Gender Diversity: A Strategic Imperative

It is time for every organization to take active steps and promote greater diversity among women. On this episode, we talk with two accomplished female executives who present the latest research on this important topic.


Sep 23, 2016

It is time for every organization to take active steps and promote greater diversity among women. On this episode, we talk with two accomplished female executives who present the latest research on this important topic. Learn more at

Pat Milligan is a Senior Partner and Global Leader, Multinational Client Group. Previously, she served as President of Mercer's North America region from 2012 until 2015. Prior to that, she was the President of Mercer’s Talent business segment and led the human capital, information solutions, and workforce communication and change businesses. From 2005 through 2008, Pat was the Chief Markets Officer where she successfully led a number of Mercer’s key initiatives, including the implementation of the global client relationship management system, the sales effectiveness program and the repositioning of Mercer’s brand.

Naomi Bloom is the top human resources consultant and industry analyst in the world. Her work has shaped many of the major human capital software products on the market today.


Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode number 193 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman. I’m an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk. CXOTalk brings together the most innovative people in the word; people who are shaping important parts of our world. And today, we are talking about a very important topic, which is gender diversity and the relationship between inclusion - gender inclusion - and business outcomes. I’m so thrilled that my friend Naomi Bloom is going to be hosting this episode, and Naomi is truly one of the most influential analysts, consultants, in the world on HR and HR technology-related topics. And so, Naomi, a warm welcome to you.

Naomi Bloom: Thank you very much, Michael. I’m delighted to be here.

Michael Krigsman: Naomi, please, just very briefly share with us your background so we have some context, some understanding of who you are.

Naomi Bloom: Sure. I’ve really lived the gender diversity experience, because I started out as a computer programmer when there really weren’t any; and have come right along, run my own business since ‘87, and if you were to ask me what the point is, I’d say the point is to save the world from bad software.

Michael Krigsman: Ok, to save the world from bad software. And our guest, with whom Naomi is going to be having the bulk of the conversation today, is Pat Milligan, who is an executive at Mercer, which is one of the largest HR consulting companies in the world. And Pat, a warm welcome to you, to CXOTalk.

Pat Milligan: Thank you, Michael. Great to see you both and hi, Naomi!

Naomi Bloom: Pat, I’m so delighted that we can do this and that Michael’s given us the opportunity, because gender diversity and using gender diversity as a driver of business outcomes is a passion for both of us. Can you tell us a little bit more about Mercer and your role there?

Pat Milligan: Sure. Mercer, I think many of you may or may not be familiar with, Mercer is one of the largest human resource consulting firms in the world, but if you really cut through it, we’ve got people all over the world who focus on the health, the wealth, and the careers of about 110 million employees. We work primarily with organizations, helping them shape their people, HR programs, and strategies to ensure that their employees thrive from the health perspective, financial security and careers. I’ve been at Mercer for about a decade, I’ve had the pleasure of managing our growing talent business. I’ve run the North America region, but in the last two years, something that’s been a passion of mine, women in the workforce, has took on a business and commercial structure for us called “When Women Thrive,” and I’ve been leading “When Women Thrive” and all of our work with multinational clients.

Naomi Bloom: When I hear you say “when women thrive,” I fill in the rest of that phrase as “when women thrive, everyone thrives.” Is that really the thrust?

Pat Milligan: You know, look, I will share a lot of what we at Mercer, and I personally have been focusing on the role and the shape of women in the global workforce, is because for all of the great focus and attention and passion that many of the folks joining us today have, the world would thrive if women were actually more engaged in the workforce, but the data and the research shows that all the great work that many of us are doing is simply not moving the needle. So part of the reason Mercer really got involved was we had the honor of doing a lot of work with the World Economic Forum on the Gender Parity Report, and a decade later, the data was quite alarming that based on all of the great intentions and everything we are all doing, literally across the world and across industries, we were simply are not and we are not moving the needle, with both current and future representation of women.

Naomi Bloom: So if we back up for a moment, let’s talk a little bit about the research that shows the connection between gender diversity and business outcomes. I mean, it’s not just our good intentions, but there’s a real business connection here.

Pat Milligan: Yeah, certainly. Maybe we’ll unpack it into two pieces. One is, let’s talk about what is; for those of you who don’t know Mercer as well; we are data wonks, right? Big data wonks; big data actuarial, investment, and health; but one of the things we really saw was a lot of what was out there from a gender perspective was a point in time, it wasn’t helping organizations step back and say that “if I really don’t believe that the trajectory I’m on for getting women throughout my organization is what I want to be, what can I do to change the future trajectory of the women in my workforce?” So, the research that we did: actually, first and foremost, it’s truly uniquely global. It comes out to 700 organizations, 42 countries. But the powerful thing is that it looks at the shape of women in the workforce, about 1.3 million women. And why it was also important was it was actually the predictive ability of this research. We were able to look at how women come into the workforce, how they get promoted, why they stay and why they leave. And it really focuses very holistically on what are the things that organizations do that actually keep women in the workforce, get them promoted, get them paid fairly, and what can we do to actually influence the future? So it’s very much the predictive and analytical ability to look at this and not emotionally, but very much from a data view to say what gets measured matters. And if you can’t understand what is your problem, why are your women leaving and candidly, where do they have a pay equity problem, you can’t solve the problem. So, that was very much our passion.

Naomi Bloom: And what about the other side of it, the business case for gender diversity?

Pat Milligan: You know, look, I think so much has been said and done about the business case. But when we look across industries, and certainly we’re going to talk a lot about the technology industry, but when we look at the lifecycle of what are we really trying to influence, there’s just no question that when you look at business outcomes through the lens of "Why do great technology companies - why are you seeing the kind of focus you’re seeing from Silicon Valley and from all over." It’s because they are acknowledging that the customer base is changing, that women are the major consumers. And they’re not just now the consumers of healthcare, financial services, and other consumer products, but they’re one of the fastest-growing cadres of consumers of technology. So I think our clients are starting to understand that if you do not have women strategically integrated in product development, product management, innovation, and sales, and you’re selling to women, how can you predict how your customers are going to think and feel?

So first and foremost, we’re hearing a lot of our clients in the technology sector talk about “customer intimacy”, but then they’re also talking about innovation. You know, we could go through reams of data about how diverse and inclusive teams and cultures, from an innovation and speed-to-market [perspective], outperform homogenous groups. So, I think, Naomi, the great thing is we have very few organizations who actually now come to us and say “Pat, can you and your team build us a business case?” What we have are great teams and leaders saying, “I get it. I’m deeply committed to the business case. I get what I need to do. Help me understand why I’m making so little progress.”

Naomi Bloom: So what could we do? I mean when you’re talking with one of your clients and they’re asking you, “How do I make more progress?” What do you tell them?

Pat Milligan: Well look, let’s just step back and look at it from a macroeconomic level because the first thing I say to organizations, and again, we have the honor of working with great companies, but we also have the honor of working with great countries. So, share that, whether it’s companies in the technology industry or quite candidly, a great country like Japan. I mean, what we really do is help them understand. Look, if you can’t increase the participation rates of women in the workforce, then if you look at your future GDP growth (economic growth and vitality), you as a country, will be on an economic decline because you simply do not have the workers — what you call “worker placement ratios”. In a country like Japan, if they cannot figure out how to bring more women in, both as workers and consumers, they will actually shrink as an economy.

So, at a very macro level we look at this, Naomi, and say "Look, we’re talking about an asset - an economic asset. Educated women not in the workforce represent a potential GDP increase of about $12 trillion." Now, I’m not an actuary, but that’s a super big number, right? At a macro level, you talk about those kind of numbers, and then companies actually now look at their own economic issues and say, “What am I missing in terms of customer growth? What am I missing in terms of my ability to shape the agenda in my organization?” The good news is, we don’t really spend a lot of time anymore on the business case. What we really focus on is, “Who’s passionate about this?”

So, part of what you and I can talk about is, we often are in situations where I know there’s a diverse group on the phone. You know, you can have a great CEO who’s super passionate about this topic, but if his or her leadership team, and managers, and people managers, and supervisors don’t care about this issue, nothing will happen. And hopefully we can talk a little more about the role of men, which we spend a lot of time on.

Naomi Bloom: Pat, let me circle back to something we were talking about a moment ago. We know that the technology industry has really been spending a lot of time and energy and thought and effort on this topic. But today, every company is a technology company. That wasn’t true 20 years ago. Today, it is absolutely true. And so, what was, perhaps, a shortage of women in senior technology roles, was a problem, sure, but just for those companies. Now, it’s a problem for everyone. To the point that you were just making, there’s a talent pool out there that we cannot afford to waste. And, your point about Japan is an interesting one, because from my reading, educated women do enter the workforce, but at the point of childbearing, leave and often don’t return. Is that a problem across the world or is that unique?

Pat Milligan: So, just like anything, it’s complicated. So, we can spend a lot of time on this talk about childcare, but what we will say is, it’s a combination of what are truly the programs and policies that countries and companies have, but then who takes advantage of those policies, and what is the culture? So if you compared why are we seeing women deeply and truly thrive in the Nordics, right? If you look at where do we actually think we are truly going to see some form of gender parity? And it could be in my lifetime, high probability that we are going to see it in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Why? Because men and women take equal advantage of leave, of paternity leave, of work remotely, of flexwork. So the culture embraces this as a people and family issue, not a women’s issue. I think it’s fair to say if I had colleagues on from Japan and some for the organizations we work with, they’ve done everything. They’ve legislated, they have great mandates on childcare, but the culture hasn’t caught up with the economic imperative. So, you can have the CEOs of great companies and some amazing Japanese multinationals very focused on this, but the culture isn’t really aligning and the men aren’t yet embracing the strategy.

So, we’ve got to get men much more involved in this, and I think that’s worthy of unpacking a little. I mean, in the technology industry, one of the things we worry about is many of the next generation, many of the millennial men we hear from really need to understand that it isn’t that women win and they lose. It’s that these great companies, in order to grow and prosper need all the men they have, they just need a lot more women. Part of what we try to do is get the men involved much, much earlier. I have a phrase called “men matter”. They really do and so when you give them a chance to get involved, they will say, “You know, Pat, why are you just talking about diversity as a women’s issue? Why are you not allowing us to participate?”

Michael Krigsman: And we have a question from Twitter, from Arsalan Khan, who asks whether or not gender disparity is the cause or effect of pay gaps and differences among men and women.

Pat Milligan: So, Michael, a couple of things. I mean, we have been prosecuting pay equity for a decade, right? So, one of the things I would just share is I think that companies are doing a better job measuring, monitoring, and remediating pay equity than they actually are female representation. So, we could talk for hours about why, but I think things like pay equity are easy to assess. They’re actually quite easy to measure. One of the things we’re seeing in technology, (and real kudos to this industry) is a much bolder view that being transparent about pay equity - measuring and reporting it - helps you solve the issue. We’re taking it out of, so to speak, the “general counsel closet”. So you’re seeing technology saying, and I won’t use company names, but the number of phenomenal publications that have been done in the technology industry; publicizing where are they in pay equity. We’re at 96%, 97%. I am thrilled to see industries say "We’re not only measuring it, but we’re sizing our gap. And we are working diligently to understand are there particular roles? Are there countries? Where are we falling behind and what is the root cause?"

That I will comment on. One of the things we truly see in pay equity is that the biggest root cause is that women fall behind from a promotion perspective when they certainly go on maternity leave, but they often step out of what we consider to be the most important sales, product development, and P&L jobs because of the pressure of raising a family or elder care or other issues. So, I’m actually pleased that pay equity is taking on more than just a legislative and regulatory [bent], it’s becoming a passion of executives. They want all of their populations paid fairly.

Naomi Bloom: Pat, you mentioned two things; two dots I want to connect. One being this issue of women continuing culturally for women bearing a primary responsibility for childrearing, elder care, and so-forth. And I realize that’s going to vary with cultures around the world, but it is still a fairly dominant trend. The second thing is that if there aren’t enough women like you and me in positions of some responsibility in a company, then often the senior male executives don’t have the experience of working with senior women. And, that’s why I think it’s so important that men not see this as “She wins, I don’t,” but rather “we all win.” And I think that all comes out of working together; gaining experience. Are there any programs that are particularly helpful with giving rising men and women, as they come up the career ladder, the opportunity to really collaborate?

Pat Milligan: Yeah look, Naomi, I think it’s a great question. And one of the things I would just offer is what really came out of our research is I wish I could I could tell you that there’s a single lever, a single program, a single policy that moved the needle. I’ll just give you the framework of what our research showed. What is fascinating is it showed that really, it’s actually the heart and the mind of this problem that has to come together. We saw very clearly that at an individual level, there were three things that absolutely drove future representation of women. And it was, did the leaders in the organization...were they personally passionate about this issue? I.e. they invested heavily in it, they had real good experiences about what happened when you had diverse teams, it was a passion that was authentic. Very authentic. And it was personal to them. They personally looked at, “Here is my product development team - why do I not have women, people of color, Hispanics; I will not allow you to go forward with a homogenous team.” They made it personal, and then they persevered like Hell. I mean, they just measured it, they looked at it every day. So those three things: Am I with people who are really passionate, are they authentic? And boy, oh boy do they persevere and prosecute this. They help us move.

That, alone. That wasn’t enough. What we really saw was what you were seeing in the tech sector, this notion of proof. Show me the data. Show me analytically and unemotionally your workforce analytics. Show me the representation of women. How many are we hiring? Who gets promoted? Why are they leaving? So proof and analytics was critical. And then, one of the things we saw, that unconscious bias comes in all those HR processes. Why do women get higher performance ratings but get promoted at half the rate of men? So, I just want to make sure that to talk about a single program, the companies who are really moving the future basically had a great approach to this. They had the personal agenda, and they had leaders who were super authentic, and then they were really very clear that they’re going to run this - the same way I run sales or the way I run - it’s a core business process, it’s not some leader of diversity sitting out in a cube. It’s hugely integrated into the way we think about our business. And that’s what gives me hope - it’s the way I’m seeing these business executives.

If you think about technology, it’s been the sales and marketing leaders, some of the product development folks, customer service who’ve been the chairs of these women’s efforts; not just HR, not just the Chief Diversity Officer. So I’m not sure if it helps, and if we can really unpack it, but if you ask me and say, “Should we put in a new paternity benefit?” Well, not really. Like you should actually understand why your women are leaving.

And one of the things I’d like to talk a little bit more about is in the technology sector, it’s all about recruitment. If you really look at what is the single biggest issue we have, it’s the attraction of women at larger numbers into the industry. Because we are not bringing women in in large enough numbers or actually promoting them well, and they’re not leaving in some industries at twice the rate of men, but for whatever reason, we aren’t appealing enough to women like yourself twenty or thirty years ago to say, “We can make a career in this industry.” So we’ve got to actually work on how to make the industry more attractive to women and make it more open and hospitable.

Naomi Bloom: And really, Pat, this goes back into the educational pipeline, it goes back deep into the childhood of boys and girls because early on, we start without even realizing it sometimes, targeting little girls in one direction and targeting boys in another. The biases very unconsciously influence every step of that journey so that when we do try to hire out of computer science programs, information systems programs, there aren’t enough women to go around.

Pat Milligan:  Absolutely.

Naomi Bloom: We’re seeing some of the companies are really starting to take this on, and, get involved with high schools, get involved with junior highs. Are you seeing some of that as well?

Pat Milligan: I think that one of the things that’s very clear is that as you think about the future of talent acquisition and you think about how are we framing the worker of the future, it’s no question that we are seeing our clients actually change their whole talent acquisition strategy to say that, “I need to target schools, I need to target programs where I can really get women and other diverse populations to believe that they can thrive and be successful in our industry.” And I think, Naomi, if we don’t do that, we are not going to change the future trajectory. So, again, having the pleasure of working with a lot of these great companies, what they’re trying to do, earlier on in terms of true sponsorship programs intervening in the high schools, and one of the most successful things we’re seeing is the intervention into the community colleges, where we can really shape that whole conversation much earlier. So, when we think about programs, a lot of what clients focus on are programs at work. They’re not focusing on influencing the future talent acquisition, and that’s a really important thing we’re consulting on, which is, “You have to change the way you think about talent and recruitment to influence the supply, because you are simply not creating enough women and other minorities that feel comfortable in the industry.” I don’t know if that helps, but I think it’s important that it’s not just the classic HR programs.

Naomi Bloom: It feels like another dimension to this is organizations being willing to do some development, because when they do have people already on board, there is a tendency to look for the perfect fit. And women, though not all women of course, but many women won’t step up for something unless they feel fully qualified, whereas men will often sort of push themselves forward even though they need some development. The psychology of that is one thing, but the way the organization handles that is something where some development would really be helpful.

Pat Milligan: Absolutely. So a couple of things, I mean and again, anyone who wants to download this can see it in our “When Women Thrive” research. A big section of our research was really, what are the unique competencies of women vs. men? What is it that we systematically see women excel at? And one of the things I think companies have to think differently about is the way they define a role and a competency is often very male-focused. And even the way we think, Naomi, about selecting resumes, one of the things we’re trying to do with the use of technology like Pymetrics [LLC] and others is take the bias out of selection, because what you really see are women write their resumes often with much more collaborative verbs. I mean, “I collaborated,” “I contributed;” men write their resumes, “I stormed,” “I normed,” “I accomplished.”

And so, one of the things you’re really seeing is often women are really factored out of the talent pool because we really do not take into consideration that there’s a family of competencies that women have: you know, collaboration, ability to communicate, live in ambiguity. One of the tools that we work on with clients is this whole internal network analysis; it’s labor market analysis internally and we find that women create much more diverse networks, they communicate and collaborate more broadly. We looked at one of our large pharmaceutical clients. Men communicate and cluster in tight communications and networks; women actually fan out in it. So, understanding: Is our competency model biased against women because so many of the things we value are traditional competencies like P&L management, operations; as opposed to….

Can we redesign these roles, to make them really more balanced to play to some of the strengths of women, but then help them build those competencies in the future, I think it’ll be interesting to hear at some of the technology conferences over the next six months, a number of organizations whether it’s the Workdays, the SAPs, one of the biggest things we’re seeing is the rethink of how they think about competency models to take the gender bias out. And I think that will really move the needle.

Michael Krigsman: Can I interrupt? I have a quick question here: what is the difference between companies like Workday or Salesforce which emphasise inclusion and comparable pay rates, compensation for women, vs. other companies. Is there a difference? Can you identify those? It’s a question for both of you.

Naomi Bloom: If I could speak to that, some very interesting things are embedded in what you’re just asking. It turns out that the companies like some that you mentioned, but there are many others, make a real effort to retain their talented women through those childbearing, family-building years. Not letting them leave, but finding ways to accommodate. They are hanging on to some very talented women. I see it a lot in the HR tech community, and I’m sure it’s happening elsewhere also: once these women are over the hump, you know, their children are in school, they can travel a bit, things get a little easier at home, they’re intensely loyal to the companies that they’re working for because they were given that opportunity.

Pat Milligan: I think, Michael, a couple of things. I do think this notion of true commitment to sponsorship - what you see in some of the companies you mentioned is that executives at all levels are really raised to sponsor women. So I think this notion of, “You don’t just do your job delivering your numbers, delivering your sales,” that from a talent perspective, they’ve built it into the culture that sponsoring diversity; and again, we’re focused on women but let’s be clear, in the future, the ability to attract and retain diverse populations, whether it be people of color, Muslims, Hispanics; I mean, we’ve actually got to get that diversity in these workforces. And so, this notion of, Naomi, we used to call them “affinity groups,” but the power of these business resource groups [is they are] deeply, deeply sponsored by executives.

So, just on a personal level, I have been the Senior Executive at Mercer. I have been the executive sponsor of women at Mercer for five years. And why does that matter? Because women across Mercer, and men, see me actively engaged in understanding, “What’s our brand? Why are they coming here? Why do they leave? What is it we need to do?” And this year, actually two years ago, I decided that I need to have a cosponsor, and I picked a phenomenal guy who runs our global talent business and said, “Look, Ilya, you’ve got to get the men much more engaged in this,” and he started an entire strategy on “Men Matter.” So he did phenomenal sessions with our male partners, with our male executives, and we found out, Michael, a lot, men wanted a safe place to say, “What’s the deal with all this women stuff? You know, why are we talking about this?” And when we showed them the data and said, “You think you’re doing a great job, but honestly, here’s what’s happening to your women. Here’s where they fall behind from a pay equity [perspective],” to a person, they were like, “That is not acceptable.” But you needed the men honestly saying, “Is it safe to talk? Like I don’t get why this is such an issue. I think I’m a really flexible supervisor." Well actually, you’re really not. You’ve never told the women on your team that they can work remotely one day a week.

And really Naomi, you really hit on it, one of the most successful things we’ve seen are educating male supervisors. Because one of the things, Michael, we really see, is there’s a high correlation, “When do women leave an organization?” with often the first time they have a male supervisor who’s super uncomfortable saying “Pat, how’s it going? You know, I noticed your mom’s ill, you just had your second child. What can we do to make your life easier?” So the “What can we do?” That conversation doesn’t happen. It’s time that we all got more comfortable.

Michael Krigsman: This is very interesting. We have about just under 15 minutes left, and I hope that you’ll both share your very practical and experienced advice for companies who are interested in creating greater gender inclusion and diversity. What practical steps can you take? How do you do it?

Pat Milligan: Well, Michael, I’m going to talk about this from a couple of levels. I mean, first and foremost, I want to talk to the men and women that are here that are not executives, that are not in management. So the first thing I would say to women is, “Ask the question.” One of the most important things I do to coach women is ask the basic question, “Am I paid fairly?” “Can you tell me that I’m paid equitably?” “Can you tell me if I’m getting the kind of performance ratings that my male counterparts are?” I actually think really understanding, as an individual, get comfortable having the conversation. Most diverse populations don’t. So I would say then the very practical things we say to clients: "First and foremost, “diagnose your root cause.” You have got to understand, and not just at an aggregate level, if you’ve got multiple regions and businesses, teaching your executives how to diagnose what is the problem you have: Are you not hiring enough women? Are you not promoting them at the right rates? Are you actually losing them at certain career levels? Where are they falling behind? Absolutely critical that you know what problem you’re trying to solve. So the first very practical thing is, given the great developments in workforce and data analytics, it’s really easy to figure that out. So get the data.

Second thing we say very practically is “Engage the key stakeholders.” And again, not using jargon. But look, it just can’t be the CEO. You need to find passionate leaders, from the CEO to the Senior Executive, all the way down the line and say, “Look, are you willing to make a personal commitment to lead and champion this issue, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s going to make your business and society more successful?” So you need authentic people who actually can really lead and say, “This is how we’re going to make our business more successful.”

And then, I really think you’ve got to take action. You’ve got to really say, “There are half a dozen world-class programs that we know make a difference.” Sponsorship is critical, Men Matter programs, really making sure the two big things that we saw that had the biggest impact on the future representation of women were health and financial wellness programs focused on women. So, understand, are your women experiencing stress and the healthcare system differently? Do they need a different way to be educated financially? So we find that those programs make a huge difference, but then also make sure that you’ve got an infrastructure that’s going to persevere. Because, one of the things, certainly Naomi, that I talk about is, this can’t be key-person dependent. I am absolutely confident that if I left Mercer tomorrow or Julio Portalatin left, we could continue to thrive on our women’s agenda because we’ve build the sustaining infrastructure. So, diagnose your problem, get the right leaders, and find out and weed out the people who are not authentic. I honestly challenge you. If you have leaders who really don’t believe this, I question why they’re leading in this day and age. But then make sure that you understand which of these programs move the needle, and absolutely make sure that you can persevere because you’ve got the right muscle. And I actually think we’ve got a lot of clients that are doing that.

Michael Krigsman: And Naomi, your thoughts as well. This is incredible, such wealth of knowledge you’re both sharing. So your thoughts, Naomi; your advice.

Naomi Bloom: I was going to mention that , the HR tech community is very aware that a lot of our software has embedded biases, and there’s a huge effort underway to root this out. So, to Pat’s statement about resumes being written differently, performance language being written differently, we are looking to embed sort of bias-seeking, heat-seeking language, assumptions, and processes across HR technology to make that technology as bias-free as we can do it. It’s in the early days, but there’s a lot of work going into that, and I think it will make a difference. A small difference, but it’s terribly important.

Pat Milligan: Actually Michael, huge difference. We have a financial services client that used this software to take out the bias selection words in their investment banking division, and over 18 months, they had a 40% increase in qualified resumes of women when they actually took what we consider to be very biased verbs and adjectives out of their software selection. So, that is something, Naomi, that the industry can really push, and completely agree that it can change the trajectory very quickly.

Michael Krigsman: Well how about we take another question from Twitter, and we have about five or six minutes left so we have to do this a little bit more rapid-fire because we could talk about this, or you guys could talk about this for hours. So Judy Gambita asks, “What do you think of ‘HeforShe’, and is it the right focus?”

Pat Milligan: I mean look, Judy quickly, I think great organizations like the UN, like the World Economic Forum, I think these programs make a difference whether it’s “HeforShe,” whether it’s the focus we’re seeing now, whether it’s the White House focus on pay equity, they can't hurt. But change really happens, no disrespect, in really great companies whether they’re large companies, small companies. So I’d say Michael, that they don’t hurt because they actually get attention. But I actually think it's actually difficult for these not-for-profits to move the needle. I mean, we all have to move the needle as managers and leaders because we’re the ones that actually have all the people. So, I think they don’t harm but I don’t think they can move the needle as quickly as we would like. Others?

Michael Krigsman: There have been more but again, we have just a few minutes left, and getting back to this notion of very practical advice. Naomi, what are some of the other steps that companies can take?

Naomi Bloom: I get this question all the time, and one very practical step that companies can take tomorrow is to a point that Pat was making: they have to look beyond the aggregate data. They have to look at individual managers, individual product lines, individual geographies and so forth, because it’s at that point of sale, with that manager that you change things. You change behavior, and to Pat’s point: if you have some people on board who are really not with the program, managers who really don’t believe in this and really not going to do it, then you really need to get them out of the way. That’s pretty practical.

Michael Krigsman: Yeah, I mean so Pat, how do you take that step? At what point, how do you know when to make that decision?

Pat Milligan: I mean, look, Micheal. One of the things we struggle with at Mercer is you’ve got to model it from the top, I mean, you really do. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our CEO Julio Portalatin because if I look at his exec. team, you know, there were people when he came on board, who checked the box and said “I’ll do what I need to do because it affects my bonus,” but the feedback from their people was, “They’re not authentic. I never really see them rolling up their sleeves and helping move the needle.” And actually our CEO eventually said, “I don’t care what you accomplish, it’s how you’re doing it and here’s your people’s scorecard and you’re losing your women at tremendous rates, and I can’t have you in a people leadership role, or a business leadership role.”

So, it takes a lot for a leader to say, “Your ability to drive that workforce, keep those diverse populations and women, is a core performance attribute. If you don’t do that, you can’t run an entity in our organization.” It takes a lot of guts to do that, and I think that’s what we’re starting to see, and you’re seeing it more and more in the technology industry , saying a core component of being a business leader is absolutely managing and driving a diverse workforce to thrive, we have to really work towards. It’s not easy and it’s not for the faint-of-heart.

Michael Krigsman: Naomi, how many CEOs are out there who would accept this, accept the notion of gender diversity as being a core part of our business and our business processes?

Naomi Bloom: I’d like to believe it’s a large number, but in my experience it’s not as large as it ought to be in 2016.

Michael Krigsman: We have just a couple of minutes left, and so, Pat, why don’t you share with us your final thoughts and advice, and Naomi we’ll turn to you for the same.

Pat Milligan: Look, I’m hugely optimistic. Michael, it’s one of those things that if you look at this data, it can be daunting and depressing, but I think this notion of “It takes a village,” we’re all part of this village. You can move the needle. If somebody had told me, Naomi, we could take the bias out of selection through re-engineering software, so I do think if everyone can leave this call saying, “Given the role I sit in, what can I do personally? What can I do to change as a leader? I’m an individual contributor. What kind of questions can I change about our organization?” I think that we will make progress. I do not think that we will achieve equality, so I’m trying to find better words like “parity” and “representation”, but I don’t want to believe the talk saying, “It’s hopeless.” It’s not hopeless. We can, and we will make tremendous progress but it’s going to take all of us. So, Naomi?

Naomi Bloom: I have lived the progress that has already been made. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if things weren’t optimistic. There’s more work to be done. It may not be total parity on our watch, but it will happen because there’s a lot of men and women coming behind us who don’t just believe in gender diversity, but believe in the broadest possible definition of gender diversity. It’s been encouraging to see it!

Pat Milligan: Absolutely.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Well, what a fast-moving discussion we have had. And, I wish we had another hour to continue talking about it. You have been watching Episode 193 of CXOTalk, and we have been speaking on the topic of gender diversity with the host of today’s show, Naomi Bloom, and our esteemed guest, Pat Milligan, who is a senior executive at Mercer. And Pat and Naomi, thank you so much for joining us and taking time today.

Pat Milligan: My pleasure!

Naomi Bloom: Thank you for having us!

Michael Krigsman: It has been a lot of fun. And everybody, tune in next week when we’ll have more incredible conversations on CXOTalk. Bye-bye.

Published Date: Sep 23, 2016

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 376