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NGO Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives – Advancing Opportunities for Women

A woman making a more diverse workforce

Over the last few decades, many companies have realized the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives. After the market crash in 2008, many attributed its downfall to groupthink and a lack of diversity. As such, many companies began purposefully recruiting women and individuals of color in order to achieve diversity targets. Many have hired or appointed chief diversity officers as well. But despite these efforts, shortcomings persist. A lack of inclusion of women in leadership positions as well as racial monitories remains. According to one organization, the inability to see lasting improvements involves how these companies approach the issue. And based on their results over the past decade, they have proof to back it up.

The 30% Club was a campaign that was launched in the United Kingdom in 2010. As its name implies, the target was an inclusion of women in leadership positions exceeding 30% of corporate boards. By introducing a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives, slow progress was made over the last decade. And in 2019, the 30% Club was able to realize its goals within the UK. Given its success, it’s worth taking a deeper dive into this non-governmental organization’s (NGO) approach. If businesses could replicate these strategies in more comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives, broader changes might occur. And as statistics show, such accomplishments are beneficial to everyone, including the company’s bottom line.

“The broken rung on the ladder is that men get promoted on potential whereas women are judged on experience so far.  That has to change at all levels, and mentoring and sponsorship is a powerful way to fix that.” – Sheryl Sandberg, prior COO of Meta

Key Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives for the 30% Club

The name of the 30% Club was one that was chosen based on research data. According to several studies, companies attaining diversity levels of 30% or more are the ones that truly thrive. By focusing on the inclusion of women in leadership as well as other marginalized groups, creativity and innovation excel. In fact, companies with gender diversity are 15% more likely to beat average performance standards. Thus, when the founders launched the NGO, they believed achieving a 30% diversity target offered major advantages. And while it took about a decade to achieve this in the UK, it’s clear their approach is an effective one.

The initial strategy involved seeking out corporate leaders of many of the major companies in the UK. After the Great Recession, many CEOs wanted to pursue diversity and inclusion initiatives. Therefore, the timing was ideal. The founders of the 30% Club stressed the importance of mentoring and training women as part of their approach. But interestingly, male mentors would connect with female mentees at different companies. This allowed for a more open and transparent interaction that was mutually beneficial. Not only did mentees gain important knowledge that led to the inclusion of women in leadership. But mentors also learned a great deal about women’s experiences related to discriminations and biases.

“It is such a privilege as a leader to listen to your mentee and not feel judged, because they are from another organization. I took back so many learnings and an increased motivation to support diverse talent.” – Nick Owen, Former Chair at Deloitte

Success in Women’s Inclusion Just a Start

Without question, the 30% Club has made a big impact on the inclusion of women in leadership spots. The 2018 class, which involved 1,000 women, saw 47% promoted within three years. Likewise, 70% of attendees reported greater confidence and empowerment, with most seeing less bias and greater networking opportunities. On a larger scale, the organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives have resulted in 40% of corporate boards now being women. And despite having only eight companies join the club in 2010, over 680 companies now participate. This includes businesses in over 30 sectors and in 50 different countries.

A woman adding some diversity to a company
Non-governmental organizations are better suited to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives–especially when it comes to putting more qualified women into leadership roles.

While these are remarkable achievements, the 30% Club now hopes to expand their efforts in other directions. The most recent project among its diversity and inclusion initiatives is called “Mission Include.” Instead of just targeting the inclusion of women in leadership, this initiative focuses on other groups experiencing discriminations. Currently, women of color represent only 4% of Fortune 500 companies’ C-suites. And the number of women of color as CEOs can be counted on a single hand. The founders of the 30% Club also recognize the same types of discriminations against all ethnic minorities and those with disabilities. This is currently where additional efforts are being planned for the future.

(Business has an age-discrimination problem–read more in this Bold story.)

“We’ve taken all the low-hanging fruit. To get more women into CEO, COO and CFO jobs we have to break longstanding views. These are difficult decisions which involve breaking strong male friendships and networks to push it forwards.” – Alison Kay, UK&I Managing Partner for Client Service, Ernst & Young Global Limited

A Long-Term Win-Win for All

When it comes to the inclusion of women in leadership, statistics demonstrate such efforts provide clear advantages. Diverse companies have 2.3X more cash flow per employee on average compared to non-diverse ones. Likewise, such companies also enjoy a 19% higher revenue production on average as well. Similarly, in the current climate where talent supply is constrained, diversity and inclusion initiatives are attractive. More that 75% of employees seek out companies focused on diversity and equity as their preferred choice. Each of these are practical reasons why businesses should invest in these pursuits.

It is important to appreciate the success of organizations like the 30% Club. The organizations approach was one where companies voluntarily chose to join the diversity and inclusion initiatives. This strategy is much more effective than diversity mandates because companies tend to be more engaged and invested. As is evident today, the vision of the 30% Club highlights the importance of taking a long-term approach to the issue. Progressively, they have achieved greater inclusion of women in leadership positions. And the same approach will likely help make lasting gains for other marginalized groups as well. As more and more companies appreciate the value of these efforts, perhaps greater diversity, equity and inclusion will be the norm.


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