People occasionally ask me if I’m really a believer in the concept of equality, or simply playing along because it would be churlish to do otherwise.
My answer is that I’m absolutely committed to equality in the workplace, quite simply because it benefits everyone. Sometimes you need to look beyond the obvious to really reveal the strengths of any approach – and equality is definitely one of these situations.
It was the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who is credited to have said: “The worst form of inequality is to try and make unequal things equal.” One of the reasons that this quotation has stood the test of time is that it’s still relevant today. Equality in the workplace is about far, far more than just aiming to meet assigned quotas – for example, of mums returning to work on a part-time basis, or people with physical impairments. For me, equality is about providing a level playing field so that everyone is free to perform to the best of his or her ability in the workplace.
Once you do this, you start to see the benefits of diversity
Equality is an enabling factor. When you have people within an organization with different perspectives, then it’s only natural that they will bring a different approach to tackle everyday challenges in the workplace – and in doing so, they will help find new, innovative and creative solutions.
If you want to shake things up, you’re much more likely to succeed when you have a diverse mix of people within your organization – not just Mini-Mes. This is why we are striving to create a working environment where we remove the barriers and consciously try not to let old skool stereotypes get in the way of picking the best team.
A great example of how we’re effecting change at grass roots level is already in place in Sweden, where all major meetings are scheduled within our core working hours, of 9am to 4pm. This is an initiative that I admire, and would like to see in other countries, if practicable.
Core meeting hours help some of our people resolve the daily conflict of trying to participate in key meetings to make their views heard, but also trying to juggle personal commitments, like dropping off or picking up their children from school. And guess what? This core meetings approach also benefits everyone else. Even if you’re not a working parent, it means you can plan for other activities on weekdays – factors that help ensure an important work-life balance. Something else that helps us achieve this is technology. It facilitates more flexible working, from any location, which is inclusive and therefore enables people with caring or other non-work-related responsibilities to contribute more easily.
Of course, there will always be some people who do not appreciate any disruption to the status quo, and it may take them longer to adjust. Nevertheless, everyone should recognize that access to a wider pool of talent really is good news. It’s easier to find the right person for the right job, at the right time. And this drives our success, as an organization.
With a focus on the bigger picture, it’s clear to see why I’m a champion for equality in the workplace as well as the rights of minorities, such as LGBT+. Anyone in a leadership position who is not already embracing equality, or just focused on filling quotas for the sake of making the numbers, cannot expect to get the best out of their workforce.