Diverse and inclusive corporate cultures benefit everyone in an organization. A diverse range of employees provides companies with a diversity of ideas, skill-sets and insights. Diverse teams more accurately reflect the consumer population and are able to serve its needs better. So, you’d think diversity would be a top priority for all corporations. Yet many struggle to achieve truly diverse, inclusive cultures. That’s because companies have to do more than simply want a diverse culture in order to make it a reality – they have to take action to cultivate it. And that’s where many companies miss the mark.
I’m fortunate to work at an organization that has made diversity and inclusivity a true priority. As CFO of American Express Canada, I’m proud to say that women represent 61 per cent of our entire employee base and 56 per cent of our senior leadership team. And for the last three years, we’ve been recognized as one of Canada’s Top Diversity employers. We’ve attracted and retained a diverse pool of talent, and their diversity undoubtedly contributes to our success in the market.
But we didn’t get here by accident. We got here by applying a strategic, intentional approach. Led by the senior team at Amex, our approach is embraced by every single one of our colleagues. It’s embedded in the DNA of our company.
Our results are impressive, but they’re not the norm. As of this year, only 29 per cent of senior management roles are held by women globally, and that’s the highest number ever on record. In North America, the number is only slightly higher – 31 per cent.
So how can we do better?
Senior leaders have to buy in
Fostering diversity and inclusion must be a conscious decision for any organization. It’s critical that senior leaders strongly support those goals. As a woman leader of a global organization, I feel a responsibility to lead by example. Leaders must be vocal about their values. They need to encourage their teams to follow suit. And, most importantly, they need to take action.
If you’re a manager hiring for a new role, for example, it’s important that you have support from senior leaders if you require more time to find a candidate that better represents your diversity objectives.
Embed inclusivity in the company culture
In order to foster inclusion, diversity needs to be a high priority on the HR team’s agenda. From recruitment and hiring to internal policies and culture, organizations require an HR strategy that cultivates an inclusive workplace.
Amex has been able to achieve strong gender equality numbers because equality is a critical part of our corporate ethos. It’s valued by our senior leadership team, including HR.
Hold your organization accountable and put your money where your mouth is
How can organizations hold themselves accountable to an inclusive corporate culture? At Amex, under the leadership of our new CEO, we’ve implemented a new Leadership Model, which includes a list of leadership behaviors that will drive success in our business and how we lead. These behaviors underscore the company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity and highlight how diversity is embedded in the DNA of the company.
Fostering inclusivity also requires financial investment – investment in searching for talent and in programs that foster diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally.
Amex’s diversity and inclusion efforts are reflected in our Women at Amex program, which supports developing and advancing women in corporate Canada. Its goals are carried out internally at Amex, and promoted externally through programs such as Breaking Barriers, in partnership with The Globe and Mail.
It’s critical that people in leadership positions promote an inclusivity agenda with their teams, whether it’s through mentorship, sponsorship or internal and external programs that foster equality in the workplace.
It’s positive to see so many discussions about diversity and inclusion happening around the world. Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen overnight. To get there, we need more leaders in the space. So I challenge everyone reading this article to ask themselves, ‘How can I do better?’
Content produced by American Express Canada. The Globe and Mail was not involved in its creation.