Elizabeth Scott, EY director and co-lead for the firm’s north west women’s network, says firms should include everyone...
Our recent EY event in the run up to International Women’s Day reinforced the wealth of female business talent we have here in Greater Manchester.
Across all levels and sectors, there’s a strong pipeline of gifted women, which bodes well for the future gender balance of the workforce and boardrooms across the north west.
This is largely down to companies gradually embracing initiatives like women’s networks and formal mentoring programmes, as well as delivering on equal pay promises.
There is still work to be done, but the region is on the right track.
However, the overriding issue isn’t gender, it’s diversity, and how companies in the region can be more inclusive while creating competitive advantage.
If businesses are committed to finding talent, the same focus placed on gender needs to be extended to ethnicity, age, sexuality and background.
There is an obvious business case for diversity. Aside from being viewed as fair and just, embracing diversity and creating an inclusive culture improves employee motivation, loyalty and productivity, reduces turnover of people, and can enhance reputation and relationships with customers.
However, the most important factor for companies lies in access to the widest spectrum of talent and what the sum of that talent can deliver.
People who are alike tend to think alike and inevitably get stuck in the rut of ‘same solution, different day’.
Adding different voices helps make sure firms don’t stifle creativity and lose competitive advantage.
Diversity brings different personal perspectives and life experiences.
With these come creativity, flexibility and different approaches to problems.
Against an increasingly complex business backdrop – where companies deal with a range of problems, sectors, international markets and people, these different approaches are very valuable to businesses in Manchester.
Meanwhile, as the economy continues to expand and northern businesses help to play their part in rebalancing the UK economy, diversity should remain at the forefront of growing firms’ thinking.
They need to create and retain the highest performing teams in this competitive regional recruitment market.
So, how can businesses in Greater Manchester create cultures to harness the benefits of diversity?
Making flexible working the norm, rather than the exception, is one way to encourage diversity.
By empowering people to make more choices about how, when and where they work, companies can have happier, more productive and diverse workforces.
Internal or external professional networks are also important.
These help to promote awareness of diversity, provide support, guidance and personal development opportunities for their members, attract talent, provide opportunities to connect with potential customers; and challenge firms to ensure inclusive practices become ‘business as usual’.
Monitoring and enforcing equal pay and opportunities is obviously vital, but so is inclusive leadership.
Training business leaders to make sure everyone’s opinions are heard can help to support diversity, and this is something we’re doing at EY.
In the post-downturn environment when companies in Manchester are focusing on growth, diversity should be a business imperative.
By concentrating on inclusiveness, firms can create diverse, high performing teams, which are not only equal and fair, but help to realise competitive advantage.
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