The future belongs to diverse companies

Woman standing in front of windows that look like a rising bar graphWe’re all used to seeing the stats now. Diversity and inclusion pays all sorts of dividends, both in terms of staff happiness and for a business’s bottom line.

As Emma Ascott writers on AllWork, the future of work is inclusive. Companies with racially diverse senior leaders have a “36% higher likelihood of financially outperforming companies with little or no diversity”, and “companies with greater gender diversity perform 15% to 21% better than companies with little or no gender diversity among staff members.” Furthermore, “68% of U.S. consumers expect brands to be clear about their values, while Millennials and Gen Z workers have the highest expectations of all age groups”.

In short, your employees want to work for a company that values diversity and your company will make more money if you pay attention to them.

Ascott lists McKinsey’s three recommendations for improving diversity:

  1. Make diversity a priority
  2. Challenge biases to increase equity
  3. Improve inclusivity

But what does all that really mean?

1. Make diversity a priority

McKinsey focuses on how profitable investing in diversity ultimately is, but they tiptoe around the fact that you’re going to have to spend some money on meaningful diversity and inclusion work. Think of it the same way you would marketing, product development, or anything else that grows your business: Put someone in charge, ensure that they have budget and staff, and empower them to make decisions.

You should also bring in consultants to work with your DEI team on specific aspects of your strategy, such as gender equity, neurodiversity, and disability, just as you’d hire in other specialist expertise.

2. Challenge biases to increase equity

McKinsey focuses on removing bias from the early hiring process, but the need to tackle bias runs much deeper than that. Bias exists everywhere, from hiring to promotion to how the business actually works on a day to day basis. Whenever people interact, there’s a possibility that bias is affecting the outcome.

Unconscious bias training has been the go-to solution for bias, but there’s very little evidence that works and some evidence it can backfire. Even when it does work, staff turnover means that you’ll need to keep repeating the training again, and again, and again.

Instead, look at how the impact of bias can be mitigated across your company through improved workflow, policies, structures and processes. Tackle bias at the institutional and systemic level so that change becomes permanently embedded in your culture. For example, instead of leaving it down to individual recruiters to write unbiased job ads, decide what a balanced ad looks like and create standards, templates and review processes that ensure ever job ad is widely attractive and avoids biased language and assumptions.

3. Improve inclusivity

Diversity is nothing without inclusion. You can have a diverse workforce, but if your employees don’t have a voice then you aren’t going to benefit from their expertise and experiences, and they aren’t going to stay with you for long.

McKinsey splits inclusion in two, looking at both employees’ “personal experience and the way they perceive their organization more broadly”.

On the level of personal experience, tackling bias as detailed above will automatically lead to a more inclusive experience for all employees. But it’s also important to think about day-to-day interventions that can make a difference. For example, how do you run meetings? Does everyone have the chance to speak? Changing meeting culture is one of the most obvious but least addressed issues that affects how inclusive companies are in practice.

Equally important are management processes, such as how reviews are carried out, promotion criteria, and complaints and disciplinary procedures.

And on a broader level, companies should consider how they organise socially, what support structures they have in place, and how they run their CSR programs.

DEI isn’t a nice to have anymore, it should be – it must be – a fully funded business priority. And it needs to be viewed holistically. There are few parts of a business that aren’t affected by DEI and companies that take a robust root and branch approach will reap the rewards of lower staff turn over, and higher staff happiness and higher profitability.

If you want a hand developing a robust DEI strategy or reviewing your existing programs, I can help. Email me to set up a free, no-obligation 45 minute call!

A round-up of our amazing STEM role models

Over the years we’ve written over 100 blog posts about women in STEM and their discoveries, inventions and achievements, as well as posting videos of dozens of talks and discussions by and with women in STEM on our YouTube channel. To save you searching, here is a handy compendium of our links:

On the blog

On YouTube

Please note that, whilst most of our videos are suitable for all ages, there are a couple where swear words have crept through as Ada Lovelace Day Live was an event for adults. Please review videos in full before showing them to children.

The final official Ada Lovelace Day: A message from our Founder, Suw Charman-Anderson

Ada Lovelace Day logoThis year, we will be celebrating the 14th Ada Lovelace Day on 11 October. When I founded ALD in 2009, I had no plans for 2010, let alone 2022. But although Ada Lovelace Day itself has been more successful than I could ever have imagined, inspiring girls and women around the world, a lot has changed since it was launched.

The good news is that there are now dozens of organisations in the UK that focus on supporting women and girls in STEM, with hundreds around the world. The bad news is that Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of energy crisis have slashed the budget companies have for sponsoring organisations like ours.

People who see the impact of our work may not realise that we are a tiny organisation and that everything we do has been done on a shoestring. We’ve had generous and committed sponsors, but the funding landscape has changed, and it’s now impossible to continue as we are.

Out of the last three years I’ve hit my sponsorship target once and this year I’ve raised less than half the money I need to continue. In addition, the Finding Ada Network mentoring program, which I had hoped would plug the gap, has not proven popular with businesses even though our mentors and mentees have found the program invaluable.

This means that Ada Lovelace Day as we currently know it must change. Once this year’s celebrations are complete, I will no longer organise official online or in-person events for Ada Lovelace Day, nor will I be able to continue running the Finding Ada Network. I will, however, continue to run the Worldwide Events map so that there’s a central repository for all the independent events that I have no doubt will continue.

Instead, I will be focusing my energies on my consulting service – helping businesses tackle the structural and systemic barriers that prevent women from flourishing and advancing into leadership roles – under the Finding Ada brand. And I’m offering a free 45 minute, no-obligation call to anyone who’d like to discuss their needs and their best next steps, so if you would like to talk about how I can help your business, please email me.

And of course, if you would like to sponsor Ada Lovelace Day, do drop me an email.

Finally, I would like to thank you all for your support over the years. It has been amazing to have been able to see so many people celebrating Ada Lovelace Day in so many places around the world!

I am also incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me over the years – all our speakers, contributors, sponsors, Patreon supporters, crowdfunder contributors, book chapter writers, volunteers, freelances and our Advisory Council. You’ve done a grand job inspiring girls and women around the world! Thank you!

Five ways CSR programs hurt the causes they support

falling seedCorporate social responsibility (CSR) programs allow businesses to become a part of and give back to their communities whilst also establishing – and, indeed, living – their brand values. Whether CSR activities are part of a wider marketing program or run separately, they create opportunities for the company to connect with a wider audience, raise awareness of their brand, and support causes that people within the company care about.

People increasingly want a job with purpose, and to work for companies that demonstrate strong ethics. CSR programs aren’t just a form of soft marketing, they’re also important for talent acquisition and staff retention.

Yet, many CSR programs accidentally hurt the causes they are trying to support. And because the damage is unlikely to be evident, nor discussed publicly, companies don’t address the problems that they are causing for their CSR partners. Here are five common ways that companies get CSR wrong.

1. A haphazard application process

CSR programs often rely on passionate staff to identify potential partners and develop a relationship with them. Often there’s no formal application process and agreements are negotiated through long exchanges of emails and phone calls, wasting everyone’s time and energy. Formal processes, where they exist, are often onerous and result in the applicant being ghosted.

Companies need to develop simple, open application processes with clear deadlines which are widely publicised within their communities so that opportunities are open to everyone. Much of the application process can be automated, so that the admin burden on CSR managers is reduced whilst applicants get a timely decision and notification.

2. Connections are with a person not the company

When the success of a CSR program is down to staff connections, problems arise when that member of staff leaves. Partner organisations suddenly find themselves hoping that someone else has picked up CSR responsibilities, and must then try to create a new relationship with someone who might never have heard of them and who probably isn’t anywhere near as enthusiastic about their project.

CSR relationships are often nurtured over the course of several years, and peremptorily dropping one can damage goodwill in the community. It’s a waste of the investment that your company has put into that relationship, and it creates unnecessary work as the new CSR  manager will have to find and develop relationships with new organisations.

Creating a team of CSR managers who manage applications and partner communications using software, such as a customer relationship management platform, goes a long way towards mitigating key-person risk. As with any other supplier, your CSR partner’s relationship should not be managed by just one person.

3. Short-term thinking

Commitment-phobia does seem to be a common CSR problem, with companies repeating their decision-making process every year when renewal comes up. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, particularly when a relationship has already been established and the CSR partner has reliably delivered on their commitment.

Renewal decisions should be quick, easy and planned well in advance. Even better, companies should commit to longer term engagements so that the CSR partner can confidently plan their future activities, knowing what their budget is.

4. Byzantine invoicing systems

Three in every five SMEs face problems getting late invoices paid, according to Barclays. The problem is amplified for small non-profits or social enterprises, because they are often dependent on CSR funding for their survival and they don’t want to kick up a fuss in case they get dropped for being difficult.

Every big business should be raising purchase orders and paying invoices in a timely manner, but if they don’t, it’s something that a CSR manager can’t change. But a little thinking ahead can save a world of pain for your CSR partners. Making sure that you have all the information needed to enter an SME into your payment system, and staying on the case to ensure timely processing all go a long way to mitigating the problem.

5. Not picking the low-hanging fruit

The best CSR programs don’t just give money to their partners, they provide promotional support as well. Larger sponsoring companies tend to be more well endowed with followers on Twitter, newsletter subscribers, and internal comms channels. But companies don’t always bring this firepower to bear in support of their CSR partners. This is most perplexing. If you’re sponsoring an event or an education pack or a mentoring program, why would you not sing that from the rooftops so that your CSR partner benefits from your far larger reach?

This low-hanging fruit is often left to rot on the tree because it’s too complicated for the CSR manager to collaborate with the comms teams, or because the lead time for creating social media content is too long. This is where planning ahead comes in handy. The dates for Ada Lovelace Day, for example, are set for the next century. Planning ahead should not be a problem.

These are just five of the issues I’ve seen companies struggle with in my 17 years in the non-profit/social enterprise space. The vast majority of CSR managers are good people with good intentions, but a little bit more organisation and support from the wider business could make CSR programs more effective, more efficient and more successful.

If you would like help improving your CSR programs and processes, please email me: I have a wealth of knowledge to share with you!

Join the Finding Ada Network for a six month mentoring program

MentoringWe are offering six months of free access to our Finding Ada Network mentoring program to women in STEM.

We will provide you with access to our mentoring platform where we will match you with a mentoring partner, as well as our online content covering careers, professional development, soft skills and more. We’ll also support you with webinars about topics like goal setting, being a good mentoring partner and how to create good habits.

We will give priority to women from the UK and all webinars will be scheduled in UK time. If you are resident in any other country, you can still apply but bear in mind that your mentoring partner may be in a different time zone.

We are particularly keen to hear from mentors in data science, so if you’d like to improve your leadership skills and give back to the community, please apply to become a mentor now.

You can expect the mentoring program to take up around 1 to 2 hours a month for mentors, and 2 to 3 hours a month for mentees, although obviously in both cases you get out what you put in, so you may choose to devote more time to your mentoring partnership.

Important deadlines

10 April 2022: Applications close.
15 April 2022: Participants notified.
1 May 2022: Participants’ mentoring profiles must be completed.
6 May 2022: Participants matched into mentoring pairs.
15 May 2022: Participants must have connected with their mentoring partner and set up their first meeting.

The program will then run for six months through to early November.

Applications are now closed.