The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Embrace Equity.” Hege Sollie-Zetlmayer, SVP, Human Resources at PTC, shares her thoughts on another important aspect of equality – diversity.

Ahead of a conference I was speaking at a few weeks ago, I did a quick online search to see how many articles were published about benefits of diversity in the workplace. Within seconds I got millions of hits. Many research papers have been written and published by respected organizations like McKinsey, Deloit, Gallup, Gartner and others about this topic.

The proof found throughout all these studies is overwhelming: Diversity brings business success! It is a scientifically proven fact, and yet…here we are, fighting to get more women and greater ethnicity in the board room and in the C-suite. Why is that when diversity is so obviously important for the business?

There are many reasons on a global scale, baked into culture and history, that are hard to combat and help explain why the needle moves so painstakingly slow when it comes to making change: Bias, Networks and Availability.

Bias. Bias has many ugly faces – stereotyping being one of them. Women are often stereotyped as being emotional, weak or lacking in leadership qualities, while men are often stereotyped as being strong and assertive. Additionally, studies have shown that men are more likely to be promoted to higher positions than women, even when they have the same qualifications and experience. When it comes to fighting bias, education and awareness are key elements. Culture training, storytelling and unconscious bias training are also effective means to help prevent bias in the workplace.

Networks. The vast majority of C-suite roles are populated by white men. The network that recruitment agencies tap into are networks built for filling C-suite roles, and therefore the majority of candidates existing in these networks are white men. Recruitment companies must take a bigger role in diversifying their networks. The talent is out there: Nearly 60 percent of master’s degree graduates in almost all curricula are women. They represent 65 percent of law and political science graduates, 62 percent of medical graduates and about 60 percent of economics, management and natural sciences graduates.

Availability. Availability of female talent is not an issue. They are out there, competent and ready! However, finding diversity in ethnicity can be more challenging. The first step is to know your talent pool, develop the talent, take a chance on people and support them in the journey. If there is little to no availability, then build it. This can be done in parallel tracks. In the short term, know and invest in the talent you have. In the long term, build a diverse pool of future leaders from the start by offering internships and visiting community colleges to inspire and motivate. Create company programs that build the next generation of diverse leaders – leaders that mirror the world we work in.

It is not impossible to combat these factors that make change so difficult. We can make it our duty to support those brave women and men who fight for girls’ and women’s basic rights for work, education and respect with all the means we have. We need to be their voice after the headlines are gone, using resources, influence, social media and our networks. Let’s not debate if one action is better than the other – anything is better than nothing and collectively we can move mountains.

Diversity is the mix; inclusion is making the mix work.” When it comes to embracing diversity, this quote emphasizes that creating an inclusive environment is just as important as having a diverse workforce, and that both are necessary for organizations to thrive.
Hege Sollie-Zetlmayer SVP, Human Resources at PTC

I have one closing thought when it comes to the theme of embracing equity and diversity, concerning the phrase “Girl Power.” This phrase is very popular, found on clothes, pictures, posters – even babies or young girls might wear t-shirts with “Girl Power” written on them. This saddens me, because it takes the focus away from what should be the goal: That is not GIRL POWER or BOY POWER, it is about creating a level playing field where everyone has equal power. Just imagine what that could do for this confused earth.

Just imagine.

IWD 2023 - Hege