The Shard

Women have been urged to lead the new frontier of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the business world.

In Warwick Business School’s annual DBA conference Janet Stovall, Senior Client Strategist at the NeuroLeadership Institute and a diversity expert, called on women to lead the next stage of business truly becoming gender equal and inclusive.

She said: “The number of positions at organisations created in the EDI space has shot up since the killing of George Floyd by police in the US. Many taking up those roles are coming out of HR, or they are people passionate about EDI and stepping up to create that space.

“So much of this work in EDI is in the process of being determined, for instance measurement for this work is still new. But this is the time for women to move into this field, find a spot, learn and get educated. This is a frontier at the moment of its creation and women can lead this new frontier.”

The online conference saw a panel of high-flying female WBS alumni discuss ‘The future of work, the evolution of EDI and the challenges of incorporating it into the workplace’, which was chaired by Ms Stovall and facilitated by Remi Abere, a graduate of the DBA at WBS and Founder of consultancy RoebiGlobal.

Caroline Turner, Associate Director at executive recruitment firm Sapphire Partners, argued driving real reform in business would require a culture change and turning words into real action would need women supporting each other.

“Women need to bring other women up with sponsorship and supporting the potential they have,” said Ms Turner. “Trust needs to be built to drive through the changes needed in company culture, so that inner circles of power disappear. Women have the responsibility to drive that change of culture.

The final frontier: The panel discuss the future of work

“The reinvention of the future of work is an ongoing reality and women need to be part of its creation, with inclusivity as the driver.

“How does the future of work fit women in? Our company’s focus has been on empowering and helping boards’ find diverse talent. Initially this was gender and now it is the intersectionality of ethnicity, but any EDI strategy has a gender perspective.

“However, the move to working from home because of the pandemic could be setting women back. Studies suggest in 2020, while couples worked at home, women were still doing two thirds of the housework and caring responsibilities.

“Also, inner circles have closed ranks when it comes to networking opportunities for critical work assignments. If women are not around to grab these opportunities, and are not visible, it will mitigate against them. If hybrid working is to become the norm then this is a real issue.”

Mokutima Ajileye, Managing Director at Procter & Gamble’s Nigerian operation, suggested companies need to help men take on some of the responsibilities of looking after children.

At P&G Nigeria, we launched our #ShareTheCare campaign which included the introduction of up to eight weeks of fully paid parental leave for men and all adoptive parents.” she said. We are also seeing some other organisations introducing parental leave for me. 

“But despite the introduction of this form of leave to promote EDI in Nigeria, companies must continue to support men in their organisations to confidently and effectively utilise it and to share the responsibilities at home without any perceived impact on their careers.”

Tucci Goka Ivowi, CEO of the Ghana Commodity Exchange, agreed networking and visibility is important if women are to break down barriers and rise into leadership positions, but she warned the increasing use of AI and automation will see some jobs go in the future.

“Those who are not motivated are the first to go in corporations,” she said. “In Africa the majority of jobs are going to come through entrepreneurship as the large youth population outgrows the number of jobs on the market.

“If you can’t be creative and think on your feet, as AI becomes more prevalent, then you are in danger. Leaders need the skills that computers don’t have, like creativity, empathy, understanding different cultures and genders. This is what women are good at.”

Egle Thomas, Founder and Managing Director of consultancy Stratergix in Switzerland, believes technology can also help in the drive to make companies more inclusive and diverse.

“Technology means everything can be done remotely with people across the world,” she said. “The pandemic has accelerated this technological drive and AI can help with EDI by tracking and measuring it in an organisation, which will help build much better EDI programmes.”

Yoshiko Ito, Executive Managing Director and COO for Home Solution at Hitachi Global Life Solutions in Japan, believes today’s fast-changing environment means diversity of thought and cultures will be a competitive advantage.

“EDI can contribute to the dynamic in a workplace,” she said. “It is not just something nice to have, EDI is necessary for innovation in the workplace. Diversity tends to bring a larger innovation ratio and relates positively to business performance.”

To watch the whole panel discussion click here.