#IWD2022: Beyond the glass ceiling? Momentum Investments’ Jeanette Marais believes it’s time to shatter the maze of mirrors

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Today is International Women’s Day (#IWD2022) and we’re celebrating the achievements and work of women in leadership roles in the financial planning and wealth management sectors. In this article by Jeanette Marais (pictured), deputy CEO of Momentum Metropolitan, South African financial services group, and Head of Momentum Investments, Jeanette argues that diversity, equity and inclusion should be more than just the latest buzzword and that a values-based culture within business is the way to drive success

 Jeanette, we’ll hand over to you to share your thoughts on this important subject: 

“For decades, women have had to challenge the ‘glass ceiling’ in the workplace. Although we are seeing improvements in tackling the barriers to advancement, there remains scope to knock these down further. What’s more, we are now facing an additional challenge in the form of a ‘maze of mirrors’.

“For too long, leaders and corporations have built mirrors with the expectation to look into those and see themselves. Leaders (and employees) have tended to want teams that look like them, think like them, and share the same experiences as them.

“Just as the glass ceiling needs to be broken, these mirrors too need to be shattered.

“Across the world, organisations are increasingly realising the value of having a diverse workforce and inclusive culture. However, there is still work to be done. DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) should be more than the latest buzzword. It should be deeply ingrained within a company’s culture and in the day-to-day operations of its business.”

Organisational culture is the key to unlocking the value of DEI

“A company’s culture is the true litmus test of whether its DEI policies and practices are truly ingrained in its DNA. Whilst the stated core values of a business are important, its inclusivity mindset is determined by whether its employees truly live those values.

“It is worth noting the following from PwC’s 2021 Global Culture Survey: “Organisations with a view of culture as a distinction and source of competitive advantage maintain a sense of community better, respond to customer needs better, innovate with a higher degree of success and deliver better business results.”

“A diverse workforce with an inclusive culture and equitable opportunities for employees offers a competitive advantage that can propel a company’s success.

“Proving this, another PwC survey found that 69% of leaders largely attributed their success during the pandemic to the organisation’s culture. Additionally, almost 70% of those who said that their organisations were able to adapt well over the past year, also claimed that their culture had been a source of competitive advantage. Significantly, 67% of respondents believe that culture is more important than strategy and operations.

“Yet the challenge remains of bridging the gap between what people say and they experience.”

Affording those on the ‘other side’ of the mirror a path to walk through

“Once businesses understand the importance of DEI, we can break embedded expectations and practices. One way to achieve this is by empowering employees to progress through their careers with a sense of belonging and ownership on their journeys.

“There are many benefits to being an inclusive and diverse business. It offers a much larger variety of ideas, perspectives, and skills to draw upon. The combination of these has the incredible potential of powering innovation, efficiency, and problem-solving.

“The heightened levels of innovation and creative thinking, as well as the confidence to own these qualities, can also ensure greater job satisfaction and collective motivation to pursue organisational goals.

How can companies shatter the maze?

“There needs to be a shift in mindset, with increased awareness and understanding of DEI. At the most basic level, organisations must ensure that different racial groups, ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, and disability groups are represented across their business.

“However, to fully unlock the potential of diversity and inclusion, all employees must feel comfortable to actually bring their perspectives, ideas, and unique skills to the table. Leaders should be held accountable for hiring practices, training initiatives, and staff retention and experience.

“At Momentum Metropolitan, we believe strongly in a values-based culture. This is not merely plastered to the wall. We have, and always will, attribute our success to the absence of the maze of mirrors, with an inclusive culture and people who bring immense value to the table – not to mention learning opportunities for the future.”

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