Companies can gain a competitive edge by being more representative Hillary Rodham Clinton tells 30% Club Ireland conference

Sustainability | Fri 25 Mar | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Mary McAleese and Hillary Clinton

Diversity in the workplace is key to retaining & attracting talent in a competitive economy.


Inclusivity

In a keynote address to an online audience for the 30% Club Ireland’s seventh annual Chair & CEO Conference, former US Senator Hillary Clinton said that there are a lot of people who underestimate the advances you can make “selling your organisation as a representative one that is connected to the world.”

In conversation via Zoom with former Irish President Mary McAleese, Ms Clinton told the conference — whose theme is Sustaining Progress — that given the current challenges both hiring and retaining employees across society, inclusivity is viewed as both progressive and desirable, by current and potential employees:

“Diversity is our friend in a complex and global economy that we are now in,” she said. “Everyone should understand that the more different voices that are part of the decision-making process, the better decisions that will be made.” 

Bias 

Asked by Ms McAleese what her view on gender quotas compared to targets is, the former US Secretary of State said that while some Europeans countries focused on quotas for board diversity, the US are still focused on targets “and both reaching and exceeding these.” She challenged companies to “take a hard look at your hiring, retaining, promotion policies – just try to really analyse if there is implicit bias at work…the heads of companies who talk the talk need to walk the walk…examine your own data.

“Come up with an analysis, you analyse everything else from how you’re going to improve your supply chain to how you’re going to improve your marketing – all the pieces of the puzzle about being profitable. Well look at your employment practices and your promotional practices, especially now when a lot of companies are having trouble both hiring and retaining employees.”

Diversity

In the other keynote address Mairead McGuinness, EU Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union told the conference:

“Diversity is important for new breakthroughs and fresh perspectives…more diverse teams are more likely to think about society as a whole…”

“…Looking towards my area of finance, some of the most exciting developments are coming from fintech – it’s transforming how we think about finance and money – instant payments, virtual cards, artificial intelligence to make forecasts and manage data. But – only 12% of global fintech founders are women. So, we’ve a plethora of new products and services shaking up the market, but if fintech is dominated by men do these products reflect the needs of women, or society as a whole?”

There were over 750 attendees from various sectors across the Irish economy, whose companies are members of the 30% Club, Ireland. The organisation’s aim is to support the achievement of a minimum of 30% gender balance at all senior decision-making levels in companies nationwide. Rachel Hussey, Clients and Markets Partner at Arthur Cox and outgoing chair of the 30% Club Ireland said the theme of sustaining progress is a critical one:

“Looking back, when the pandemic first hit, there was a concern that business issues such as diversity and sustainability – which are arguably one and the same – might have to take a back seat. The opposite has in fact been the case, and businesses are more focused on these areas than ever.  We have made some welcome progress, but plenty remains to be done – and our theme for today is sustaining that progress, as we face new economic challenges. We must stay determined to keep these key issues front and centre as we work together, to drive more progress.”

Optimism

Melíosa O’Caoimh, Country Head at Northern Trust Ireland and incoming chair of the 30% Club said that despite these challenges, there was much to focus on and remain optimistic about: “I am delighted and honoured to take on this new role, and building on the progress of the 30% Club to date is one of my key objectives. To echo the words of the former secretary of State there is no time to rest on this issue, and our initiative and plans will ensure that.”