Everything starts with realising how far we have to go…..

Efforts to make the workplace fair benefit us all because diversity leads to stronger business results

THE headline statement in the recently released Women in the Workplace 2017 report, produced by McKinsey & Company in partnership with LeanIn.Org, is “Getting to gender equality starts with realising how far we have to go”.

It is a powerful statement. But doesn't everything start with realising how far we have to go; to reach our destination, to reach our destiny, to gain gender equality, to gain real peace in Northern Ireland?

On gender diversity we still have a long way to go. When we talk of gender equality, too often phrases like 'it's all sorted', 'sure what more do they need?', or 'they're going to take over' are all too common and unfortunately very misguided.

The report stated that women remain under-represented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for 30 years or more. There is a pressing need to do more, and most organisations realize this. Company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high for the third year in a row.

But despite this commitment, progress continues to be too slow—and according to the report “may even be stalling”. One of the most powerful reasons for this is simple: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can't solve problems that we don't see or understand clearly.

Efforts to make the workplace fair benefit us all. An equitable workplace allows the best talent to rise to the top, regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, background, or beliefs. Diversity leads to stronger business results, as numerous studies have shown.

But we can't unlock the full potential of our workplace until we see how far from equality we really are. We need to keep our eye on the end game.

Last week I attended a module of the Ulster University, Masters in Executive Leadership, Strategic Financial Management. As with most of these modules, a case study was presented for discussion, and this one was on a failing leisure centre.

The group is made up equally of business people from the north and south of Ireland, and as we discussed the case study with the group the conversation did progress to the large number of leisure centres in Northern Ireland, and how embarrassing it was to explain that we need two centres in certain areas to accommodate the two communities, and we also actually still have two teacher training colleges and our education system is segregated.

Getting real peace starts also with realising how far we have to go. I think we have lost sight of the end game, progress has stalled, and we still have a long way to go to get the real peace and reconciliation we deserve.

The McKinnsey report explained that one of the problems we have with regard to progressing diversity is 'blind spots'. The same is true of our current political deadlock.We have blind spots, can't see a future where we are all working together, and we can't solve problems that we don't see or don't want to see.

Gender diversity and our peaceful society are fragile, but we must not let either stall. We need to regroup and remember what success will look like.

:: Roseann Kelly (roseann@ is chief executive of Women in Business (, the largest and fastest growing business network for female entrepreneurs and senior women in management in Northern Ireland, with 2,500 members spread throughout all industry sectors. Follow Women in Business NI on Facebook at or on Twitter @wibni.

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