The missing piece of the puzzle! I’ve always loved jigsaw puzzles, they are intriguing, complicated, exciting, and a great way to disconnect from technology and reconnect with myself. But up until recently, a 500 piece Caribbean Cultural Jigsaw puzzle had me “puzzled.” There were two identical pieces sitting on my coffee table that didn’t seem to fit. I tried looking at it from a different angle, dismantling and repositioning the section where it should be, and NOTHING!
Have you ever felt like you don’t fit? Like somehow you’re the piece of the puzzle that doesn’t belong? It’s not you; it’s the system that’s broken. A system that says there is a perceived way that you should act and look to be considered a leader – male and white.
And sadly, there is data to support this; women continue to be significantly underrepresented in the C-Suite:
- LGBTQ Women 0.6% (source)
- Latino Women 4.3% (source)
- Black Women 4.0% (source)
- Asian Women 2.5% (source)
Wait, there’s more! To add insult to injustice, research has shown that physical attributes such as height, attractiveness, fitness, and tone of voice impact the perception of what some people consider leadership material.
Even though, by definition, a leader is a person who guides or directs a group and can lead and influence others, the idea of who can be a leader is largely skewed by the very system that created it. Leadership should not come down to attractiveness, race, or gender.
Leadership is multifaceted; it looks, acts, and sounds different and should not be limited in how it shows up in business and the workplace.
So, let’s look at the problems with having few women and women of color in leadership and why gender diversity is better for everyone.
It’s Just Good Business
Companies with one-third of women in management had a 25.6 percent annual return, so it stands to reason that having women in your C-Suite just makes perfect financial sense.
As younger generations begin occupying more space in the workforce and marketplace their actions indicate they develop brand loyalty for brands whose values align with their own. An organization that demonstrates strong diversity and inclusion values and policies buy themselves goodwill with their audience, which may positively impact their bottom line.
Moreover, having a diverse organization means an opportunity to hear new perspectives, new voices, and new approaches to providing solutions. Not only does it perpetuate growth, but it may prevent public backlash and controversy such as H&M’s 2018 ‘monkey t-shirt’ debacle.
Representation matters, and when we say representation, we’re not just talking about one token minority woman. To have one woman speaking on behalf of 52 % of the population means women’s voices and contributions aren’t being heard. The old ways of doing business will continue at the expense of innovation and creativity.
Attract & Retain Great Talent
Let’s be honest; we’re in the age of the Great Resignation. As the workforce develops more agency and implements more boundaries, recruiters find it difficult to recruit top-tier talent, and companies find it difficult to hold on to top performers. In fact, a study that Glassdoor conducted found that whether or not a company embodied diversity could be the make or break factor for talent wanting to work for a company. 76 % of job seekers reported that diversity and inclusion were the key deciding factors for evaluating companies and job offers. Therefore, we can conclude that it augurs well for a company to build diversity and inclusion policies and stand by and embody them as well. Glassdoor
Let’s quickly recap. There are many reasons for companies to become more diverse and inclusive, including the fact that it makes good financial sense, provides the representation we need to create platforms for creativity and inclusion, and leads to employee recruitment and retention. As we acknowledge these benefits, we also acknowledge that there is still a way to get where we need to be.
It’s my hope that with the Great Resignation comes a unique opportunity to dismantle this system that perpetuates biases and re-envision how we characterize leadership.
- leadership is a black woman with natural hair
- leadership a woman with Maori face Markings on television
- leadership is a 74-year-old black fashion model
- leadership is the entrepreneur building a successful business by bootstrapping
- leadership is all of us
When we define leadership as just looking or acting one specific way, we are missing out on great leaders all around us, and ways to propel our society forward. This is what great leaders look like.
Solita C. Roberts | Image Coach, Helping Black women show up authentically in the workplace, Speaker, Podcast Guest, LinkedIn Creator Accelerator Program Alumni, Personal Stylist, Workshop Facilitator