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
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
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."
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
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- Accenture. (n.d.). Who we are is how we’ll grow.
- Catalyst. (2021, June 1). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workplace issues (quick take).
- Future Forum. (2021, October). Future Forum Pulse: The great executive-employee disconnect.
- McKinsey & Company. (2020, May 19). Diversity wins: How inclusion matters.
- McKinsey & Company. (2020, September 27). Women in the workplace 2021.
- Tulshyan, R. (2021, June 23). Return to office? Some women of color aren’t ready. The New York Times.