I think we can all agree that any job should be assigned to the best person for that job. This means that nobody should really pay any attention to gender, sexual inclination, race or religion, but simply to the mix of expertise, experience, mind-set and skills that make that individual the most suitable for the job.
I think this is absolutely ‘fair enough’ and can hardly be disputed. However, I would reiterate that the right person for the job cannot be found unless it sought among a variety of backgrounds, gender, communities etc. that mirror the diversity in our societies and also in our customers and audiences, supplier base and colleagues.
Thus, I would argue that unless the recruitment process provides access to a range of candidates that include women as well as men, and women and men of different races and backgrounds, the recruitment will not produce an outcome that is representative of what we see out there in the real world.
When I was discussing this with the male executive that spurred my first blog on the subject, he suggested that ‘it would be a very sad workplace indeed the one where only white, middle class men were appointed to senior roles and to the board’. But, unfortunately this kind of workplace is still common place and in-fact one hears of too many executive recruitment processes in which diversity is not identified as a key criteria at the outset. Apple's female workforce is over 30% of the entire population but the company was recently criticised by investors for having a very white and male board.
Why this matters is not only because it has long been identified by extensive studies on this topic that mixed teams are more innovative and productive, so diversity makes commercial sense and it is good for companies' bottom line.
The fact is that particularly in traditionally male dominated industries such as technology, engineering and the likes, women candidates tend to be harder to find because women know at the outset that they are going to be faced with a challenging culture, in which women may be sidelined, overlooked for promotions, made to feel inadequate and so on. This inability to attract women however perpetuates the current culture and create further barriers for talented women to be attracted to that industry. We find ourselves with a 'Catch 22' type situation.
Workplace culture is critically important in today's highly competitive markets. It drives employees engagement and as such it has an immediate impact on your customers and again on your bottom line. Companies spend a lot of time and energy analysing workplace culture, deciding whether their own culture is 21st Century ready, as one may put it.
So, to the question why the right person for the job might actually be the right woman for the job we can now provide not one but two answers:
1. We need more women in the workplace and in senior positions in order to positively affect workplace culture, eliminating outdated behaviours and communicating to possible new recruits that the company culture is inclusive and collaborative.
2. We also need more women in the workplace because in practical and simple terms mixed teams are more effective and productive.
As today's news demonstrate, not even the trendiest and apparently most desirable places to work are immune to this, but women speaking up can hopefully lead to incremental change.
Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.