In her bestselling book You Do You(ish), TEDx speaker and career coach, Erin Hatzikostas, wrote: “Stop seeing it as office politics and start seeing it as office partnerships.”
Such a sentiment is borne out by research by the organisation Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF), who as part of their strategic plan have a Men As Allies strand, recently tasked with finding potential steps to take to improve gender balance in the office.
The business case for gender balance in leadership roles is compelling. As McKinsey’s 2018 study Delivering Through Diversity showed, companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
Well go figure! Long ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton, no less, said: “When women participate in the economy everyone benefits.”
New research by LSE and WIBF has shone more light on this subject. Interviews with 79 City of London women revealed that they felt they needed to show sustained excellence in order to progress; faced more scrutiny than male peers; and mediocre male managers were blocking their development because they were more adept at office politics.
A quarter of the women in the survey were black who said they needed to work harder to receive the same recognition as men and white women. McKinsey’s 2018 study also found that for ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability. This confirms that diversity is correlated to financial performance.
A shift must happen. Board rooms and senior leadership teams need to be more representative to help inspire future generations of talent by building in diversity from the ground up. It will help dispel workplace toxicity.
There are a number of different strategies that can also be adopted, including sourcing talent from diverse educational institutions; rethinking essential requirements in job descriptions to avoid deterring applicants; and working with recruiters or talent sourcing companies with shared values.
A workplace with an underlying culture of discrimination is storing up trouble. It will be difficult to recruit and retain talent and attract and keep business, investment or customers. Mediocre managers, male or female, fuel the fire. They create barriers to open communication and inclusivity when employees should be able to speak up, share their views, offer ideas, be valued, recognised and rewarded, which engenders a positive company culture – but only if leadership acts on it. Peer to peer recognition is also statistically proven to have a positive effect on employee performance and happiness.
Earlier this year Wrkit, spoke to a female business leader about her experience. She advised mentoring between genders and female-female to unlock impact and create alliances. She concluded: “Leaders, whether male or female, need to open the doors wider to give women that chance to prove themselves. When we do this more often, I believe the culture will be enriched for our doing so.”