2019 was an incredible year for diversity and inclusion across Aberdeen and the wider energy sector, and we are excited to see that continue into 2020.
Businesses understand more than ever that they must have inclusive, representative teams in order to thrive. We don’t need any more data to show us that non-diverse teams are worse off in almost every measurable way – innovation, profitability, turnover, retention, wellbeing, even safety.
We saw engagement with AXIS Network soar over the last 12 months, with individuals and companies keen to understand what they can do to realise their ambitions of a gender balanced workplace.
While understanding, drive and activity in the area has improved, the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Gender Gap Report, released in December, continues to predict that it will take 99.5 years to achieve gender equality at our current pace of change. At AXIS Network our ambition is to support organisations to realise this much sooner, and here’s what we think is necessary in 2020 to continue to drive this forward.
(Quick disclaimer: AXIS Network focusses on gender. Diversity is a much wider conversation than gender, but we believe that it’s a great, measurable, place to start. Actions to improve gender balance generally make work better for everyone.)
Shift of focus Instead of asking “is one gender failing to get ahead in our organisation?”, it’s critical that we ask instead “Why is our business failing to achieve gender balance? What about our organisation is preventing one gender from progressing at the same rate as the other?” To quote committee member Katy Hardacre,
“If you put a certain ratio of gas and oil molecules into the start of your pipeline, but they don’t come out of the end in the same ratio, you don’t have a word with the gas, you fix the pipe.”
De-bias promotions This year’s McKinsey Women in the Workplace Report identifies a “broken rung”, showing that even where gender balance at entry level is achieved, this balance drops off at every promotion stage thereafter. Actions suggested to improve this are focussed on improving clarity around the promotion process, eliminating the “good fit” conversation, and ensuring candidate slates representative of the workforce.
Improved representation In 2020, AXIS will be working with conference organisers to ensure diverse and representative event speaker panels. Representation matters, both providing role models to underrepresented groups, and altering internal unconscious bias narratives of the wider population.
Equal parenting The sooner we can level the playing field and allow both parents the genuine option of an equal caregiving role, the better for everyone. In addition to improving paid paternity leave, organisations must also work to encourage uptake and support new fathers with the workplace issues similarly faced by new mothers.
Make flexible working the norm Flexible working isn’t just about childcare – a good work-life balance is good for everyone – we believe flexible working will truly become the currency of 2020, with many studies now showing that a flexible working culture is more important to employees than salary.
Support the work of essential organisations such as WISE While the actions we recommend are focussed on ensuring an inclusive workplace where all gender identities thrive, there is no doubt that attracting a gender balanced workforce into our sector is also essential. This is even more important in emerging new roles, such as cloud computing, where gender balance is currently even more skewed than traditionally male-dominant engineering. National organisations such as WISE (Women into Science and Engineering) are doing fantastic work in this space.
Karen Blanc is the chair of AXIS Network, an Aberdeen-based cross-industry gender balance initiative, run by a volunteer committee. The group’s vision is a gender-balanced energy sector, at all levels, in all roles. They pursue this via a number of initiatives, including networking events, a mentoring programme, role model profiles, thought leadership, and management of the AXIS Pledge.
The group is sponsored by Deirdre Michie OBE, and is not affiliated with any organisation. Membership for individuals is free – find out more at www.axisnetwork.co.uk/get-involved, and organisations are encouraged to sign up to the AXIS Pledge at www.axisnetwork.co.uk/axis-pledge