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Article from the book Work in the Age of Data

The Power of Everyone: Why the Work Revolution Demands a Fresh Focus on Inclusion

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Most companies say they want an inclusive culture that values difference, but many struggle to achieve this. The work revolution presents new reasons to prioritize the pursuit of environments that work for all. Inclusion not only enables the broadest range of diverse ideas, talents, and experiences to find breakthrough solutions; it is also a key to addressing future skills, the ethical use of AI, the dislocation of work, heightened scrutiny of companies, and social good. With illustrative examples, the chapter also describes a comprehensive new approach for organizations to build inclusion internally and externally, to achieve better results for business and society.

The combination of digital disruption and environmental, political, and social upheaval is posing huge challenges for our world and our workplaces.

Under constant pressure to adapt to a fast-shifting landscape, no single company or business leader can address these challenges alone. Partnerships and collaboration across conventional boundaries are essential to access the widest possible range of perspectives and talents and find breakthrough solutions.

How can organizations ensure this collaboration happens across today’s diverse workforce? How can they count on people to contribute their unique skills and ideas willingly? How can they harness the “power of everyone” to meet the challenges ahead?

The well-documented benefits of diversity—for innovation, performance, and growth—cannot be achieved if work environments do not truly welcome and value it. Most organizations now recognize this, with over 70% of companies aspiring to have an inclusive culture that values difference, according to Deloitte.1

Yet it is apparent from news headlines that many companies still struggle to achieve basic equality and diversity goals, such as equal pay or gender-balanced leadership. Inclusion remains elusive, with research by The Conference Board finding that most companies are uncertain how to measure it.2 Without proper metrics, organizations cannot evaluate whether they are doing well or badly, or what they need to change.

Even recognized leaders in the field acknowledge that bold new approaches are needed. “Diversity without inclusion is a promise unfulfilled,” says Rohini Anand, head of corporate responsibility and global chief diversity officer at Sodexo, an international services company with 460,000 employees and a strong reputation for equality and inclusion. “There need to be more sophisticated ways to measure belonging, inclusion, and the impact on business outcomes. We need to use different strategies to have an impact, make a difference, and make this work more sustainable.”

Five New Reasons to Focus on Inclusion

To make inclusion a business priority, organizations have to understand why it can help them achieve their goals. It often takes a crisis—or the threat of one—to precipitate change. The work revolution, with its huge risks and opportunities, presents new reasons to invest time and energy in designing work environments that work for all.

The importance of inclusion has never been greater. Here are five reasons to pay attention to:

1. Future skills

The rise of smart machines threatens to replace many tasks done by humans, while holding out the prospect of new opportunities. As well as being digitally savvy, people will need strong interpersonal and cognitive skills to thrive alongside intelligent machines. Developing inclusive behavior in leaders, middle managers, and individual employees is a powerful way to spread these higher-level human skills across the workforce.

2. Ethics in artificial intelligence (AI)

AI brings risks as well as opportunities. Research and experience have demonstrated that it can reinforce discrimination and exclusion, unless there is deliberate intervention to avoid this. Inclusive processes must be built into how AI is developed and used, to prevent it going badly wrong. With careful forethought, and inclusive management of diverse design teams, AI can help humans to eliminate bias.

3. The dislocation of work

Digital communications enable many people to work anywhere, any time, without the need for a physical workplace community. While this is liberating for those with sought-after skills, it risks leaving others isolated and rootless. The “on-demand” workforce, on whom companies increasingly rely, covers a wide spectrum from prosperous free agents to cash-strapped workers juggling several jobs to make a living. Extending inclusive policies and practices to this increasingly fluid workforce, and creating a sense of community and purpose, is a way to cultivate trust, loyalty, and responsiveness.

4. Heightened scrutiny

The diversity of the workforce is a reality, yet discrimination and inequality persist. Social media have encouraged and amplified messages of hate, and at the same time enabled campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp to challenge harassment and other excluding behavior. This new level of transparency has increased pressure on companies—from investors, regulators, customers, and employees—to report on what they are doing to counter discrimination and promote inclusion, in the physical workplace and online.

5. Social good

The disruption caused by the work revolution demands system-wide solutions. Chief among these are economic and social responses to inequality and joblessness, such as the idea of a “universal basic income” to protect the most vulnerable and enable societies to keep functioning. Alongside such responses, or in the absence of them, organizations have an important role to play in bridging divides and fostering inclusion, both inside and beyond their boundaries. There is a strong business case for doing so, to increase reputation, talent attraction, and brand loyalty.

Let us look at each of these in more detail.

Future Skills

Inclusive behavior requires deliberate intent and continuous practice—to seek out different perspectives that challenge the “norm,” to take account of different thinking and working preferences, to ensure that conflict is constructive rather than destructive, and to collaborate across differences to create innovative solutions for the widest mix of end-users.

In its Future of Jobs Report 2018, the World Economic Forum said that more than half of all employees would need to learn new skills or significantly increase their existing skills over the next four years. It highlighted the importance of developing the soft skills that enable people to “leverage their uniquely human capabilities” in a world of smart machines.3 These skills include active learning, emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence, negotiation, flexibility, and complex problem-solving.

In its Future of Jobs Report 2018, the World Economic Forum highlighted the importance of developing the soft skills that enable people to “leverage their uniquely human capabilities” in a world of smart machines

Some companies are already investing in developing inclusive leadership behavior, such as emotional intelligence and social influence, at the senior executive level. This is important. But middle managers and the wider workforce need to develop these skills too.

In a 2019 LinkedIn survey of human resources professionals, more than 90% said that soft skills mattered as much as, or more than, hard skills when they are hiring. Moreover, 80% said these soft skills were increasingly important to company success.4

The survey of 5,000 talent specialists around the world highlighted three other big requirements for employers, in addition to developing soft skills:

– enabling work flexibility;

– preventing harassment;

– creating pay transparency.

Together, these four requirements reinforce the importance of ensuring that work environments are “open to all.” Exclusion costs companies money, through loss of talent, reduced motivation, wasted energy, and, ultimately, litigation, as well as external costs such as lost customers. Conversely, research shows that inclusive groups, in which everyone is able to contribute, and in which people pay attention to each other’s views, outperform those with lower “social intelligence.”5

Acknowledging the costs of exclusion, and recognizing the business benefits of inclusion, is a helpful first step to harnessing the power of everyone.

Ethics in Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence relies on large sets of data to detect patterns and make predictions. The data reflect human history, with all its inherent biases. Without careful thought and intentional action to avoid this, AI risks reinforcing or even worsening exclusion.

One example of what could go wrong, reported by Reuters, was an experimental recruiting tool that Amazon decided to scrap when it was found to discriminate against women. The hiring engine was rejecting women for technical posts because it was programmed to vet people based on patterns and words in the CVs of previous successful candidates, who were mostly men.6

Some companies are counting on machine learning to speed up their searches for candidates and determine who is “the best fit.” But there is a danger that teaching machines to search for certain traits, such as the speech patterns and body language of top performers, will lead to hiring the same type of people over and over. This in turn increases the risk of “groupthink”— when the desire of a group to conform leads to poor decisions.

Women, as well as some minority ethnic groups, are poorly represented in the technology profession, and this lack of diversity has implications for how products are developed and used, as the AI Now Institute at New York University points out. It has called on the tech sector to hire experts from fields such as law, medicine, education, ethics, and social science to better understand structural biases in society and workplaces.

In a recent research paper, it says: “Systems that use physical appearance as a proxy for character or interior states are deeply suspect, including AI tools that claim to detect sexuality from headshots, predict ‘criminality’ based on facial features, or assess worker competence via ‘micro-expressions.’”7

Companies introducing AI to assist decisions about people have a responsibility to ensure that it eliminates bias, rather than reinforcing it. A robust inclusion strategy ensures rigorous testing and monitoring of AI systems against unintended consequences in hiring, promotion, and how projects are assigned—as well as seeking out AI tools designed to detect and minimize bias.

BBVA-OpenMind-Alison-Maitland-El-poder-de-todos-inclusion-Office building in the heart of the financial district of the City of London
Office building in the heart of the financial district of the City of London

The Dislocation of Work

When Google ran a project codenamed “Aristotle” to discover what makes teams effective, it identified the following dynamics: team members feeling safe enough to take risks and show vulnerability, being dependable, having clear roles and goals, and having a sense of purpose and impact.8

How can we cultivate these dynamics in the new world of work? While connecting us more closely online, the digital revolution is also dislocating working life. Virtual teams working across cultures and time zones may rarely, if ever, meet face to face. Businesses contract out piecemeal tasks to the “human cloud”—millions of individual freelancers around the world—via online work platforms. The benefits of flexibility in the tech-enabled gig economy can be offset by the lack of a workplace community, the absence of career development, and the precarious nature of many jobs.

A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer appropriate for today’s workforce, if it ever was. To attract, motivate, and keep the workers they need, employers must develop a more holistic approach: respecting each person’s whole identity, and their distinct skills and work styles, while at the same time building supportive communities that respond to the human desire for belonging and purpose.

A comprehensive inclusion strategy will take account of the army of independent workers on whose services companies rely. Some may be well-paid consultants, while others may be struggling to get by as couriers or cleaners. These independent workers may also be the company’s customers, or potential future employees.

Exclusion costs companies money, through loss of talent, reduced motivation, wasted energy, and, ultimately, litigation, as well as external costs such as lost customers

The most innovative businesses are better at encouraging input from a wide range of external collaborators, as well as communicating the strategic importance of inclusion and holding employees accountable for helping to create the right kind of work environment, according to a study on diversity and inclusion and innovation by Rebekah Steele and Marjorie Derven.9

What opportunities is a company therefore missing by failing to extend its benefits, or failing to communicate fairly, to its growing external workforce? Could some of these independent workers be the ones to fill its future skills gaps? Could they have the ideas the company needs to break through to the next level of innovation?

Heightened Scrutiny

For a long time, it was easy for companies to brush aside issues such as the gender pay gap, poor training opportunities for older workers, or racial and sexual harassment at work. Online transparency and viral campaigns have hastened change. Pictures of all-white, all-male conference panels or management teams, for example, now risk instant condemnation or derision.

Transparency has empowered campaigners. Regulators and institutional investors are also stepping up demands on companies to demonstrate they have diverse boards, senior executive teams, and pipelines, and that their hiring, promotion, and pay practices are fair and transparent. Organizations are under growing pressure to spell out in public what they are doing on inclusion.

The workers of the future are eager for business leaders to be proactive in contributing to social goals, says Deloitte

There is a positive reason for businesses to embrace this transparency, as it leads to better decision-making and outcomes. Monitoring who is involved in decision-making processes can help avoid groupthink and improve business performance.

Cloverpop, a San Francisco-based enterprise decision platform, explains how it discovered and rectified flaws that left women out of almost half its decisions. The company says it was shocked when it looked at its own processes because it had expected to be “amazing” at inclusive decision-making.

“Instead, we found that only 56% of our decisions included women. In other words, we were decision software experts and below average decision-makers,” it says in a paper called “Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision Making.”10

Auditing its decisions revealed a number of reasons why women were left out, including that the CEO had omitted the CFO from some financial decisions because her husband was ill, and the company had no senior female engineers, which meant many technical decisions were made by a group of men. “But the biggest reason was that we were overconfident and unaware of the problem,” it says.

Hiring more women engineers, and carefully tracking decisions to ensure a diverse range of people was involved, made a difference within six months. The company says the increased inclusiveness of its decision-making led to higher revenues and productivity, faster innovation, and better understanding of the market.

BBVA-OpenMind-Alison-Maitland-El-poder-de-todos-inclusion-2
Demonstrators at the Women’s March on Washington hold up a photograph of the project Inside Out by French artist JR. The March was held on 21 January, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, in response to sexist comments made by the new president. It was described by the media as the largest protest since the Vietnam War

Social Good

Organizations are part of society, and their fortunes are bound up with the health of those societies. Amid the disruption created by technology, the climate emergency, and geopolitical upheaval, they have a responsibility as well as a vested interest to find new ways to bridge divides, address gaping inequities, and tackle intolerance.

This responsibility lies heavily with large companies, which wield enormous power and influence, for good or ill.

The biggest global companies accrue far greater revenues than the governments of most countries, according to figures compiled by Global Justice Now, a social justice organization. Comparing 2017 revenues, it found that sixty-nine of the top 100 economic entities were corporations, not governments. The top ten companies by revenue included Walmart, State Grid, Sinopec, China National Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and Toyota, each of whose revenues exceeded those of Russia, Belgium, India, and Switzerland.11

Multinational groups also dominate world trade, with the top 1% of exporting firms in each country accounting on average for more than half the country’s exports, according to the United Nations.12 Not surprisingly, big companies face increasing scrutiny, as shown by the record $5-billion fine that Facebook agreed with the US Federal Trade Commission in mid-2019 to settle data privacy violations.13

As it happens, there is currently a big opportunity for responsible companies that want to build trust and enhance their “social license to operate.” Disruptive times have diminished people’s faith that the system will work in their interests, and more people are turning to their employers to take a lead action on social and environmental issues. According to the widely watched Edelman Trust Barometer, 58% of employees now look to their employer—a relationship they see as within their control—to be a trustworthy source of information on contentious issues.

Moreover, 67% of employees expect prospective employers to join them in taking action on social issues, and 71% say it is critically important that their CEO responds to challenging times, says Edelman in its 2019 report. Over three-quarters of the general population want CEOs to take the lead on change, rather than waiting for governments to act.

Meeting these expectations offers sustained benefits to businesses. Employees who trust their organization are far more likely to advocate for it, and are more engaged, loyal, and committed than those who are more skeptical about their employer, says Edelman.

Other surveys point to similar benefits. The workers of the future are eager for business leaders to be proactive in contributing to social goals, says Deloitte.14

Young people want leaders to commit to making a tangible impact on the world, while also providing them with the skills to adapt to the latest wave of technological change. They feel greater loyalty to companies that encourage open communication, ideas from all employees, mutual support and tolerance, and a strong sense of purpose beyond financial success, according to another Deloitte study.15

These are all ingredients of an inclusive work environment.

Pictures of all-white, all-male conference panels or management teams, for example, now risk instant condemnation or derision

Inclusion Has No Borders

How can businesses seize this opportunity? One way is to use their voice to advance inclusion in society, just as some leading companies promote environmental sustainability. They can also hire or procure supplies from under-represented communities, develop products for under-served markets, support NGOs that are tackling exclusion, and promote dialog with shareholders on increasing returns on investment in inclusion.

These initiatives make a direct link between inclusion and diversity on the one hand, and corporate responsibility and sustainability on the other. This is fertile territory to explore for organizations that are genuinely ambitious about inclusion.

One example is a group of companies that are taking action on the global refugee crisis, seeing it as an opportunity to reap business benefits while doing good. Starbucks is one such company, having committed to hiring 10,000 refugees worldwide over five years. In the UK, it linked up with a leading charity, the Refugee Council, to offer refugees training in preparation for barista roles in its London coffee shops. Other companies to have pledged jobs for refugees around the world include Hissho Sushi, US yogurt maker Chobani, and global services provider Sodexo.16

Thousands of refugees fleeing violence and persecution have headed for Brazil in recent years, from countries like Syria, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela. Four years ago, Sodexo committed to hiring at least three refugees a month, building up the numbers over time. It worked with refugee resettlement agencies and produced practical guides for refugees and potential employers.

It also prepared “hearts and minds” among existing employees before the refugees arrived at work, explaining who was coming and what a refugee is, and reminding employees of the company’s commitment to inclusion.17

Teams that are made up of a broad mix of people have the potential to make better decisions and be more innovative than teams in which everyone is similar

This attention to the work environment is crucial. Teams that are made up of a broad mix of people have the potential to make better decisions and be more innovative than teams in which everyone is similar. But they can also experience higher rates of friction and turnover. Research shows that managers who develop inclusive, high-quality relationships with all members of the team can significantly cut employee churn by reducing misunderstandings and unhealthy conflicts.18 This saves hiring costs and supports diverse teams to achieve their potential to outperform.

There are other business benefits. Sodexo points to research showing that companies known to support refugees enjoy increased reputation, sales, and recruitment. In Brazil, it reports heightened morale and engagement in teams that have welcomed refugees. Refugees are often highly skilled, and able to transfer skills such as languages to other employees.

Sodexo has committed to hiring refugees in Sweden, the US, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy, says Rohini Anand. “We have an incredible opportunity to increase diversity in the workplace, and to address talent gaps while doing so. There’s evidence that refugees have higher retention rates. With our talent gaps, we’d like to do more with this population. The business outcome is our main driver.”

BBVA-OpenMind-Alison-Maitland-El-poder-de-todos-inclusion-3
An employee of the largest networking Web site for professionals walks out of one of the offices at LinkedIn Corp. headquarters in Mountain View, California

A Comprehensive Approach to Inclusion at Work

What is the starting point for organizations that want to build an ambitious inclusion strategy? One is to recognize that there is a challenge to address, and that addressing it probably requires the willingness to change, right at the top.

In a courageous article on LinkedIn, Michael Litt, cofounder and CEO of Canadian software company Vidyard, wrote about his desire to change the “brogrammer” culture in the company—a reference to the stereotypically masculine world of programmers. He said redressing the low representation of women in his executive team would require a serious self-reckoning.

“Looking back, we built Vidyard to tackle a customer problem with an engineering solution,” he wrote. “We did that by writing code and finding highly skilled people to help us fulfill our mission. These people, more often than not, were men. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that we ended up falling into the same ‘brogrammer’ patterns as so much of Silicon Valley.”

Describing the lessons his company had learned so far from its efforts to change, he said: “If every company is now a tech company, it’s due time we truly figured out how to make tech a more inclusive space.”19

Feeling the desire to change is a first step, but is not enough on its own. Cultivating inclusion at work frequently requires people to start acting differently, which can be uncomfortable or inconvenient. To make it easier to maintain this new behavior, organizations also have to create supportive signals and processes.

Too often, conventional approaches to diversity and inclusion lack these crucial structures and signposts to reinforce change. They take a narrow view that constrains their ability to achieve a lasting impact on the well-being of businesses, employees, and other stakeholders.

In response to these limitations and to companies’ frustration at the lack of progress, D&I strategist Rebekah Steele and I have extensively researched and designed a comprehensive approach that we call Inclusion IMPACT®.

Companies that count on machine learning to speed up their searches for candidates and determine who is “the best fit” risk teaching machines to search for certain traits, which can lead to hiring the same type of people over and over

Our method starts with asking organizations how inclusion can help achieve their business goals and desired impact. It involves comprehensive assessment of the current work environment to determine where change is needed.

It takes account of everyone—leaders, middle managers, individuals, and external stakeholders. Designing an inclusive work environment with everyone’s needs in mind, and with everyone’s participation, ensures that the broadest mix of people will benefit. We advocate taking account of people’s whole identities, rather than categorizing them by a single part of who they are, such as their gender, age, cultural origin, or sexual orientation.

To help organizations better understand the broad reach and impact of inclusion, we break this broad concept down into ten key ingredients—including trust, transparency, participation, shared purpose, and shared power—which must all be present.

Our approach addresses not only people’s perceptions of inclusion, and their actual behavior and actions, but also the whole organizational system. As well as creating new structures to support inclusion, we recommend that companies review existing processes that may hold up progress. Standard HR systems may, for example, hamper efforts to tailor roles to individuals, thereby excluding talented people who want to work differently and slowing a company’s adaptation to the diverse world of work. Contracts and performance metrics may be based on hours rather than agreed outcomes, preventing people from adopting alternative working patterns that are more productive.

There are often hidden organizational biases and assumptions, too, such as the still pervasive belief in some industries that people must work long hours to demonstrate commitment and ambition. Assumptions like these can block people’s career advancement unless they are exposed and addressed head-on.

In Brazil, Sodexo reports heightened morale and engagement in teams that have welcomed refugees. At the same time, refugees are often highly skilled, and able to transfer skills such as languages to other employees

While everyone is responsible for inclusion, our approach recognizes that leaders have additional responsibility. They must behave as role models of inclusion, and hold others accountable for doing the same. They must also ensure that the organization’s formal and informal processes promote inclusion.

Without transparent processes and clear signals, our experience is that people who are different from “the norm” are easily left out or overlooked, even if that is not the conscious intention. Without comprehensive structures in place, sustaining an environment that works for all will be difficult, if not impossible.

Case Study: How Virtual Reality Can Help Change Behavior

Behavioral change takes time, and can be bumpy. Leaders with power and privilege may think they represent the norm and see those who are different as somehow falling short of that norm. They may be blind to how their behavior disempowers others.

Some organizations are using Virtual Reality (VR) as a way to learn inclusive skills fast through users experiencing what it is like to be someone different, or to be on the receiving end of excluding behavior.

At PwC’s London headquarters, I experienced a VR scenario the firm developed for a financial services client that wanted to address low engagement, high staff turnover, and poor performance in one of its divisions. First, I sat in the seat of a woman middle manager in a tense meeting with her bullying male boss. Then I experienced being her junior male colleague as she channeled her stress and frustration into belittling him. I felt anger and disbelief at the male boss who ignored everything that “I” (the woman) said, and spent most of the meeting on his smartphone. I felt dismay as the behavior then cascaded down to “me” (her direct report). I wanted to escape this toxic environment—as did the junior employee. In the VR scenario, he leaves for a better job at a competitor company, triggering a serious inquest at the management committee meeting into staff turnover and missed targets in the bullying boss’s department.

What was the reaction to the VR experience at the client company? Raw emotion, initial denial, and shock that this was how staff perceived leaders.

“If you can make people feel deeply uncomfortable through VR and give them an emotional response, there are lots of ways you can use this for inclusion,” says Brenda Trenowden, a partner in PwC UK’s people consulting practice and Global Co-Chair of the 30% Club, which campaigns for more women on boards. “This is about up-skilling people. If you’re not a forward-thinking manager, it’s going to be much harder for you to manage the workforce of the future.”

To envisage a more inclusive future, we cannot rely on our brains alone. Inclusion has to be lived and breathed. My experience is that part of the answer, at least, lies in messages and actions that connect us to our common humanity

Messages That Move Us

Harnessing the power of everyone needs everyone to be on board for change. Inclusion impacts everyone to a greater or lesser extent, and it is everyone’s responsibility. To make that happen, people need to see what is in it for them—and that may be different for leaders, middle managers, and individual workers. Communications must cater for these different constituents. For some, it may be the business advantage, or enhanced reputation with competitors, that matters, while for others it may be the sense that they are helping to make the world a better place.

To envisage a more inclusive future, we cannot rely on our brains alone. Inclusion has to be lived and breathed. What does it feel like? What moves us to trust people who are very different from us, to experience compassion and connection with them? What motivates us to share ideas, to listen, and to combine our perspectives to achieve outcomes that will probably amaze us?

My experience is that part of the answer, at least, lies in messages and actions that connect us to our common humanity. “All That We Share” is a short video made by TV2, a Danish government-owned television channel, which went viral in 2017. You can watch it here.20 The film, which promotes inclusive programming in divisive times, is itself one of the most shared advertisements ever. Justin Trudeau, Ellen DeGeneres, and Richard Branson are among the influencers who sent it to their followers.

The ad’s simple but powerful message is this: we put other people in boxes, based on our kneejerk reactions. Are they like us or not? Are they friendly or threatening? Are they powerful or pitiable? We make rapid assumptions that may be completely wrong. When we are willing to meet the whole person behind our caricature of them, we find we have more in common than we think.

The story of “All That We Share” demonstrates how companies can achieve their business goals and benefit from a big boost to their brand and reputation by embracing the power of everyone. According to the creators, media coverage of the advert around the world generated PR worth about $100 million for TV2. Within a few months of release, over two-thirds of Danes were familiar with the station’s message. Viewers translated it into more than thirty languages. Each time people in another region of the world began sharing the film, this revived attention in Denmark.21

The marketing narrative was experimental and bold. But what is crucial here is that it was not just a “nice to do.” It arose directly out of a new strategy of inclusive programming and was a test of whether that strategy would succeed with viewers. TV2 connected its purpose—to be a channel for everyone—with its strategy and its advertising output. And the results were staggering.

Building Coalitions for Faster Progress

Given the scale of the challenges that organizations face, they are likely to make faster progress through collaboration. This is also a powerful way to demonstrate collective leadership. Coalitions for change make it easier for companies to hold themselves and each other to account.

Here is an example from the technology sector, the industry that is shaping and influencing the future of work more than any other. For all its promise, the industry risks being held back, and making mistakes, because of the lack of diversity that I have highlighted in its leadership and workforce. For example, women make up only 26% of the computing workforce, and hold only 5% of leadership roles in the technology industry.

In early 2019, a coalition of tech CEOs wrote an open letter to every leader in the tech sector, published in the Financial Times, calling on men to take responsibility for accelerating gender equality.22

The Male Champions of Change Global Technology Group advocates a strategy of systemic change, identifying ten areas for action, both inside and beyond their companies. These include workforce solutions such as closing the gender pay gap and making all roles flexible, as well as societal interventions such as tackling everyday sexism and taking action on domestic violence.

There is a clear business case for the sector to attract talent from a wider pool, increase innovation through diverse perspectives, and better serve its customers. But the group recognizes that tech leaders can only make change by touching hearts as well as heads. They committed to “listen, learn, and lead through action,” which requires openness and vulnerability. And they demonstrated a wider social purpose by their willingness to contribute to gender equality across society as a whole.

Others are also beginning to forge links between inclusion, on the one hand, and social and environmental sustainability, on the other. B Corp is a community of nearly 3,000 companies in sixty-four countries that are committed to balancing “purpose and profit” and using business as a force for good. Their focus is on sustainability. In a recent blog, Ryan Honeyman, author of The B Corp Handbook, said B Corp companies now had to get serious about diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI). “Siloing DEI into something separate is one of the main barriers facing our movement to create a more equitable society,” he wrote.23

Combining these two—inclusion and sustainability—as central pillars of business strategy is likely to be a defining principle of responsible companies in the future.

In Conclusion

Organizations that place inclusion at the heart of business strategy are developing the skills their people need to thrive in the new world of work. They are forging stronger links with employees and with the growing independent workforce, as well as with customers, investors, suppliers, regulators, and other external stakeholders. They are making a smart choice to enhance business performance and growth.

They are also better placed to make interventions to bridge divides, enhance human connectedness, counter exclusion, and draw on collective wisdom in pursuit of innovative solutions to our most pressing challenges.

For businesses, harnessing “the power of everyone” builds trust and reputation and promotes sustainable results. For societies, whose health and prosperity are threatened by inequality and division, the prize is even greater.

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