Understanding Society

Corporate Diversity Responsibility: Building better businesses

Ipsos’ Global Trends study of 22 countries shows that most people think things would be better if more women held positions of responsibility in government and companies17 . But we are still some way off achieving better representation of women in business leadership. Only about a quarter of top management positions are filled by women globally, with little variation between regions18 .

Talking about the ‘glass ceiling,’ the invisible roof that prevents women making it to top management, is not particularly helpful as it offers no practical solutions to the problem. Instead, we should focus on tangible obstacles – the things that get in the way of women on their path to leadership. The benefit of framing the discussion in these terms is that the barriers can be identified, mapped, circumnavigated, and ultimately removed. 

Only about a quarter of top management positions are filled by women globally, with little variation between regions

With this in mind, the SHEconomy team works with the concept of Corporate Diversity Responsibility (CDR). CDR builds on the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility; its aim is to achieve better utilisation of human resources within business, which will in turn lead to a more sustainable, robust organisation. CDR is not about the number of women in managerial positions, but rather how organisations encourage female leadership and indeed diversity of all sorts. Having greater diversity in leadership is a business advantage which can strengthen corporate culture and improve managerial decision making; it can produce more and wider innovation, better resilience and deeper trust within the business and among its customers and stakeholders. 

CDR is about how an entire corporate culture changes to achieve diverse sustainability. It’s about how companies take their female talent seriously, by focusing on what women actually want and need in 2019, rather than being guided by assumptions and stereotypical perceptions. Our hope is that CDR will be seen as a new way of looking at sustainable economic growth for business, and a means to balance organisational performance across profits, people, and planet. 

SHEconomy’s CDR approach has the potential to benefit business in multiple ways:

  1. It helps to identify and strengthen broader narrative about the business case for diversity, with a common and shared goal.
  2. It reflects people’s intersectional complexity and different identities instead of focusing on only one specific aspect of social or demographic characteristic.
  3. A focus on cognitive diversity recognises that demographic equality — rather than being its own end — is useful as a visible indicator of progression toward diversity of thinking.

Benja Fagerland
SHEconomy