Visionary leaders consider the route to an inclusive future

Imagine a truly inclusive company at some point in the future. When visionary leaders put their heads together, what do they see?

Reporting back from the CEO Champions workshop held at the Women’s Forum Global Meeting 2017 in Paris, Georges Desvaux, Senior Partner of McKinsey & Company said it would be a company that is first of all unorthodox, in the sense of challenging the status quo. It would be polymorphic and multifaceted, meritocratic and fair. Empowered. Caring and safe. Respectful. Balanced. Global and agile. And inventive.

Photo credit: Women’s Forum/Sipa Press

“This is really about a culture change,” he said. “It’s a massive culture change, but it’s really exciting.”

Yes, but how to get there?

“You see the commitment of the CEOS,” said Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of EY, but “they often don’t know what to do.”

She outlined five steps for companies en route to greater inclusiveness. First, thinking about purpose, because “we connect meaning to what we do.” Second, including not just quantitative but also qualitative measures in performance reviews, for example on team leadership.

Third, transparency: “We need to publish how companies are doing, and rank them, publicly.” Fourth, companies need to build their case for gender equality and communicate it. At EY, she said, “Our men don’t believe the research others do. They only believe it if we do the research ourselves.” Finally, she said, companies should challenge their supply chains regarding diversity, for example when choosing a team of lawyers.

Clara Gaymard, Executive President of the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society stressed that diversity is “a need-to-have, and not a nice-to-have,” while Nina Gardner, Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, won applause when she said that bonuses should be linked to meeting targets on gender diversity.

But Publicis Groupe’s Supervisory Board Chairman Maurice Lévy injected a note of caution, saying that the inclusiveness problem had existed for many years, and “it may be many years before we get a resolution.”

“No progress can be made,” he said, “without taking into account the importance of the culture of the company, the need for educating people, the need to install a sense of fairness, to be open about where things stand in a company and finally, never to forget that a company is part of a society.”

OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría made it clear just how difficult it may be to arrive at the vision of the future. Citing a new OECD report entitled, “The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle,” he said that “violence against women in OECD countries came up, surprisingly, as a big issue in the report.” Like others on the panel, he stressed that fighting gender stereotypes must begin at home.

This story is drawn from sessions at the Women’s Forum Global Meeting 2017.