2015 was a seminal year for gender diversity in the workplace; Lord Davies’ 25% women on boards target was met for the first time; there were continued efforts to address the issue from the likes of the World Economic Forum – whose research around the gender pay gap reignited a much-needed debate around the issue of pay equality; and public figures such as Martha Lane Fox publicly called on the government to get more women into the digital economy.
Yet while undoubtedly progress has been made at the upper echelons of UK businesses, the reality is that that these efforts have yet to be reflected in many of the UK’s workplaces, with the majority of senior level roles within organisations still being held by men, and women continuing to be under-represented in the STEM sector. Clearly, there’s still a job to be done before businesses across the UK achieve real and long-lasting diversity. That’s why here at O2 one of our key priorities for 2016 will be to encourage even more businesses to take concrete measures to improve workplace diversity – and here’s why.
"No employer wants a workforce made up of clones"
At O2 our 25 million customers aren’t just one homogenous group, they’re a reflection of our increasingly diverse society. If we are to serve them best it’s crucial that our workforce reflects this vibrant and diverse customer base – and this is true for all businesses, big and small.
But having a diverse workforce isn’t just about ensuring your business reflects its customers’ values – it’s also about creating happier and more productive teams. Working with people with different passions, skills and views can play a vital role in ensuring employees feel intellectually stimulated, challenged to think outside the box, and come at problem-solving from a wider variety of perspectives.
At the end of the day, it’s about long term employee satisfaction. This is as true for the tech sector as for any other discipline – and it’s something we’ve been able to witness first hand at O2. Our Digital division, for example, have told us several times how a more conscious and proactive approach to attracting diverse teams has created a very different and positive team atmosphere compared to homogenous teams. Having diverse team relies on women having the confidence and drive to go for that next step up.
This informed our decision to launch our Women in Leadership programme a few years ago – with the aim of giving the ambitious women within our organisation the support they need to reach the top, and thus ensure all our teams are made up of a diverse range of talent throughout O2.
Furthermore, we also know that being able to showcase a real commitment to creating an open and inclusive workplace is vital for any business wishing to attract a wider pool of talent. This is particularly important in today’s digital world, in which recruiting young digital natives – whether male or female – with the natural skills and potential to fill the digital skills gap has become essential for any business’ survival.
This millennial generation has high expectations of employers, and if businesses wish to both attract and retain that unique talent they must be able to showcase their commitment to supporting all their employees – regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, background, sexual identity, parenting or caring responsibilities.
That’s why in 2016 we as business leaders need to turbo charge our efforts to create workplace diversity.
Only by putting support networks in place to ensure that all employees feel nurtured and empowered to do their best work will we be able to prepare our businesses for the future, while boosting productivity and profitability.