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5 Reasons Businesses Win When They Focus on Fostering Inclusivity

Courtney Hardwick

Despite plenty of discussion around gender equality in the workplace, women are still 30 percent less likely than men to get promoted out of an entry-level position, and 60 percent less likely to move from middle management into the executive ranks. Until the so-called “broken rung,” as identified by McKinsey & Company’s 2019 Annual Women in the Workplace survey, that prevents women from being promoted to managerial roles, is addressed in earnest, equity may continue to be out of reach.That’s why it’s so important to recognize women in leadership roles who are paving a path for themselves as well as those around them, making a difference in their organizations, setting an example for women just starting their careers and fostering inclusivity inside and outside of the office.

According to a 2014 report from Bersin by Deloitte, “inclusion” means creating an environment in which people feel involved, respected, valued, connected and empowered to bring their “authentic” selves (their ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives) to their work with colleagues and customers.

The Women’s Executive Network believes equity and inclusion make industry stronger and society better, which is why they launched Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards to recognize and celebrate high achieving female leaders in the private, public and non-for-profit sectors. This year, Mercedes-Benz, in carrying on the enduring legacy of founding automotive pioneer Bertha Benz, sponsored the Emerging Leaders Award category to recognize the professional achievements of 10 women aged 30 to 45 who are at the mid-level stage of their careers.

“It’s important to bring together strong women, celebrate their accomplishments and support their ongoing success and mentorship of others,” Virginie Aubert, Vice President of Marketing at Mercedes-Benz Canada, said in a press release. “As part of the She’s Mercedes global initiative, Mercedes-Benz Canada is thrilled to further its commitment to connecting strong female leaders across the country.”

These winners of the Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leader Award are not only representing the impact inclusion can have on a business but also working hard to incorporate it into their own leadership philosophies. Here are a few reasons businesses win when they make diversity and inclusivity a priority— including a healthier bottom line.

1. Diversity of thinking leads to innovation

Research by Deloitte shows that high-performing teams are not only demographically diverse but also cognitively diverse. While one person might have a great idea, it takes collaboration and a mix of different perspectives to really bring a new, innovative concept to life. Tech is a high-growth industry in Canada — and around the world — so new startups have an opportunity to build their business with inclusion in mind from the beginning.

Women in tech are still lagging behind men when it comes to presence in general, but as the demand for talented leadership grows, there will be more opportunity for women to make their mark. Justine Janssen, one of this year’s Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders Award winners and the Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at Ceridian is a good example.

As one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2019, Janssen is now a role model for young women but she remembers feeling uncertain earlier on in her career. “I was afraid to take on too much risk,” she says. “A lot of obstacles people face are self-imposed.” She worked through her self-doubt and in 2018, managed the largest technology IPO ever in Canada to date for Ceridian.

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Image: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz Canada. Glen Reichwein

2. Inclusivity encourages creative problem solving

Deloitte’s Diversity and Inclusion Revolution report lays out six different mental frameworks or approaches that are required to solve a complex problem: evidence, options, outcomes, people, process, and risk. Realistically, no one is equally good at all six, so different perspectives from complementary team members is a good way to see a problem from all angles and come up with the best solution.

Team members don’t need to approach problem solving in the exact same way in order to work well together. In fact, a culture of inclusivity can encourage people to feel comfortable thinking outside the box to come up with new fixes for an old problem.

Inclusion is expressed as feeling “safe” to speak up without fear of embarrassment or retaliation and when people feel “empowered” to grow and do their best work. The best leaders are the ones that can make everyone feel valued and embrace the unique differences each person brings to the table which is exactly what inclusion is designed to encourage.

3. Better employee retention and loyalty

Deloitte found that when employees perceive that their organization is committed to diversity and inclusion, they are also 80 percent more likely to state that the organization “provides great customer service, shares diverse ideas to develop innovative solutions and works collaboratively to achieve their goals.”

Diversity and inclusivity(D&I) policies are also vital for attracting, retaining and engaging employees. If diverse candidates perceive a workplace as alienating — whether through company research or interviews — they are less likely to join that work environment. Millennials are used to switching companies to find the best fit and a 2014 study by Red Brick Research even found that 52 percent of millennials think the concept of employer loyalty is overrated.

Fostering inclusivity, which involves offering learning opportunities, is one way businesses can keep millennial employees engaged and committed. Deloitte found that Millennials and Gen Z working for employers perceived to have diverse workforces and senior management teams are more likely to want to stay five or more years.

4. The financial rewards are undeniable

McKinsey & Company’s 2018 Delivery Through Diversity report found that gender diversity on executive teams is strongly correlated with profitability and value creation. Research suggests that more diverse companies are better able to attract top talent and improve their customer orientation while also driving greater employee satisfaction and fostering better decision making.

As a results-driven, customer-focused lifelong retailer, Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leaders Award winner Carolyn McPherson the Associate VP, Backyard Living and Seasonal for Canadian Tire Corporation, Ltd. has spent her career developing programs and executing business strategies to reinvent the customer experience while delivering financial growth. Her loyalty to Canadian Tire (she’s been there since 2006) has made her a valuable team member and leader who understands the business and how to drive revenue.

A diverse team is better able to not only anticipate the needs of their target audience but also adapt to changing market demands therefore leading to consistent revenue and constant growth.

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Image: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz Canada. Glen Reichwein

5. Improving the landscape for the next generation

A KPMG study about women’s leadership found that 86% of women report that when they see more women in leadership, they are encouraged they can get there themselves. That’s why Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leader Award winner, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Income Access (Paysafe Group), Tara Wilson is dedicated to being both a mentor to others, helping them reach their maximum potential, and an advocate for diversity and inclusion, promoting the needs of women in the workplace and other frequently disempowered groups.

She knows what it’s like to not have a role model who faced similar career obstacles to turn to for advice. “It was very challenging for me to find role models to look up to inside of my organization,” says Wilson. “There weren’t a lot of executives that were female.”

There’s no denying that change takes time, but many companies are now recognizing that an investment in a dedicated inclusivity team is worth it. Another Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leader Award winner Zoya Zayler, the Canada Inclusion and Diversity Lead at Accenture is considered a thought leader in the D&I space. Her work towards implementing actionable practices have resulted in sustainable change and Accenture being named one of  Canada’s Best Diversity Employers of 2019.

Inclusivity can’t exist without leaders who live and breathe it in everything they do within the company. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leader  winners have worked hard to get where they are and are dedicated to changing the game for future generations. And based on what we know about the ways inclusivity is already helping businesses win, the future is bright.

For more on the Mercedes-Benz Emerging Leader Award winners, watch this video. For more information about Mercedes-Benz Canada’s partnership with the Women’s Executive Network, click here.

This article was created by SheKnows for Mercedes-Benz Canada.

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