Gender and ethnic diversity among leadership is important because it encourages diversity of thought. All research studies that make specific references to the trends and success stories of organizations attribute it to the development of diverse teams.
In a nutshell, organizations that don’t include diverse teams may be excluding themselves from developing great ideas or tactics, in terms of how to move forward with a strategy. I would say that is the key benefit of having diversity among staff, specifically ethnic diversity.
One way that IMA promotes diversity is by hosting Women’s Accounting Leadership Series (WALS) events, which feature female panelists from diverse backgrounds and different stages of their careers. Our most recent event took place a few days before International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month. Speakers shared their experiences and talked about the challenges of working in management accounting. These are the common themes that we discussed.
The danger of having such an emphasis on ethnic diversity is that ethnic diversity should never result in fulfilling quotas. At the end of the day, organizations still should look for the best candidate for a position. I think there’s more advantages in that than filling a quota.
One of the main reasons why more women aren’t in leadership roles is because they may not think they have the skill sets to even be considered for a leadership position. Often when female professionals are looking for opportunities, they may shy away from applying for certain positions if they feel that they can’t check off every skill or requirement listed in the job description. They might not have the confidence to apply for positions that—more than likely—they do actually qualify for or can adapt to. They just aren’t encouraged to apply.
Women can gain encouragement from mentors. Generally speaking, female professionals need guidance from a mentor who has succeeded beyond the glass ceiling. Mentors can pass on their knowledge of how they have succeeded so that other women can take similar steps. Supporting each other (women-to-women mentorships) and embracing certain obstacles that they may have come across in their careers is essential for professional growth.
WHAT WOMEN CAN LEARN FROM MALE MENTORS
Men don’t face the same challenges that women face and can be effective mentors for women as well. The key advantage of a male mentor/female mentee relationship may be related to interview skills. Many times, men may admit that they didn’t always have 100% of the skills required for a particular job—either a job that they currently have or a job they’ve had previously. In this regard, they could help women present themselves to convince a potential employer that they are prime candidates for leadership positions. Men have done it plenty of times, so they know what to do to get their foot in the door.
IMA’S MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
To support mentorship at IMA, I have led the implementation of a program that pairs staff with an IMA director. Instead of being assigned a mentor, staff can select a mentor and create their own mentor/mentee relationship. This structure offers more flexibility in frequency of meetings and encourages collaboration in informal settings, such as going out for lunch or doing activities outside of the office. So far, the program has been well received by staff since its launch in early March 2020.
What challenges have you experienced in your career? How have you achieved diversity of thought at your organization? How are you celebrating Women’s History Month?