One of the fundamental reasons diversity in middle management and leadership levels is crucial is because of its potential to foster a broader range of perspectives and ideas. When leaders come from diverse backgrounds, they bring unique insights and experiences
that can challenge the status quo, plus question assumptions. This diversity of thought can lead to more effective decision-making, increased adaptability, and a better understanding of diverse customer bases.
Given that the above is proven with data which has made diversity and inclusion initiatives become largely mainstream movements in most organizations the fact still remains that as we go higher up along organizational hierarchies, at middle and senior management
levels there is a decline in diversity representation. And this phenomenon is not local to any specific geography but mostly a global issue that can be supported by data. While we may quite naturally attribute the reasons of such anomalies to - inefficient
hiring processes, stereotypical thinking, cultural biases etc... I personally feel that one crucial factor contributing to this challenge is the lack of equity, that in a way often undermines efforts to build diverse middle management and leadership teams.
To comprehend the connection between equity and diversity, it is crucial to distinguish between the two concepts. While diversity commands representation of various demographics, such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and differential-abilities,
within an organization. Equity, on the other hand, focuses on ensuring fairness, justice, and impartiality in how opportunities, resources, and support are distributed and allocated to individuals.
Recently I had an opportunity to hear
Bhavana Issar (Founder CEO - Caregiver Saathi) at a NASSCOM conference. While conveying her point on why women tend to drop out of careers she mentioned that "every human passes through the stages of being care-givers today to become care-receivers tomorrow..
Data is a proof that globally 80% of people caregiving at any point of time are women. So we have at least one answer to why women drop off mid career. Because at some point they opt to take up care giving" .
What a powerful thought supported with data. For a moment if we were keep all other reasons aside, in this data we have at least one of the most significant answer to why women drop off mid career. Because at some point they opt for take up care-giving.
For the benefit of who? The families and the societies of which we are an integral part. Therefore when we take up the responsibility to be more inclusive towards women embracing equity, in a way we are acknowledging the reality behind gender dropouts.
For a moment let's consider the same case in hand and visualize them coming back to work after a break in care-giving. Isn't it natural that they would be needing differential resource allocation within a setup to come up the knowledge and skill curve in
a fast changing environment, to reach a level where they will be able to meet the challenges at work and be at par with the rest? The answer is an obvious YES and that is where EQUITY steps in.
On the contrary - the absence of equity in organizations hamper the progress towards building fair and inclusive workplaces. Organizations therefore must recognize the importance of addressing these issues and take concrete steps to promote equity. By fostering
an inclusive environment, challenging biases, and implementing equitable policies and practices, organizations can create a future where fairness and equitable opportunities become a norm.
CHALLENGES IN THE PATH.
Understanding the essence of equity can be a complex and multifaceted challenge. Several factors contribute to why equity is not fully understood or effectively integrated into organizational practices.
The foremost is LACK OF AWARENESS AND REALIZATION: Many within organizations may not fully understand the distinction between equality and equity. While equality aims to treat everyone the same, equity starts with first acknowledging that individuals have
different starting points and need different resources and support to achieve equal outcomes. Without deep-rooting the foundational understanding of equity, organizations may inadvertently perpetuate systemic biases and inequalities.
LIMITED DIVERSITY AT MIDDLE MANAGEMENT LEVELS : Organizations that lack diverse representation at mid manager levels may struggle to comprehend the nuances of equity. Homogenous leadership teams or a lack of diverse voices in decision-making processes, can
create blind-spots, feed in to lack of awareness of equity, and thereby hinder the understanding of different perspectives and experiences. .
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE: Implementing equity-focused practices often requires a shift in organizational culture, policies, and processes. This change can be met with resistance, as it challenges established norms and power dynamics. Some individuals within
organizations may resist equity measures due to a fear of losing privilege or perceiving it as preferential treatment. Creating a sense of shared ownership and emphasizing on the position of privilege where people can be to help embrace equity may be the only
viable way to dilute this resistance to change.
LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY: Without clear accountability measures, organizations may struggle to enforce equity principles consistently. Even lack of mechanisms to measure progress can undermine efforts to achieve equity. Establishing metrics, regularly assessing
and reporting on equity initiatives, and holding leaders and managers accountable are crucial steps in creating a culture of equity.
COMPLEX ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES: Organizations with complex hierarchies, multiple departments, and decentralized decision-making processes may find it challenging to ensure equity across all levels and divisions. Structural barriers, such as limited access
to resources or promotion opportunities, can contribute to the absence of equity. Streamlining processes and fostering collaboration through centralized leadership on DEI must be engraved in the DNA of large entities.
LACK OF RESOURCES: Implementing equity-focused initiatives may require additional resources, including financial investments and dedicated staff. Organizations with limited budgets or competing priorities may find it difficult to prioritize equity-related
efforts. However, understanding the long-term benefits of equity, such as improved employee engagement, retention, and innovation, can help justify the allocation of resources.
In SUMMARY - To build an equitable future and to address the absence of equity in organizations, a multi-faceted approach is necessary. It may start with leadership commitment , however its more important to ensure that the philosophy of
equity is understood across organizational frontline management who would then commit to actively champion and prioritize equity initiatives.