In the business arena today, local no longer exists – we live in an interconnected, globalised world where companies must think on an international scale. As companies realise the need to develop globally, diversity in the workplace becomes an integral component in creating and sustaining a competitive edge. Responding to these changes requires businesses to analyse and reassess ways in which they recruit and retain their staff.
This issue of diversity within companies and across industries has been the subject of much recent press coverage and discussion. The Forbes Insight survey on ‘Global Diversity and Inclusion’ found that diversity fosters innovation and attracts high calibre graduates, a conclusion that is interesting when considered alongside the International Accounting Bulletin’s (IAB) more focused probe into diversity in our own profession. The survey reveals some both expected and surprising stats and highlights the fact that, despite great changes over the last decade, the numbers of women at partner level still remain too low to provide true diversity.
Over the course of my career I have been asked several times about being a woman in the workplace. I used to believe there was no fundamental difference between men and women in business. Recently, over time and with experience, I have come to appreciate that there is an intrinsic difference in working styles and in how both genders approach tasks such as management and problem solving. And these differences are neither negative nor positive – they are simply differences.
A truly diversified workplace can create high value for a business. Looking beyond gender, into ethnicity and age, the stronger organisations are those that are forged through contrasting outlooks, values, opinions and creativity.
How do you achieve the right balance? The answer to this question will vary by organisation and by country. As with most things in international business, different countries will have differing opinions on what balance is right for them. Finding this level and developing a culture where diversity is sought and utilised is not an easy task for any organisation but, given the growing consensus amongst analysts and commentators that it encourages company innovation and vision, it is perhaps a worthwhile ambition. And with the current economic climate, every business needs to be as innovative as possible.