Business

Inclusivity includes white men too

Bay Bridge in San Francisco in California, which is making moves on gender diversity
Roseann Kelly

THE stated mission of Women in Business is to create a new economy through inclusive growth. You must note that our mission does not speak about any gender. It is the inclusivity that is key to the new economy.

Inclusivity will make a Northern Ireland economy that will thrive through creativity and innovation, through collaboration and communication but also through empathy, compassion, caring and respect.

Business is all about people. Employees are customers, and customers are employees. People thrive when they are treated well.

The great businesses of today look after their people. Many studies have shown that women bring emotional intelligence to business, they bring more of the empathy and understanding, so we all have a huge responsibility to ensure we get a more gender diverse business community, a more inclusive business community.

Unfortunately, steps toward diversity and, in particular, gender diversity are too slow. There are many barriers that remain, there are many poor attitudes that remain and as a result it is seen as the 'too hard to do' issue.

This week the state of California is making the lack of movement an issue. It became the first state to mandate shattering the corporate glass ceiling. In a bill, SB826, already passed by the California State Senate, the boards of publicly-traded companies based in California would be required to meet gender diversity quotas starting in 2019. It goes next to the State Assembly for approval.

If passed, California would join nations including France, Japan, and Norway in using quotas to achieve gender diversity in corporate boardrooms.

For California-based publicly-traded companies, SB826 would require that by the end of 2019, each public, corporate board in California include at least one woman.

Included in the bill is an ambitious 2021 benchmark requiring two women on five-member boards, and at least three women on corporate boards with six or more members.

As you can imagine, there has been some opposition, a number of trade groups opposed the bill, as did the California Chamber of Commerce.

In a letter filed with the state assembly, the Chamber and more than a dozen trade organisations, including the California Trucking Association and the California Restaurant Association, noted their agreement with the aims of the bill, but suggested that it would violate the United States Constitution and civil rights laws.

Mandates and quotas have always been controversial, but more and more people, businesses, states, governments and countries are making them a part of their tool box to fix this 'too hard to do' issue.

There is a realisation that, however blunt a tool it might be, it is effective. The goal of a better economy and with that comes a better society, is one that hinges on us all embracing inclusivity.

And let us all remember, as a recent report emphasised, inclusivity includes white men. Wherever there is compassion, kindness and respect, there is a space for everyone.

:: Roseann Kelly (roseann@ womeninbusinessni.com) is chief executive of Women in Business (www.womeninbusinessni.com), the largest and fastest growing business network for female entrepreneurs and senior women in management in Northern Ireland. Follow Women in Business NI on Facebook at www.facebook.com/women-inbusinessni or on Twitter @wibni

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