we are talking about leaders like Monsieur Emmanuel Faber.” 

You can watch a section Anne Hathaway’s speech here . ( click at time stamp 9.42 to hear her acknowledge Emmanuel Faber)

Just imagine the gravity of that situation and how much respect is earned through that. Being respected is one of the most desired traits among humans, many leaders have earned that through being pioneers in gender diversity. When I look at it from a closer lens, I feel it has been a strategy for leaders who want to choose a path that is less cluttered to stand out. As this point of view is becoming clearer for me, a conversation with a senior leader accelerated the process.

I was sitting in a meeting with a senior leader who asked the Head of Diversity and Inclusion, “Why are we putting so much effort into D&I when performance is what matters at the end of the day?

I see the issue so clearly: leaders are earning respect by being gender diversity champions, but when you dig deeper you see that there is no one in the organisation who actually believes in the cause. As I am watching the lip service, respect, public adulation happening at one end I am seeing questions being asked on the ground about the case of women in the workforce. 

There is plenty of data that proves that having women increases the performance but as I show the numbers, people shrug their shoulders. I wish I had a story to back the numbers.

The numbers without a story are failing.

I feel disappointed that we have a lack of stories that can prove that women make a performance difference and I wonder why that would be? Why can’t I find enough autobiographies of successful female CEOs? Thank you to Indra Nooyi for sharing her story in her new book, My Life in Full. This book is a good start but not enough to make the change we seek to make. 

We need more stories that become the soul of the data making the case of gender diversity leading to desired success in organisations.

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