Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Diversity- I'm not worried- are you?

"Panel discussion - diversity in Auckland businesses, from the boardroom to shop floor".  This was the title on an email that popped into my inbox this morning.  I was annoyed about this email for two reasons.  Firstly the content stated "....will discuss the challenges of improving diversity at all levels of an organisation and what directors can do to encourage and promote diversity".  It then went on to let me know that there was a paid event.  Shame on you Institute of Directors!  As a director of many companies, and a CEO I do not recruit my staff based on diversity or gender.  That in itself to me is discriminatory.
I have a mixed team whom I have bought together not on background, culture, gender or the fact I need a diverse team.  My belief is different- these are the  rules I follow for all teams I have the chance to create:-

* Skills and Talent
* Ability to Learn
* Ability AND willingness to work in a team
* Attitude
* Honestly
* Openness
* Willingness
* Respect of other people, including peers,customers and of self
* Ability to receive and to give feedback
* Customer focused with a sense of urgency
* Self belief

I got asked this by a mentee this evening- what do I look for in people I bring into my teams or hire.  I told him the above list.  I also said that I do not believe in recruiting for diversity as in todays world it IS a diverse world and to me its common place- the new normal.  He looked at me in a slightly odd way and I wondered why.  Then I realised.  This is his normal- why am I even talking about this!  I have to stop!  This is why I cannot believe we are still making specific points on this.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact I was raised with an upbringing that saw me being taught to be inclusive of all people.  I will never forget my mother always saying- 'treat people like you would like to be treated yourself'.  As a leader, I believe whole heartedly in this.  I also live by the rules I expect of my team. The most important rule to me is Self Belief.  If I don't believe in myself- why should anyone else believe in me?

Gender is a word hardly ever spoken in our office.  I’ll say "come on guys- its meeting time without a second thought".  When I say ‘guys’ I mean all, not in the true meaning of the word ‘men’.  I also respond to the same phrase and won't batter a mascara filled eye-lash over it.  I’ve actually been getting a little tired of hearing people complain about Gender balance, or imbalance.  My belief is that it doesn’t matter if people are male or female, transgender or whatever else people identify with, as long as a person can do the job and relates to others in the team and my customers, does it really matter?

I believe that I have succeeded in my own career because I’m good at what I do.  I make the hard decisions and deal with the hard issues.  Some days I’d even call myself a bitch.  Why?  Because some days you need to fight like a dog.  I have such a strong sense of self belief and self-motivation that I believe I can get through anything.  I also believe that you need a strong team around you to make this possible, yes both male and female or whatever the balance may be.  I have the right people for the right jobs- regardless of culture or gender.  They are an awesome team and they know it.  I encourage my team to openly talk about their backgrounds, culture and differences in the office.  Openness and willingness breaks down barriers and makes us a better team.

I was thinking this morning about any actual real differences that would make me work differently with males and females and I could think of only one.  It is in my Health & Fitness career and that is that Men and Woman have different anatomies and this can cause different injuries and tightness in the bodies.  The example I was specifically thinking of was hips when woman’s hips are generally wider than men’s due to being designed for child bearing.  I have noticed specifically than men have tighter hip flexors than woman.  I have also noticed on the flipside that woman’s anatomy can sometimes restrict them then doing some exercises.  Now I’m sure Men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus may disagree with me but I’m just saying it as I see it.

Yes, I do work with a larger amount of men than woman.  Sigh, apparently I keep being told I am working in a Male dominated industry.  Do I let this bother me.  No.  Do I think that then men in the office are good at what they do – yes.  Do I think the females in the office are good at what they do?  Yes.  Do any of them have faults or things they could improve on?  Yes.

I’m getting tired of the Gender debate.  When I took my first Management position, I was the youngest on the management team but some 10+ years and also one of only 3 females of a team of 10.  Did it bother me?  No.  Was I thankful to have the opportunity at such a young age? Yes.

I think we really do have to look beyond the gender.  I’ve worked with trans-gender people, gay men, lesbian woman, straight guys, straight females, old, young, retirees and the list goes on.  I have even worked with people with illnesses I care not to describe which I was asked to keep under wraps for the persons privacy- I respected that but never let this get in the way of them doing their job.  I have always worked in and run multi-cultural and diverse teams from early in my career.  I believe opportunities should be distributed amongst those who work for them and those who want them.  I think those people who are hung up on gender or diversity need to look beyond and work out what skills and talents they want to be surrounded by and view people by these traits rather than their gender label. 
The young talent I mentor coming through know nothing other than working in mixed gender and culturally diverse teams.  This is the new normal- I've been working this way for years- is it me that needs to change or do some organisations need to simply understand what the new normal looks like?
And to add to that, I’d have Caitlin in my team any day- a talented athlete I admire who is not afraid to believe in themselves.  That’s all I ask of myself and that’s all I expect from others.  Let’s start working on self-belief and encouraging our teams in this way, not gender or diversity belief.