Boards should make diversity and inclusion top priority

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The KIM Leadership and Diversity Report (2017) has established that the boards and senior management teams of NSE-listed companies are largely male, lack youth representation and are skewed in terms of skills mix. Andia Chakava, Kenya Chapter chairperson of New Faces New Voices, speaks on the importance of age, socio economic, ethnic and gender inclusion.

1. From a leadership viewpoint, why is diversity and inclusion important to business?

It is important for business because it provides different perspectives that are essential for decision making. Understanding the needs and attitudes of youth is essential to relate with consumers and employees of tomorrow. Technological advances mean that a wide variety of skills will be needed to support the organisational business strategy. Ensuring that there are people from different socio-economic backgrounds also allows for competitive advantage as new ideas are generated and implemented.

2. Is Kenya making the right strides in advancing this agenda?

We have made some progress. For instance we have the 1/3 Gender Rule that applies to public institutions. We also have the procurement policy that the government has set aside for women entrepreneurs. There is still a lot more work to ensure effective implementation. We need more institutions to make this a deliberate agenda. This involves developing specific strategies at board level on how to achieve this within a targeted a period.

3. What strategies can organisations adopt in creating an effective framework for diversity and inclusion?

It depends on the industry. Some industries – especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields – have low women representation. They therefore need to spend time in building the pipeline from the school and university level and encouraging such graduates by offering internships and work study opportunities. Organisations need to involve their staff in diversity and inclusion training to determine what underlying prejudices can lead to barriers in the workplace for people of different genders, socio economic status, ages and ethnicities.

Champions of change need to be drawn from diverse people at different levels of the organisation and benefits of diversity translated to operational policies and practices with suppliers, customers, employees and government stakeholders.

4. What successes has your organisation achieved this far?

We are an advocacy organisation. So we pride ourselves in shedding light on various research that has been done to encourage open debate on diversity and inclusion in both the private and public sectors. We form partnerships with like-minded institutions to further our mandate and work closely with partners to demonstrate the outcomes of case studies that promote diversity and inclusion.

5. Can an institution have diversity and lack inclusion?

You can have diversity by employing lots of women and youth within the organisation. However, inclusion is achieved if there is also diversity at all levels – it is reflected in promotions, there are policies that recognise specific needs of each, the organisation offers similar opportunities for growth, it extends this inclusion within the suppliers that offer services and even has designed products that reflect the diverse needs of the community. Therefore, diversity is involving people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, ages but inclusion is the process of giving people a voice, the power to have influence within decision making, the opportunities to succeed and make additional income supported by policies that encourage tolerance.

6.What recommendations would you make for diversity and inclusion in the public sector?

The public sector can be more proactive and transparent in seeking diverse viewpoints. They can be more deliberate in making women in leadership more visible, encouraging participation from people from different ethnicities, ensuring diversity in professional and socio-economic backgrounds to avoid group think and selecting youth to be represented.

7. From a legal and policy viewpoint, what should be done and who would be the key actors and their roles in creating the positive change?

We have the Institute of Directors that can play an important role in training all directors in expectations as well as preparing senior executives for future director positions.

We have the Nairobi Securities Exchange that sheds light through the diversity awards in collaboration with New Faces New Voices. Companies get rewarded based on the improvement of the leadership and senior management in metrics such as age, professional and gender diversity over a two-year period. This allows investors to make an informed choice about a company’s commitment to diversity.

Inclusion requires more culture and behaviour transformation that allows diverse individuals to enjoy power, influence and respect within their organisations. Only then will real change be possible.

Email: management@kim.ac.ke

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