#SWAAYthenarrative

Diversity and Inclusion: Cultural Shifts Changing The Way We Do Business

Business

As sentiments from the #MeToo movement continue into 2018, gender dynamics and expectations for equality - both qualitative and quantitative - are on the top of everyone’s mind in America’s technology and business sectors. Company-wide initiatives that advocate for diversity and inclusion are becoming more prevalent, and we are likely to see these initiatives become the standard across the board.


By 2022, the Human Capital Management market is expected to reach $22.5 billion, almost doubled from 2017. And with a third of executives expected to increase Diversity and Inclusion spending next year, it’s safe to say this growing market opportunity will include tools, resources and a new crop of companies and services focused on D&I.

As with any cultural or social shift, innovation and funding tends to follow. We can expect new companies and technologies to emerge. These solutions will be particularly important for small businesses and early-stage companies, who stand to create teams and workplaces where D&I is built in to culture and policy from the get go.

The market opportunity for D&I is finally gaining more widespread attention, but based on some of my own qualitative research, as well as hard data, it’s about to grow significantly and quickly. Here are five market trends and opportunities in the D&I space we can expect to develop over the next few years:

The “I” in D&I

The discussion and action thus far has primarily been focused on diversity. Recruiting teams are looking at numbers of minorities and underrepresented groups within a company and then seeking out or hiring talent accordingly. While this isn’t a comprehensive approach, it’s quantifiable and concrete. Plus, research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives.

"Research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives." - Kate Brodock

The next step — radical inclusion — is far less linear. It relies more on psychology, as well as social, emotional and cultural intelligence across leadership and entire teams. However, as those teams diversify so will the thinkers, and diverse thinkers can more readily tap into diverse layers of human connection and culture.

In other words, we’ll naturally see an increase in the focus on inclusion and the creation of a work culture and set of principles that supports a diverse workforce.

Frameworks

In order to truly reveal the value of D&I, companies will need to implement new systems. We'll see new narratives and frameworks seep into the D&I market via internal teams and third-party service providers. At Women 2.0, we use the 3Ps (Principle, Policy, Process) to frame how we interact with the industry.

“Principle” relates to a company’s core values and culture. It’s essentially saying “do you have the moral foundation built in and set by leadership”?

With “Policy,” we’re looking at the tangible, recorded and actionable guidelines a company puts in place to support an organic D&I culture.

And finally, “Process” focuses on defining results and developing measurable systems that drive ongoing success.

Budget Spend

There will be two primary shifts in how money flows through the D&I market. We’ve already observed D&I dollars are moving from external-facing CSR efforts to internal-facing initiatives. With 96% of executives understanding that D&I could improve their bottom lines, this means D&I is lined up to receive budgets more akin to recruiting and HR.

Which brings us to the second major shift in budget: the sheer number of core resources, whether it’s bandwidth or capital, dedicated to D&I. In the second half of last year, 35% of executives reported that they would be increasing their budgets for D&I, and I suspect that number has gone up since then.

People are beginning to understand that this isn’t a numbers game. Processes need to be changed, cultures have to shift to support a diversified workplace, and policies have to get overhauled. This takes time and energy, and isn’t for the faint of heart.

DiversityTech

As we’ve seen with HRTech, we’re going to see a lot more tech-enabled solutions hit the market for D&I. Technology can increase access to D&I resources while lowering costs. However, especially when considering that Artificial Intelligence will likely play a massive role in the emergence of DiversityTech, the effectiveness of some of these technologies remains to be seen, and it will likely become a more nuanced conversation.

In my previous role, we ran an AI-driven talent marketplace that matches technologists to open tech roles. It demonstrated how AI can help companies develop their workforces, and what could happen in the future.

It also showed how difficult issues like bias were to be solved, and emphasized the adoption hurdles people had to get over in order to introduce technology and machines as solutions to what are traditionally perceived as “human” and “emotional” problems.

There is absolutely room for technology in this space, but we aren’t going to see a big adoption curve this year. The curve is also going to be lower, as many of the DiversityTech solutions out there are targeted at larger companies, so smaller companies won’t have immediate access.

Data & Analytics

This may be an obvious one (what market doesn’t rely on data?) but it’s also a tough one. Similar to AI’s role in D&I, data and analytics are best reserved for concrete numbers and tangible results. With D&I, we’re dealing with the connection between "soft" things, like humans and culture, and "hard" things, like bottom line and team performance. Traditionally, D&I has had very little measurement around it - aside from general HR data - and the industry is having to build metrics and frameworks from scratch.

But if the connection can be made, it’s clearly valuable, as evidenced by an unprecedented IBM lawsuit that thrust the value of diversity-yielding data, resources and strategy into the spotlight earlier this year.

IBM sued its former Chief Diversity Officer for presumably violating a non-compete agreement after she left the company for a similar job at Microsoft. This lawsuit suggested that she had access to IBM’s internal data on D&I, and that she would be taking that knowledge with her to Microsoft. IBM considered this a breach of contract by leaving with “trade secrets.”

This is significant, as it highlights just how much value the tech giants place on diversity strategies and their impact on business results, and it reveals that they will go to great lengths to protect them.

Especially for early-stage companies and small businesses, the D&I market paints a clearer picture of how bottom lines, employee morale and social progress work - or don’t work - together. And as small companies become big companies, the next Google, Amazon, Apple or even IBMs of the world will, with any luck, be born with D&I in their DNA.

5 Min Read
Career

How Fitness Saved My Life and Became My Career

Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each da

If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.

In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.

These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.

After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.

About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.

When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.

Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.

Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.

Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.

This article was originally published September 12, 2019.