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Why Organizations with High Diversity Rankings can Leave Women Behind

Every year, Forbes magazine ranks the best employers in terms of diversity. The latest iteration published in January 2020 lists only three corporations from the transportation sector in the top 100 and none for the aerospace and defence sector.

Southwest Airlines (#74) tops the diversity transportation category, followed by JetBlue Airways (#76) and Delta Air Lines (#96) despite below national average percentages of female pilots at 4.1%, 4.9%, and 4.8% respectively.

Women looking for a women-friendly workplace or supplier should take diversity and inclusion rankings with a grain of salt.

Achieving high diversity rankings

Diversity ratings look at overall representation of various groups within an organization – without weighing against their representation in the general population or examining their role in the organization.

As long as an organization is keen to hire individuals from various races, ethnic backgrounds, physically or mentally challenged groups, other diversity-relevant groups, and enough women working in their traditional roles, it qualifies as a champion of diversity in rankings – regardless of corporate culture.

Research shows that diverse organizations outperformed non-diverse organizations but, only when mixing and inclusion takes places at all levels. A diverse workforce divided into homogeneous teams or sectors may achieve diversity accolades but it will not collect diversity rewards or a comfortable workplace.

The door is not locked but is it opened?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Verna Myers

Diversity policies – and discrimination laws – unlock the doors. Inclusive cultures open them. Diversity without an effective inclusion strategy leads to employee under-performance and low retention rates.

As a prospective employee or customer, look for signposts of exclusions such terminology, requirements, or visual representations. Strong homogeneous groups are blind to words, prerequisites, and media usage that excludes as long as it represents the group’s characteristics accurately.

All organizations have some educational and lifestyle diversity across their hierarchy levels. How the various hierarchy levels relate and communicate reveals the basic mindset of the organization. No shiny inclusion program can offset a corporate mindset of separation among groups.

Inclusion begins with a positive and respectful mindset

March 8 marks the formal entry of women in the air and space industry since 1910 and International Women’s Day since 1977.

Yet, on March 8, 2021, Southwest Airlines (https://twitter.com/SouthwestAir) did not post any Tweet about women’s role in society – not for their employees, not for their customers. JetBlue (https://twitter.com/JetBlue) and Delta Air Lines (https://twitter.com/Delta) did post one single message each. Along with a photo of a single female employee, Jetblue said “… our female crewmembers #choosetochallenge the misconceptions surrounding our industry every day.” Delta Air Lines almost opted for a lone female pilot, Monique, a black female pilot, who “… didn’t let the comments of critics stand in her way. Now, she’s a First Officer with Delta, and inspires women around the world to always Keep Climbing.”

None of these diversity champions according to Forbes acknowledged the historical nature of the day for their female employees. Although Jetblue and Delta recognized women’s struggles in the industry for the occasion, neither spoke about the organization’s efforts to help them succeed.

iWOAW Verified Women Friendly 2020

On March 8, the public message was women are not relevant at Southwest and left to struggle in isolation at JetBlue and Delta.

In comparison, Pacific Coastal Airlines, a regional Canadian airline with 16% female pilots (double the national average) was among many corporations and institutions across the globe who featured their many female employees working in traditional and non-traditional roles along with internal gender balance data on their social media channels each and every day of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week,.

Since 2013, iWOAW’s Verified Women Friendly label identifies organizations with the positive and respectful mindset towards women – the first step towards effective inclusion and tangible diversity. Learn more.

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