Despite many opportunities over the past century, we have not yet made break through on diversity. Could we achieve more with the help of technology?
It’s now a decade since I first read my favourite book – Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: how little things can make a big difference. It’s a brilliantly written book (like anything else by Gladwell) on what makes ideas, trends and social behaviour cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire.
Since then, I’ve been imagining what that tipping point would look like for increasing diversity. And I’ve seen many moments when I thought – This is it! and then nothing happened.
Technology might be the tipping point we need to help embed the agenda into our lives.
A research published by the Harvard Business Review in 2013 shows that employees in more diverse companies are 45% likelier to report a growth in their market share and 70% likelier to report spreading into new markets. The benefits of closing the gender pay gap are not only social, but also make business sense.
Widely quoted 2007 research from McKinsey suggests that European listed companies with greater gender diversity in top positions outperform sector averages. These firms also achieved stock price growth of 64% relative to a sector average of 47%.
But despite these and many other reports that demonstrate the positive relationship between diversity and company success, the agenda has not yet made it into the mainstream. We continue to have meetings in praise of inclusivity and diversity, and then return to our desks to continue business as usual.
Another example of a time I thought things will tip was in 2011, when the UK Government introduced the Think Act Report Framework – creating a standard for gender equality reporting and transparency for companies and organisations with 150 employees or more. But despite a high uptake and more than 200 companies signing up to the Framework, the agenda did not tip and only 2% of the companies which signed up to the Framework produced some kind of public report on gender diversity.
Now there is renewed hope that the “gender pay gap” agenda can serve as a tipping point for diversity. The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 are coming into force in April 2017, requiring companies with 250 employees or more to report on their gender pay gap on an annual basis.
Some 8,000 HR manager across the UK private sector will have to face payroll data for a period in April and understand what the difference in pay between their male and female employees is. That data will reveal that women are more likely to be clustered in low pay part time roles, less likely to be in managerial and leadership roles, and face occupational segregation. Adding an ethnicity dimension to the data will provide insights into how women who are of BAME backgrounds have an even higher pay gap and face double discrimination.
Overall, the numbers are likely to make managers think about diversity. If not for reasons that benefit the bottom line and company success, then at least for reasons of reputation and ensuring competitiveness when it comes to attracting top talent. But will it be enough to serve as a tipping point?
In his book, Gladwell sais
“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”.
He calls this “the law of the few”. In the case for diversity, I’d say we have to replace this law with the “law of technology”. Unbiased, data driven technology that can take our diversity numbers – be they in pay gap or workforce gap – and provide specific insights into how we can act on them and thus improve diversity.
There are several companies currently leading the agenda and putting technology at the heart of managing diversity. Gapsquare is a cloud based software that helps companies achieve their diversity goals and enable them to manage the process of change. The newly launched Applied provides tools to help companies hire the best person with a bias-free review process. Any many early adopters are already reaping the benefits.
If more companies start using technology when it comes to diversity, technology can help diversity cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire.