Don’t get left behind in creating an inclusive culture


What does gender diversity mean to your business? There’s an easy way to measure this. How much have you currently invested to tackle it? If the answer is zero or the amount is nominal than I think we can safely say that diversity still falls under the “nice-to-have” bracket.


What if we reframe the question, instead of looking at what you’re not spending to tackle gender diversity, let’s look at what it’s costing you to fail at it? If you don’t have an allocated budget to tackle diversity and inclusiveness in your business then you are spending more money than you need to. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the figures.


The unseen cost

EY says it typically costs 1.5 times an employee’s salary to replace them. How many talented females have left your business after they became mothers? Natural attrition is to be expected but are you losing your talent unnecessarily because you are failing to be inclusive to mothers or parents?


Because it’s not just female staff a poor D&I strategy affects. The 2017 Modern Families Index published in January advised that nearly half of working fathers surveyed wanted to downshift to a less stressful job because they can no longer balance the demands of work and family life. This number increased to 53% for millennial fathers and seems likely to continue upwards as the younger generations seek a more shared and happier lifestyle.


I am also increasingly hearing of business being lost at the pitch stage because of evidence the business is not diverse. We only need to look at companies like Uber to see that patience is wearing thin when it comes to lack of diversity in any industry. With the recent pay gap regulations it’s going to be even harder to hide the reality, or lack of real equality, diversity and inclusion in your business. Don’t assume this data won’t matter or you can explain it away, but look at it as a positive.


how much money are you spending, and still failing at gender diversity and inclusion?

One company I work with calculated a group of 8 maternity leavers had billed £6.5 million the year prior to their pregnancies and a collective total of £30 million had been invested in their recruitment and careers, to date. A 40k investment to stop £36M walking out the door made fiscal sense but what is more compelling is the performance of this group now they have returned to the business, the attitudes of other women in the company about to go through this experience and their line managers who ultimately have to sign off the funds for the service.


Companies need to recognise that for any change program to be successful it cannot be a stand-alone service between an employee and coach / trainer, or exclusive to only one group. It needs to be embedded in the DNA of the business and involve middle management who “get it”. Which is why the company I mention above has had mixed success. Some women are flying, empowered by the support they’ve been given, others in spite of the resistance they’ve encountered. It isn’t just about investing money; it’s about investing resources and time to understand the problems and be willing to have some difficult conversations with those less open to change. Internal promotion of a program is vital to its long-term success but is often something companies overlook.


Another thing companies tend to overlook, or close their eyes to, is the increasing need for good shared parental leave packages. Some companies admit that they have created such attractive packages for their female employees that it feels impossible to match this for their fathers but the trend in taking shared parental leave – albeit slowly – is increasing.


“It’s time to change the stereotypes and create business environments where we all thrive”


One company shared that they decided the case for equality overrode the fears they had around push-backs and reduced their maternity offering in order to make their shared parental leave packages more enticing. Another changed their policy when the Co-Founder realised the emotional value of being a parent and wanted his colleagues to realise the same. Circling back to the argument that men can’t afford or don’t want to be at home will hamper everyone’s growth and our inclusivity in the workplace. It’s time to change the stereotypes and create business environments where we all thrive.


The truth is some women become more ambitious when they become a parent and some men become less so. Whilst there is now greater understanding around the fact that becoming a mother reshapes the way women view their career and relationship with their employer, many companies do not fully understand how deeply this goes, the potential it holds or the part that men play in this changing landscape. Investing in your talent to help them realise their worth makes sound business sense whatever the climate, but in a time of change and uncertainty it is critical. I could share several stories of men stepping back to support their partners so the family thrives overall but it is still a fairly taboo topic.


A need for growth

In the soon-to be published Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, And Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, Sandberg talks about the growth experienced after the sudden death of her husband. Studying the research of behavioural scientists, neurologists and psychologists for techniques empirically proven to build resilience she discovered that she didn’t just recover but could achieve “post-traumatic growth”. She also claims the techniques can deliver “pre-traumatic growth” for those yet to suffer loss.


Sandberg’s experiences resonate with me; 4 years ago the man I loved also died unexpectedly. I discovered huge lessons of growth that I now share with my clients. Supporting women through the pregnancy transition to motherhood has led me to discover some incredible parallels and opportunities, which can benefit both parents and parents-to-be and the businesses they are a part of.


“How much money needs to walk out the door before your company wakes up?”


Some businesses don’t find it easy to quantify the transformation possible in order to create a compelling business case. Some are scared to ruffle the feathers of those who oppose change. They may put a value on the current worth of their top performers, estimate the cost saving of retaining their talent versus replacing them and look at the achievements or revenue generated for the business to date.


But they don’t add in the increased value of supporting an employee – female or male – to embrace their leadership potential especially when they transition to parenthood, which in my experience is where the figure can grow exponentially.


So, I guess the new question is, just how much money needs to walk out the door before your company wakes up to the fact that diversity is no longer a nice-to-have but a need-to-have?


Let me ask you again, how much money do you spend on gender diversity and inclusion?


It’s time to change the answer.



from Lisa Barnwell

Lisa Barnwell is the Founder and CEO of Bumps and the Boardroom, helping to unlock the leadership potential of parents- to-be and support businesses to be more diverse and inclusive. Drawing on her experience of creating London’s first maternity destination clinic which nurtured around 10,000 mothers and babies; providing coaching and support to over 2000 women in corporate finance, consultancy, law, property, fashion, tech and media and advising senior HR leaders on organisational design, HR and talent strategies in a business partnering role she is passionate about sharing her wealth and knowledge to support new ways of thinking and working.