RegulationCorporate GovernanceView from the board: moving forward

View from the board: moving forward

Those of you who may have read last month’s column about the influence of women must have been quite intrigued by the number of articles in the press in the past few weeks, suggesting the possibility that in the next two years three women between them could be managing the destinies of a significant percentage of the OECD population

It might not happen, but to have Hillary Clinton as president of the United
States, Ségolène Royal as the president of France and Angela Merkel as the
chancellor of Germany confirms the thesis that it is not numerical
representation that matters to the female population, it is the power and
influence that they have.

This topic segues nicely into an experience that I had recently as a guest
speaker at an HR conference in London. The day’s proceedings included a panel of
senior and influential HR directors. One of the subjects they addressed was
diversity, and a very telling question was raised from the floor along the
following lines: ‘What is the most important thing that each of you has done in
regard to the diversity agenda?’

The most telling response came from a leading HR professional with Channel 4.
A quick glance around the room, which comprised more than 300 people, would have
told you she was probably only one of less than five individuals of a distinct
ethnic origin, which gave her comments a special relevance. Her reply was
massively symbolic. She said that the best thing that Channel 4 has done
regarding diversity, covering gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual
orientation, is to have removed it from the vocabulary of Channel 4. They were
able to do that because it was now a non-issue.

By this, she meant that if individuals behave properly, if management deals
sensitively with people issues, you simply don’t need a diversity agenda, nor
forums to remind colleagues of our interest in the subject, nor our adherence to
regulations and guidelines. Her comments probably got the most rousing applause
from that meeting, which was richly deserved.

If organisations can behave as sensibly and rationally dealing with one
another in a pleasant and honest fashion, all the stuff that we have burdened
ourselves with and have had inflicted on us in terms of legislation is rendered
unnecessary.

I cannot think of a better example, therefore, of how the gender aspect of
diversity and the mission that women feel they are on, should be treated in the
future. Don’t respond to legislation – get ahead of it.

Andrew Garner is chief executive of Garner
International

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