Civil, Civic and Equality Movements

Civil, Civic and Equality Movements

Despite ongoing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social protests continued to spill into the streets in 2021. We expect these protests to endure as the economic effects and rising inequalities intensified by the pandemic contribute to the drivers for social unrest. But increasingly, we will also see boardrooms, office suites and project sites become the setting for real change and collaboration in response to civil, civic and equality movements.

While organizations have increased diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts, it's been a challenge to make them effective because of the all-encompassing changes required. The appointment of chief diversity officers (CDOs) — which has risen over the past five years and saw a massive spike in 2020 — will certainly help achieve this. The need to blunt the effects of labor shortages will be a strong motivator for companies to build more inclusive cultures. At the same time, the impacts of the pandemic have fallen more heavily on communities of color and globally have hit the hardest in emerging markets and developing economies.

Although numerous recent studies have shown how important DE&I is for business success, women and ethnic minorities continue to remain underpaid and underrepresented at corporate levels. A recent McKinsey study demonstrates the business case for diversity in executive teams, with companies in the top quartile for gender diversity 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. The likelihood of outperformance is even higher for ethnic diversity.

Without the "E" and the "I," there is no "D." Diversity must take in many dimensions, and true equity and inclusion means creating conditions that give everyone the same chance to contribute, grow and thrive. A recent U.K.-based study found that only 16% of employees with disabilities said they felt included at work compared to 25% of their colleagues. And even though many Fortune 500 companies have inclusion policies for LGBTQ employees in place, most countries still do not provide legal protections. Catalyst reports that "fear prevents LGBTQ employees from bringing their full selves to work."

Global Megatrends 2022

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Microaggressions by type

If it doesn't start at the top and it's not entrenched in the company’s strategic vision, then it's more likely to be unsuccessful.

Senior engineer and project manager, Hatch, South Africa

Despite the challenges, remote work has been a great leveler for people who are subject to bias in the workplace. Many women of color are reluctant to return to the office, according to a recent The New York Times article. Remote work has eased the stress of working in predominantly white workspaces and reduced exposure to microaggressions and discrimination. A 2021 Future Forum survey of over 10,000 knowledge workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. found that Black men reported a better employee experience while working from home.

A particular challenge will be embedding DE&I in every function, process and decision throughout the value chain. PMI anticipates that key practices will involve engaging employees in creating policies and setting goals, incorporating DE&I in training and establishing employee resource groups. Forward-thinking organizations are using robust AI tools to recruit diverse talent, partnering with groups that promote diversity and reaching out to youth. Applying a data-driven approach to measuring and reporting on progress will be a critical success factor.

Overall, a culture that embraces different perspectives will enable creative thinking and adaptability and result in improved business outcomes.

CDOs have their work cut out for them. DE&I is not an issue that can be addressed by issuing some boilerplate statement and speaking strictly in legal and compliance terms. It demands being authentic and transparent. It demands everyone letting down their guards, being uncomfortable, being vulnerable and willing to share emotions in their most raw state — be it sadness, anger, frustration or fear — because, at its core, real business connections begin and end with genuine human connections.

I think every single person, regardless of how big or small the role is, has a significant impact that they can contribute to a team or to a project.

LGBTQIA+ rights activist, Zimbabwe

Driving DE&I Initiatives: Interview With Innocentia Mahlangu, Pr Eng, MSc, PMP

Innocentia Mahlangu has devoted herself to driving DE&I initiatives. She is a senior engineer and project manager for the Project Delivery Group at Hatch in South Africa. A PMI Future 50 honoree, she founded SHEngineers, a nonprofit virtual mentorship network for women in engineering.

Early in her career, Mahlangu noticed she was often the only woman in the room. "I work across sectors which are largely male-dominated: engineering, construction, project management and technology," she explains.

Among those recently qualified as job candidates in engineering, just over 50% are women, but among registered professionals, only 12% are women according to the Engineering Council of South Africa. "We try to attract women to the industry, but retention is a big issue, and we have what many call the leaky pipeline where at different stages of development you lose women," Mahlangu says. "That tells you that somewhere along the way between becoming a registered professional and the candidate category, women are just not getting through, and that really emphasizes the scale of the problem."

The problem according to Mahlangu: "Organizations are not really committed to DE&I and there's misalignment between corporate strategies. Some perceive this as an add-on to their normal way of working. They haven't adopted it as a core area and therefore they're not driving it from the highest level of the organization; some don't even have long-term strategic targets or measurable outcomes."

But Mahlangu insists diversity must go beyond increasing the participation of women in the workforce. "There is a misconception that diversity only refers to gender, and very often leaders don't realize that when we talk about diversity, we imply a broad range of categories and we want our industries and workplaces to be diverse and inclusive, and value people's uniqueness — people from different cultures, of different ages, who speak different languages, who have different abilities and other differentiating qualities. I think when we fully embrace all forms of diversity, then we achieve diversity of thought where you actually achieve greater business success and greater project success as well."

Mentoring Women in Tech: Interview With Julissa Mateo Abad

Julissa Mateo is the founder of a community for women in tech (@MujeresTICsRD) in the Dominican Republic. Mateo is a PMI Future 50 honoree for raising the role of women in tech.

While attending tech events as an information and communications technology (ICT) engineer, other people thought Mateo was the girlfriend of one of the men in the room. "One day I heard something that I wasn't sure was correct, so I raised my hand and asked the speaker to explain it again. One of the speakers later reached out to me and said, ‘Why don't you give us a talk and share your interest with other women because you really like these events, so probably more women will like them too."

That was the first step toward MujeresTICsRD, a community of women in technology fields who mentor one another, network and support each other’s career development. The organization started in the Dominican Republic and is now expanding to Bolivia and Guatemala. "We are trying to get more representation that I think the world needs," Mateo explains.

Mateo and her colleagues work with organizations to help them understand the meaning and value of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). "Companies are just trying to get people inside for numbers — to say I have three women, four men, one Black person," is how Mateo describes the obstacles. "But actually, when we are trying to say we are diverse, we are trying to get into equality — when you understand people’s way of behaving, the way they act, how it's part of their culture — it’s all a part of them.

"Sometimes, we as women don't believe in other women who are doing the job because we have never seen people who look like us doing it before. That’s why we try to provide mentors. And even if you come from zero, because I can tell you I come from minus 20, you can grow exactly to the place you want to be. You need to have people around you who also understand your vision."

Mateo says inclusion also enhances the customer experience: "I'm trying to make sure tech companies understand the value of DE&I because we are creating the tech of the future. If you don't consider the people who are going to be using this technology, we are going to end up with technology that doesn't fit us, and this is something that we have to eliminate."

If you don't have clear policies, you will end up with people leaving the company as soon as they get another, better solution for themselves.

Founder, @MujeresTICsRD, Dominican Republic

Supporting positive business results

Innocentia Mahlangu, Pr Eng, MSc, PMP, senior civil engineer and project manager, Hatch, South Africa, explains how DE&I initiatives can support organizational strategy and improve business results.

Driving DE&I Initiatives

Innocentia Mahlangu, Pr Eng, MSc, PMP, senior civil engineer and project manager, Hatch, South Africa discusses how project leaders have the potential to drive greater inclusion at the operational level.

Promoting diversity

Julissa Mateo Abad, PMP, founder, @MujeresTICsRD, Dominican Republic, discusses the unique opportunities project managers have to support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
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  1. Accenture. (n.d.). Who we are is how we’ll grow.
  2. Catalyst. (2021, June 1). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workplace issues (quick take).
  3. Future Forum. (2021, October). Future Forum Pulse: The great executive-employee disconnect.
  4. McKinsey & Company. (2020, May 19). Diversity wins: How inclusion matters.
  5. McKinsey & Company. (2020, September 27). Women in the workplace 2021.
  6. Tulshyan, R. (2021, June 23). Return to office? Some women of color aren’t ready. The New York Times.