In a business landscape defined by disruption and rapid change, we know the leading companies are those that have the most diverse perspectives at the table. It’s just a fact. When properly deployed, diversity and inclusion provide an organization with a strategic edge and competitive advantage. This holds particularly true at the leadership level.
The pace of change in the next 3 to 5 years will be unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced before, and along with dramatic change comes big opportunity. The convergence and the blurring of lines across industries is going to create huge opportunities for advancements in diversity, innovation and societal impact. Organizations need agile, cooperative and diverse teams in place in order to take advantage of technological change and shifts in the market. This will necessarily translate into new and exciting opportunities for women. And, we, as women, need to be ready to challenge and take advantage of these emerging opportunities.
So how do we ensure we are leaping forward together? First, organizations need to be more intentional and surgical when it comes to driving these changes and advancing women throughout the organization as well as in senior leadership positions. We need to hold our leadership teams accountable to deliver on this - going beyond ‘setting abstract goals’ or simply talking about diversity with no actionable steps in place. We need to back up that talk. We also need to identify high-performing women in our organizations and hold leadership accountable for sponsoring and supporting these individuals to ensure they advance, have a voice at the table and achieve the goals they set out for themselves.
We have to reach into our organizations and pull these women up and encourage them to take those ‘stretch assignments’. I know that in my own career, the real growth always happened when I was taking on a project or assignment that took me outside my comfort zone. An important piece of advice I’d give women is to embrace that discomfort and not to shy away from it.
At the same time, I’d encourage them to do more to ‘own’ their careers. Often, we’re waiting for someone to tap us on the shoulder, recognize the great work we’ve been doing and then present us with an opportunity. Unfortunately, that’s not the way things work out. Women need to be more vocal about our career aspirations and make our goals known and proactively develop relationships that will help us get to the next level.
There’s a plethora of opportunity to build confidence in women and to cultivate a mindset that encourages them to take some risks, get out of their comfort zones and own those more senior roles. It’s the responsibility of all of us to actively encourage that next generation of women leaders and mentors. At KPMG, we have a national board made up of senior men and women who are dedicated to creating a more compelling work environment and enhancing opportunities for women.
Individuals are finding their voices, and the tough discussions are being had at many levels. There is still an uphill battle for women in the corporate world, but advancements are being made. Many of our clients are being active in the inclusion and diversity space and I applaud them for their efforts. I believe wholeheartedly that women are the future of work. And the organizations that understand and act upon this will enjoy a decisive strategic advantage over the competition.