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Macro and micro… not the economy but the importance of messages

posted 30 Nov 2011, 07:13 by Ines Wichert
Progress against Lord Davies’ voluntary targets for women on boards has been disappointing since they were set in February this year. Six months in, just 33 percent of FTSE 100 companies have set specific goals for raising the percentage of women on boards. Of those that did, many have set targets of 10 percent and lower – hardly an ambitious goal – given Lord Davies’ original target of 25 percent by 2015 – but at least a target. For, as the old adage goes ‘what gets measured, gets done’ or at least it stands a much better chance of getting done.

Recent Catalyst and Opportunity Now Awards, for diversity and inclusion, have highlighted the fact that organizations  who have managed to increase the senior management diversity have received strong CEO support and senior management commitment. But it’s not only about officially stating the organization’s support for inclusive leadership in front of a rolling camera. It’s also about making sure that informal micro-messages from senior and middle management are just as supportive.

In her keynote speech at the BPS Conference about Diversity in the Workplace (London, September 2011), Stella Nkomo said that these micro-messages are not to be underestimated. She talked about the importance of these informal messages in the context of a manager directly saying to a woman, or a black man – “you are valued in this organisation, we want you here”.

Lord Davies next progress report is not expected until March/April of next year. With growing evidence that more gender diversity at the top is linked to increased organizational performance, will the bleak economic outlook spur CEOs and chairmen into action or will it side-line gender diversity and inclusive leadership as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an integral part of weathering the storm? What micro-messages are currently being exchanged in senior management meetings when diversity and inclusion are discussed, I wonder?