Isabelle Kürschner from Catalyst, a diversity strategist nonprofit organization, says “Don’t fix the women, fix the workplace.” It’s past time you try and train and prepare women better, you now need to change the whole working environment. What’s in it for the companies is clear. “Of course, we want to be nice and fair but diversity and inclusion bring performance to the company” says Jean-Michel Monnot working for Diversity & Inclusion at Sodexo, a company which employs 380,000 persons in 80 countries,. The company actually made diversity 1 of the 5 pillars of the company.
It’s in the interest of the companies, really. For Frech, careers are now wave-shaped, not linear. It would be stupid to lose people of the way along the way”, for instance at time of pregnancies. There’s a true need for flexibility. Later, she underlined how hy ignoring diversity, a company will put itself behind the competition because they access a larger talent pool.
Like any investment, before reaping the benefit of diversity, companies have to mobilize resources first. Monnot explained how training is crucial in the process, “we are all build with stereotypes, we have to be aware of them to change the approach.” Adidas’ Diana Frech concurred: “we have 60 nationalities working for Adidas just in Germany, 50/50 male-female and a gender pay gap of 3%” she said, before nuancing “we still need to work on our own unconscious behaviors, resistances, personal patterns and inclusion problems.” Isabell Welpe of Technische Universität München then piled on with her academic background, adding “unconscious assumptions are the greatest barriers.”
How to shake the bad habits off then? The scholar explained that “to change behaviors, you don’t need not to change women, you need to change the companies at the cultural and organisational level”. She then urged the audience to focus the training on the executive level since the message has to come from the top management, down. Of course, challenges may occur. For internationalized companies, both the environment and the local executives matter explained Monnot, who warn also against making assumptions based on the country the company is located.
He also find that non-compulsory measures amounted to very little. “If you don’t make quotas; or call them whatever you like, target, objectives,” he asserted,”nothing will change. But you need before to educate.” In the end, Monnot said, “we have to find and work with similarities and differences, and celebrate the differences.” It worked particularly well for Sodexo judging by the impressive list of diversity-related awards they received. It will hopefully inspire others.