EW Group: How Can Professional Bodies Increase Diversity?

Jane-Farrell-EW-Group-CEOAt the latest meeting of our CEO Forum, we had the pleasure of having Jane Farrell, CEO at the EW Group, join us. In this blog post, she discusses how professional bodies can increase diversity in the boardroom and across their membership.

Diversity and inclusion are certainly hot topics at the moment. Everyday there’s some sort of media coverage around the subject, especially with the recent gender pay reporting still fresh in our minds.

When I set up EW Group in 1992 with Dr Annie Hedge, much of our work was in the public sector but in the last five years we’ve seen the private sector embrace the business case for diversity and take action. And now it’s firmly on the agenda for professional bodies.

At the recent PARN CEO Forum, which I facilitated, we focused on increasing diversity in the boardroom in professional bodies. What’s interesting is that every organisation is at a different point in their journey but the challenges are similar. And the solutions? Of course context matters and what’s right for one organisation isn’t quite fit for another. However, there is much that we can learn from each other and adapt. Diversity and inclusion is a journey; it requires thought and lots of work that never really ends. Continuous improvement applies as much to equality, diversity and inclusion as it does to say, quality assurance or innovation or health and safety.

The CEO Forum already recognised the importance and value of greater diversity and inclusion so we focused on practical techniques that would make a difference. Consider where your organisation is in its own journey; what are your next steps? My top three actions would be:

  1. Establish your narrative: I can’t emphasis enough the importance of this first step. You need the ‘Why?’. Why does equality, diversity and inclusion matter to your organisation and to you personally? What difference will it make? The business case must be made and evidence based. This will form your vision and mission statement and guide your next step. Data is key. What are your metrics? How will you measure and benchmark where you are now and the progress you’re making. How, when and why you collect data and how you use it is important at every stage of the process.
  2. Be intentional: You need a roadmap, a strategic action plan for delivering on your vision – and you need the resources and commitment to back it up. We all understand that there are constraints in every organisation but look for windows of opportunity, change your rules (if it’s possible) and do the things that you can, that are realistic and achievable in the context of your organisation. Think long term – this isn’t just about today. How will your organisation continue to thrive and meet the changing needs of its membership in 5 – 10 years’ time and beyond?
  3. Do the work: Remember that change is challenging and equality, diversity and inclusion is a sensitive subject. Don’t assume everyone knows the right language and understands the subject, the business case and your action plan. Help your staff and members understand the importance and difference it will make, for them personally and for the organisation. Consider what you need to do to build confidence and competence for yourself, your members and your staff.

Diversity and inclusion is a journey; it is woven into every aspect of what we do and how we operate. It matters in every organisation regardless of its size. Getting it right takes time, attention and intention. So are you ready to get to work?

EW Group have been training and consulting on all aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion across all business sectors for the last 25 years. Our team of consultants offer a broad range of specialisms, including: training and elearning, facilitation and coaching, policy and strategy and research and analysis. For help whatever your diversity challenge, please go to theewgroup.com, or connect with us @theewgroup or LinkedIn.


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