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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.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.