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Vikita Patel

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Let’s embrace gender equity and recommit to driving positive change

This International Women’s Day provides an opportune moment to commit to building and reaping the benefits of a more diverse workplace.
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Global social movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have catapulted equity, equality, diversity and inclusion (EEDI) into the headlines, putting pressure on companies and investors to demonstrate proof of their credentials. 

Today is International Women’s Day, providing a timely opportunity to reflect on this year’s theme – ‘Embracing Equity’ and what it means for HR leaders, in the broadest sense. Equity represents fair access to opportunities and resources and the power for all to thrive in their careers – it is not an initiative or programme, it is the targeted outcome of embedded diversity and inclusion principles in a company.

At Apex Group, we experienced a period of ‘hyper growth’, expanding from 2,000 to 12,000 employees in just three years. The diversity of our people is one of our greatest assets as a business, providing a variety of perspectives, experiences and, ultimately, a competitive advantage. 

Here, I share a few things we’ve learnt about building, growing and promoting high-performing and diverse individuals and teams.

Attracting diverse talent

We are in a candidate’s market, with managers facing fierce competition to attract the skills and talent they need. Of course, time in these hiring processes is of the essence. But don’t let these external pressures force you to make unnecessary compromises – especially when it comes to diverse hiring practices. 

Any hiring manager should be certain that the right person for the job should be selected on merit, regardless of their race, religion, background, gender or sexual orientation.

Recruitment and talent acquisition plays an important role for all businesses in ensuring that diverse candidates are considered for a role. It must be taken seriously. Companies should be reviewing a diverse candidate list for each role, and it is important not to use time pressure as an excuse to rush, or even skip, this important step. 

One approach we have taken at Apex Group is to review all job descriptions and we will be working with external specialists advisors to make sure the language used is more inclusive to reduce potential bias and attract diverse talent.

Retaining the best

You may be able to talk the talk by hiring from diverse shortlists, but to retain diverse talents, you need to walk the walk, by embedding principles into your business that reflect those shared by your employees and colleagues. 

At Apex Group, inclusivity is a theme that runs through both our values and our DNA and is reflected in everything we do. 

Our Equity, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Council plays a vital role in ensuring employees are educated around EEDI topics and that we are promoting initiatives that enhance the employee experience. This group of colleagues has come together to introduce numerous initiatives to ensure our diverse workforce feels recognised, accepted and celebrated. 

For example, last year we encouraged our global team to add the pronouns they identify with to their email signatures to create a more inclusive culture. We believe that using appropriate pronouns is a first step toward respecting people’s gender identity and creating a more welcoming space for people of all genders. 

Exchanging ideas

The exchange of ideas to learn from one another is crucial to encouraging diversity of thought in the workplace. Our Bold Book Club offers a platform to unite people over a common experience and create a safe space for challenging conversations to unfold, while our ‘Everyone Deserves a Voice’, internal podcast series allows global colleagues to share their perspectives and experiences to celebrate our diverse team.

The ability to offer exposure to new and different career experiences is another useful tool to keep your high performing individuals. Our JUMP (Jurisdictional Unique Mobility Program) initiative offers our employees the ability to benefit from the global footprint through working in different Apex Group locations on either short- or long-term secondment. We believe employee mobility exposes individuals to different perspectives and helps in developing empathy and an inclusive mindset. 

Any hiring manager should be certain that the right person for the job should be selected on merit, regardless of their race, religion, background, gender or sexual orientation.

Equity of progression

The importance of diversity at the highest profile levels of an organisation cannot be underestimated. For example, based on recent research, for every woman added to the C-suite in an organisation, three women rise to senior leadership roles – known as the multiplier effect. Therefore, it is important to focus on diversity at senior levels to drive progress and improve the overall pipeline of diverse talent.

Apex Group’s Shadow ExCo initiative was designed in 2020 to achieve this – a new team of leaders from around the world that were given the experience of being involved in C-suite discussions and business strategies. They brought diversity into every decision and represented a diverse set of future senior leaders, able to bring different perspectives, challenge the status quo and demonstrate how diversity can help improve business decisions and drive innovation. 

As a result of the experience they gained, two women were promoted to join our Executive Committee – I was one of them! This successful initiative laid the groundwork for the evolution of our broader focus, on gender equity in particular, across the organisation, which led to the Women’s Accelerator Program; a development initiative designed to drive equity for female progression and diversity at all levels within the Group. 

Using appropriate pronouns is a first step toward respecting people’s gender identity and creating a more welcoming space for people of all genders.

What next?

I remain cautiously optimistic about the direction of travel for the next generation of diverse leaders. Now is the time for HR leaders to recommit to driving positive change and begin reaping the benefits of the higher performance that having a more diverse workplace undoubtedly delivers.

 

If you enjoyed this, read: Belonging: The forgotten tenet of diversity, equity and inclusion

 

 

 

 

 

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