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Diana Kobas Dešković, CEO, Spona code

Numerous analyses demonstrate the benefits of gender-based diversity in organisations ranging from better employee engagement to healthier workplaces and superior productivity

Could you share with us some key milestones in the D&I journey of your company?

We have been emphasising D&I aspects throughout our business activities for the last ten years with the support of our own MAMFORCE METHOD© - an assessment and business accreditation tool integrating corporate family responsibility and gender equality.

In our portfolio more than 30 companies from various industries are committed to making progress towards better gender balance and D&I goals. With our method, we encourage our clients to measure and monitor D&I indicators. Besides, we highlight equity to make a vital trio (diversity, inclusion, equity) in building up a successful and productive human resources management system. Currently, we are implementing an EU co-funded project - WorkLife4You to boost D&I goals in 20 companies in Croatia. Nevertheless, our efforts are directed internationally to global and local companies willing to utilize our extensive experience in the field.

What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?

While we advise companies about the whole spectrum of diversity, our primary focus is gender equality.

Numerous analyses demonstrate the benefits of gender-based diversity in organisations ranging from better employee engagement to healthier workplaces and superior productivity. Additionally, openness to different viewpoints leads to better product design, better services and thoughtful business decisions. MAMFORCE© standard measures and encourages gender balance in companies.

Achieving this goal calls for a range of actions to create inclusive workplaces. It requires a business to address critical barriers to women’s participation in the labor force and create an inclusive workplace where all employees are respected and empowered, regardless of their differences or the phase of life. In addition, we want to positively influence work-life balance across industries and strongly feel that this is in correlation with D&I goals. These goals can be observed as a human resources management issue, but they are also a policy management issue. If an organisation wants to be inclusive, it must ensure equitable opportunities for employment, development, and advancement. Companies should regularly monitor whether women, men, and minority groups receive equal pay for equal work. Also, a significant part of inclusive culture are flexible working options for all employees, but especially for parents with small children.

Which D&I activities have been implemented in your organisation so far?

Our activities are extensive. The earlier mentioned EU co-funded project WorkLife4You is only one of them. This project aims to raise awareness about the problems faced by young people in hiring and raising families. We aim to implement new business practices that will encourage harmonisation of family and business life for women and men, promote equal participation of mothers in the labour market and the active role of fathers in childcare. Furthermore, there is a need for D&I action on the educational level. In accessing this, we are conducting two projects – “We Can Equally and Kindle Equality  to increase awareness of gender-based stereotypes among primary and secondary school students and their teachers.

Finally, there is a project called Merge. The purpose of this project is to encourage more diverse procurement, especially in the public sector.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by the industry sector in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce?

These challenges are often still on the level of awareness. Many employers are still unaware of the importance of building an inclusive workplace and diverse workforce. On the other hand, many companies rely on the workforce that is “offered” on the market. For example, IT companies take for granted that their primary workforce is male. At the same time, they neglect that female expert would surely bring in a much-needed different viewpoint, new ideas and perspectives. We must not forget that there are still many prejudices and to fight against them takes effort and time. Gender-based stereotypes are a significant barrier to diversity efforts. Therefore, many of our clients boost their employee engagement and productivity once they realise how impactful D&I practices are.

What business benefits do you see as a result of increasing D&I?

As previously mentioned, engagement, productivity and innovation, along with general wellbeing, are the main benefits that come as a result of better D&I. Once leadership takes D&I into account, benefits start to unveil themselves. There is a clear connection between business success and achieving diversity and inclusion goals - the ultimate answer to why is it like that, is pretty straightforward. Making the workplace more diverse and taking care of employees’ needs has a massive effect on motivation and consequently creates positive business results.

Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?

First, companies have to pay attention to making sure there are internal policies to promote and establish diversity (e.g., Diversity or Gender Policy). Second, they should organise targeted diversity projects (e.g., respect for diversity, challenges of underrepresented groups, etc.). Projects like this are even more vital for higher-level jobs and leadership positions. Third, many diversity issues in a company start with selection. You should ask yourself, if there were several candidates for a higher level of responsibility, subject to the same criteria, would you give preference to the candidate of the underrepresented gender? It is self-evident that there are many more challenges depending on the industry or geography where the company operates.  The specific policies and procedures will vary from one situation to another.

What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?

In our company, we genuinely live diversity. It is our core business, everybody who joins our team is aware of its importance. Internally, we are developing tools to empower diversity for our clients, but we also take part in tailored educations to refine our knowledge and become familiar with new practices. I am happy to share my experiences with colleagues and moreover want to make sure they have an opportunity to share ideas and suggestions of their own. By doing this, they are motivated to be genuinely on board with values in diversity and inclusion management.

Any plans for the upcoming #EUDiversityMonth this May?

During #EUDiversityMonth we will promote new members of our MAMFORCE society, the companies that went through our audit, committed to improvement and earned the MAMFORCE standard for the following period. These companies will work on achieving their D&I targets to make workplaces more equitable and attractive to talents from diverse groups.

 

This interview was produced with the financial support of the European Union (project Workplace Inclusion Champion WIC). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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