The panel that spoke at the Irish Farmers Journal and Ornua “Bridging the Gap” event are all at different stages of their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) journeys.

John Jordan is first to acknowledge this for Ornua: “We are at the start of a journey and I am most certainly not up here to tell people how to do it. We’re here to learn and understand as well.”

Saying that, Ornua has started and for John, three reasons as to why stand out.

First, he says is that it’s a business performance issue. “If you look at the McKinsey data, businesses in the top quartile of diversity financially outperform their counterparts by 21%. So it’s a financial imperative to do this.

“The second thing is about being able to bring your whole self to work. I worry about people who might feel they have to wear a mask, are one person outside of work and somebody else at work.

“The stress and strain that would cause. That also means we’re not getting the best out of that person. We want to be an organisation where people can be themselves.”

I worry about people who might feel they have to wear a mask, are one person outside of work and somebody else at work

The third and final piece of why EDI is important, according to John, is the cognitive diversity that it brings. Within their own leadership team, in his own words: “There’d be nothing more boring than seven John Jordans sitting around that table because it would be a boring debate. One opinion, no diversity of challenge, no diversity of thought, no creativity.”

Wins

One of the real wins within Ornua, according to John, has been a diversity and inclusion working group which works across the entire organisation.

As a result fertility, IVF and miscarriage leave policies have been introduced as well as a programme for new, and both, parents.

Admitting “that’s not something that John Jordan would think of”, he says that making things happen first needs buy-in from people who understand the issues and then second by giving them the authority to actually make changes.

“The dairy sector tends to be very stereotypical – white, Irish men. We dominate the industry. Ornua for the first time has appointed two female independent non-exec directors.”

The dairy sector tends to be very stereotypical – white, Irish men. We dominate the industry.

“They are there on merit, to make that point, but it’s the first time we’ve seen diversity at our board level which is a good step forward for our industry.”

Developing talent is a process

John referred to the difference between recruiting and promoting. Many companies of scale recruit at 50:50 male to female but he says: “When you look as promotion through the organisation, it leans towards men.”

Succession planning and unblocking those layers is important. For that reason, the company has looked at senior executives and senior managers and change has happened with the succession pool four years ago at 17% female versus 35% today.

When asked what this succession planning looks like in practice, John says: “Take our CFO who has seven direct reports. Who, in the next 12 to 24 months – if our CFO won the lottery and decided to go live in the Bahamas – is ready to take that job? But it’s not just looking at who will be ready, it is asking why is she not ready today, what’s missing in the skillset. Is it hard skills? Is it leadership training? Is it coaching?

“And ask your employees if you are making progress,” the Ornua boss advises.

Imposter syndrome

“OK. We all suffer from imposter syndrome. So that’s not an exclusivity that women can claim title to. I am still afraid someone’s going to ask me an engineering or biotechnology question,” John quipped, of his primary degree from DCU.

However, he admits that the mental approach of men and women can be different.

While men will just go for that job, women feel that they need to tick all the boxes to be a fit.

Talent rises and we’ve a responsibility as senior leaders to help the talent come up, develop that, go back to the succession plan

“Mentorship, having those conversations, putting yourself into those positions, having the courage to do it. Talent rises and we’ve a responsibility as senior leaders to help the talent come up, develop that, go back to the succession plan."

If there was only one thing...

Start. Just get started. Start a conversation within your business. Pick something that you’re going to measure and work on it but get started.

Gender pay gap

Ornua operates in the US and the UK, countries which have had gender pay gap publication requirements for several years. Reporting a gender pay gap is not clear-cut as evidenced by their UK business, John explains.

“In a UK operation, there’s actually a positive gap (in favour of females). It’s an office versus operative issue as more females work in the office and therefore have a higher level of pay. When you look at the operatives, there are grades and you can get promoted.

“Overall, the operative is 75:25 male-female and in the first four levels, it’s 70:30. However, at the most senior operative level, it’s 100% male. So although overall the gender pay gap looks positive, on the operative side, [we ask] why aren’t females getting promoted or taking senior management roles?

“That’s something you can tangibly work on so it’s really important to break it down to something that’s bite-size and actionable, and then actually do something about it.”

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