In front of a near-capacity crowd in the Qualtrics Theatre yesterday morning, Shannon Schuyler, chief purpose officer for PwC, introduced a series of speakers discussing workplace diversity and inclusion: Lars Petersson, president of IKEA U.S.; Carolyn Tastad, group president, North America, and executive sponsor of gender equality at Procter & Gamble; and James Fripp, chief diversity and inclusion officer with YUM! Brands.
Addressing diversity issues, Schuyler said, requires an organization to hold candid conversations in the workplace, understand the power of unconscious bias (people often have opinions about people different from themselves that they are not even aware of having) and share practices that work, inside the organization and out. “Diversity is no longer a competitive issue, or just a business issue,” she said. “It is a societal issue.”
And it is a matter of equal rights, said IKEA’s Petersson. “Management can and should take responsibility for furthering diversity and inclusion, and a company’s leadership must take action.” He cited as an example IKEA Japan, where he was posted earlier in his career. In the beginning, he said, three of the 1,000 IKEA managers in Japan were women. When Petersson and his team asked female employees what would make management positions more attractive to them, they overwhelmingly mentioned work/life balance, specifically the right to simply go home at the end of the workday, rather than being forced to socialize with bosses into the evening. IKEA took notice of this; by the time Petersson left, 43 percent of IKEA’s managers there were women.
He took a similarly direct approach to homophobia as head of IKEA Italy, where the company published an ad showing two men holding hands under a headline reading “We are all family.” In the United States, IKEA is working on parental leave policy, both for full-time and part-time employees, and other issues as they come up. These are large, intimidating questions, Petersson said, and he urged his listeners not to let that slow them down. “The important thing is to move and make changes, not to over-focus on the end goal.”
Carolyn Tastad began her time on stage by talking about last year: 2018 was a big year for women’s empowerment. “We had #MeToo, we had terrific female leadership images in movies like ‘Black Panther’ and ‘The Incredibles.’ But in business, we’re going backward.” There are fewer Fortune 500 CEOs than there were a year ago, and men’s pay is still rising faster than women’s. Why is that? She said it’s because society has bought into five pernicious myths.
- Women are, as a group, less capable than men when it comes to leadership.
- There are simply fewer women in the leadership pipeline.
- Women are less good at, or anyway less drawn to, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- Maintaining the home, both tactically and emotionally, is primarily women’s responsibility.
- Sexual harassment is a “women’s issue.”
The upshot of all this, Tastad said, is that society has come to believe that we need to “fix the women.” As a particularly egregious example, she cited a Hewlett-Packard case history in which men possessing 60 percent of the qualifications for a particular job would go ahead and apply for it, whereas women would not apply unless they had 100 percent of the qualifications.
While this has been widely interpreted as evidence that women have a “confidence problem,” it is, Tastad noted, equally compelling as evidence that men have an overconfidence problem. “At P&G,” she said, “the mix of men and women is 50/50 at the lower leadership and management levels — but much less so at higher levels. We don’t need to fix the women. We need to fix the system.”
James Fripp has been with YUM! Brands for 30 years and said overseeing diversity and inclusion is the most challenging assignment he has ever had. Some of the challenge is structural: YUM! Brands is a global franchisor with 46,000 restaurants, 1.5 million employees and more than 2,000 franchisees.
“A question I get a lot is, ‘Jim, make the business case for diversity and inclusion,’” Fripp said. As a partial answer, he noted that the purchasing power of the LGBTQ community alone is more than $1 trillion, and all future U.S. growth will come from a multicultural and racially blended population. Globally, the bulk of future growth will not come from the U.S., but from elsewhere. “If we don’t get on the bus and start supporting what folks need and what they are looking for,” Fripp said, “we will not be successful.”