[Viewpoint] Diversity and inclusion

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[Viewpoint] Diversity and inclusion

Every one of us has beliefs and opinions that we bring with us to work. The fact is that we all have unconscious biases: We instinctively relate more comfortably to people who have the same social identity as us and have a related, opposing bias against people we see as different. How do we identify people like us? Unsurprisingly, factors such as nationality, gender, age, religion and disability play a role.

Our biases influence who we choose to work with, the way we communicate and, in turn, who we hire and promote. It can create small inequalities, subtle practices and decisions which, taken together and over time, lead to certain groups being underrepresented.

In the case of Korea, the major bias has been against women. They are undervalued in Korean companies. Last month, the Ministry of Employment and Labor announced that the percentage of female employment at companies with more than 500 staff was recorded at 34.8 percent. The ratio of women managers fell down to 16.1 percent. My own experience also proves the point. I often meet the bank’s clients, and most people in senior positions I have met in Korea are men.

It surely does not mean that women are less competent. You only have to turn on the many golf channels in Korea to see how successful Korean women can be - and how they can overshadow men. Within HSBC I work with very capable women, and they are a big part of why HSBC has done so well.

You could say they are our secret weapon. The female employment ratio of HSBC Korea is about 65 percent. They can progress to higher levels, and we have 40 percent female executives on our senior management committee. They fill critical roles like head of IT and operations, risk, trade finance, and human resources.

While women are a wonderful resource, they tend to hold family life closer to their hearts than male counterparts, so a work-life balance is more important to them. That is a good thing, and companies should promote it. Korea is a great country, but I think that aspect needs to improve for all of us.

By acknowledging our bias, we can make real progress in countering it. By raising awareness of diversity and inclusion, we can shift attitudes. And if we spend a few minutes before we make important decisions, instructing ourselves on the importance of challenging any assumptions or biases we hold, we can make better decisions.

It is important to develop a corporate culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. Inclusion is about fairness and ensuring an equitable environment for employees. By welcoming greater diversity of experience and thought, we will make better decisions and improve our innovation and ability to spot new commercial opportunities.

There is a strong business case for becoming more diverse and inclusive. McKinsey research has shown that organizations with more women in senior management positions make better decisions and can outperform their sector in terms of profitability and share price. The McKinsey studies have shown that organizations with low levels of gender or racial diversity generally have far lower revenues than those with high levels.

HSBC has put diversity and inclusion at the heart of our values as we believe it is central to the bank’s future success.

*The writer is CEO of HSBC Korea.

By Matthew Deakin
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