GWII Leaderwalk: we must ALL be part of gender inclusion and diversity

Inclusion – be it around gender, ethnicity or any other yardstick – is never about exclusion.

This was the central message to be taken from Gauteng Women in Insurance’s (GWII) first Leaderwalk event of 2019, which grappled with the issue of gender diversity and inclusion.

Roy Gluckman and Obenewa Amponsah address the Leaderwalk event.
(Photo by Fulcrum)
Roy Gluckman and Obenewa Amponsah address the Leaderwalk event.

Fulcrum was a sponsor of the event, which was hosted by GWII in collaboration with the 30% Club. To promote inclusion and diversity, GWII committee member (and Fulcrum employee) Michelle-Dee Coetzee said GWII was opening up its Leaderwalks to men as well.

The keynote speakers for the Leaderwalk were Roy Gluckman, attorney and CEO of equality, diversity and inclusion consultancy Cohesion Collective, and Obenewa Amponsah, former executive director of the Africa office of Harvard University’s Center for African Studies and a certified life coach and public speaker.

“We need to start engaging men in this [gender inclusion] conversation,” Gluckman began. “Gender empowerment is not about the exclusion of men.”

He argued that every conference in recent times has been “premised on the idea that the world is changing”, with concepts such as the 4th industrial revolution, millennials and disruption featuring constantly.

“Let’s ask the tough question: what is in fact changing?” he retorted, stating that not much has changed; instead, “we’re just more sophisticated in how we present change”.

So, social movements such as #MeToo, #FeesMustFall and the 2016 Pretoria Girls’ High School anti-racism protests are not really movements of change – “[they are] just to get people to point zero”.

While these movements are incredible, let’s not buy into them as being enough, Gluckman said. Instead, people should imagine moving beyond point zero: “How do we make this work?”

Amponsah cited statistics: one third of women globally experience gebnder-based violence; 41% of women are cyber-harassed; only 13% of the leadership in listed South African companies are women; South African women earn 27% less than men (a gap that widens to 39% on the business executive level).

Yet, she said, “there is a business case for gender equity”. There is a relationship between diversity and performance, and companies that are not gender diverse are 29% less likely to outperform their peers.

“We see it time and time and time again …” Amponsah said. “If we were to close the gender gap by 2025, we would add $20-trillion to global GDP. And that’s a conservative estimate.”

Gluckman used the analogy of the “DIE pie”: the diversity part entails the ingredients; the inclusion part is about putting the ingredients together in a way that makes sense; and the equality part is “the baking”. 

“All inclusion is,” he continued, “is comfort. How comfortable are tyou to show up at your organisation every day?”

When people feel included, they have greater breadth to explore and excel, they feel free to speak up, they are more engaged with their work, and they have the courage to try and fail.

The attendees of the Leaderwalk.
(Photo by Fulcrum)
The attendees of the Leaderwalk.

Equality, he stated, is not about treating everybody the same: “True equality is treating different people differently, in order to have access to equality … Equality, and equity, is access and support.”

“The question is, how do we get there?” asked Amponsah, who argued that for more diverse and inclusive organisations (and lives), “we need to approach things differently”.

She pointed out that currently, when we talk about gender, we tend to think that it’s about women – yet we all have gender, and “gender equity isn’t just good for women, it’s good for men”.

Amponsah also argued that as much as men present challenges around gender, women also diminish themselves “because we were socialised that way”.

She presented four actions to address the gender imbalance:

  • We need to rethink – reframe – how we approach gender
  • We need to listen to and learn from those whose experience is different to ours
  • We – men and women – need to take deliberate action
  • We need to be conscious of what is communicated

Following the speakers’ presentation, audience members each participated in two smaller discussion sessions with insurance industry leaders, where they addressed issues arising from the event.