South Africa’s Women’s Month, celebrated in August each year, is an opportunity for companies to measure their progress towards diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) outcomes through a gender-tinted lens. In this regard, Munich Re of Africa (MRoA) aligns with the Munich Re Group Gender Ambition 2025, which has the goal to increase the number of female managers to at least 40%.
To achieve gender parity in organisations requires stakeholders to be decisive and intentional; you have to set clear goals and objectives and do everything possible to ensure that these are met. At Munich Re, we view ‘promoting women to management’ alongside ‘equity in pay’ as two important measures in the gender parity journey. An optimal outcome is a workplace environment where women support each other to grow in their respective careers. On a broader level, women’s empowerment must go beyond ‘tick box’ measurement to deliver real changes in corporate culture, and to contribute to an environment that embraces DEI.
We cannot embark on this transformational journey without a clear appreciation of each of the components in the DEI framework. At MRoA we describe diversity as the unique beliefs and contextual experiences that each employee brings to the firm, which clearly goes beyond single factors such as disability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.
Equity refers to providing each employee with equal opportunity with due allowances for past experience. It focuses on levelling the playing field and allowing each employee to participate in all parts of the work environment equally, and irrespective of any unique characteristics they may bring to the table.
Finally, inclusion requires that all employees feel psychologically safe within the company. They must feel a sense of belonging, know that their voices are always heard and be confident that their opinions and views will be respected at all times. An inclusive environment is one in which everyone can bring their best and reach their full potential.
Delivering on DEI therefore requires that we appreciate and celebrate the unique attributes of each employee; provide equal opportunities for all; and create a psychologically safe workspace where employees can deliver to their full potential. When diverse perspectives and ways of thinking are brought together, great ideas are sparked and this enhances problem-solving and overall performance.
Organisations that embed DEI in their culture will have an edge over the competition as they navigate today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. In fact, companies are fast realising that a diverse and inclusive workforce gives them the edge in collaborative problem solving. From a South African perspective, DEI also ensures that the economically active population reflects within organisations, creating diverse teams that represent both clients’ and communities’ interests.
As Women’s Month 2022 draws to a close, my wish is that each of us show the leadership necessary, and take the individual responsibility, to promote DEI in our spheres of influence. At the very least we should consider whether our leadership is contributing to collaboration, courage and culture within our organisations. And we should carry out our day-to-day tasks cognisant of our biases, always striving to build teams where individuals participate fully in the organisation , as the best version of themselves.
Article written by: Wendy Anne Naidoo, HR Country Head at Munich Re of Africa