Sydney’s elite private school scene is currently dogged by controversy over boys' behavior from some of the boys-only schools towards girls.
Part of the explanation is that single-sex education is to blame. How can teenage boys be expected to behave normally around girls when they are educated in separate institutions?
With this in mind, some of the boys’ schools — which have been single-sex schools for around a century — are now pondering a move to co-education, upending years of tradition.
And it’s not just the student population that is the focus. The torch has also been on the boards at some of these schools, with analysis showing a complete lack of gender diversity, which is also a contributing factor to the deeper institutional malaise.
Diversity is the main issue
The broader issue, of course, is one of diversity, as much as in the classroom as in the business environment.
While Sydney’s private schools wrestle with the issue, leading corporates are taking the lead. Last week, for example, global investment benchmarking firm MSCI poached its Chief Diversity Officer from banking giant JP Morgan.
In appointing Tia Counts to the position, MSCI chief human resources officer Scott Crum said she would be “responsible for building our brand for inclusion and diversity, helping the firm embed diversity and inclusion in the way we do business as well as attract and retain the best talent.”
The push for diversity is a reminder that people are at the heart of organizations. They are the ones operating and using the technology and making the decision on digital transformation.
Perhaps, a more diverse workforce will create a different culture and make different decisions, even about technology.
Indeed, employees are demanding more diversity in the workplace and social engagement from their employers.
A 2018 Gartner study found that 74% of employees expect their employer to take a stance on social issues, even if those issues have nothing to do with their employer.
At the same time, there is a concern that as business leaders struggle with the challenges of the pandemic, that diversity issues will fall off the priority list.
Another Gartner survey found that only 2% of HR leaders identified diversity, on its own, as their number one priority in the light of the pandemic. However, underrepresented groups have been disproportionately impacted by its impact.
Is diversity a distraction?
Just as organizations commit to doing more on diversity, there is a danger of a lack of follow-through. They focus on other areas such as cost-cutting, staff freezes, and engaging a temporary workforce.
This is despite expectations from stakeholders, including employees, that more should be done with mounting evidence that a more diverse workforce is a better performing workforce and drives better business outcomes.
Gartner's research finds that a diverse workforce increases performance by 12% and a desire for employees to stay by 20%.
At companies where diversity and inclusion are integrated, 33% of employees and 43% of HR leaders say their company outperformed industry peers over the last three years.
For those who did not integrate diversity, just 17% of employees and 23% of HR leaders believed their company was an outperformer.
The trend is similar in terms of engagement. At companies that embrace diversity, 55% of employees are highly engaged, and 41% of HR leaders believe they have a highly engaged workforce.
Among companies not incorporating diversity, only 17% of employees say they are highly engaged, and 0% of HR leaders believe they have a highly engaged workforce.
Technology’s role in easing diversity pains
So, the results are in, and they are unequivocal. And in getting there, technology can play a role, beginning with talent acquisition and recruitment technologies as AI helps cut out bias.
Then there are diversity tools that boost engagement because they are centered around the employee experience, communication, and individual empowerment.
Embracing intelligent automation can play a role in closing gender and racial pay gaps and help eliminate disparities in benefits.
Many organizations are implementing recognition platforms, and these can be transformative for culture and engagement.
Once again, a good platform will cut out bias and help ensure that employees across the board are fairly rewarded, rather than those who are at the fore because they have the loudest voice.
These can be exciting times for organizations as they dynamically transform their culture, often with the help of digital tools.
To go back to the private school analogy, it might be time to bury the “old school tie” for good and get on with creating the diverse and inclusive workforce of the future.
Lachlan Colquhoun is the ANZ correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/Ljupco