"Are the portraits that hang in the hallways of your organization only of past male leaders? Know that this is impacting what employees or students believe possible for themselves."
- Iris Bohnet, Academic Dean at Harvard Kennedy School, author of ‘What Works.’
"Let your walls speak to the power of women's work; the real-world impact of diversity and inclusion.''
- Great Women Productions' artist/founder Jo Napier
For Immediate Release
Office 'Makeover' Can Shift Mindsets
Investment firm discovers Great Women boardroom portrait collection 'changes the conversation’
HALIFAX - A Nova Scotia business is pioneering a new kind of diversity and inclusion (D&I) tool: portrait art.
Clients of Great Women Productions (GWP) have found that installing portraits of 'great women' - like female pioneers of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) - is a powerful way to promote an inclusive-feeling office culture.
"Most companies will use basic business tools – mission statements, logos, annual reports – to communicate their values. Our clients are discovering that adding portrait art changes the landscape," says GWP founder Jo Napier.
Portraits are not a new business tool. They have always been used to reflect legacy, and values.
But Great Women portraits can be a subtle, yet deeply engaging, D&I opportunity, says Napier.
"We take an ommission - the fact that half our history, the female half, has seldom been told. And we turn that into an opportunity - an in-house opportunity to educate, and build a shared awareness, of what 'women's work' really means."
What Works: Changing Mindsets
While U.S. corporations are spending $8 billion annually on diversity training programs, there's a dearth of evidence as to whether they really have an impact.
The research suggests it's because they don’t really change mindsets. But behavioral scientists, like Iris Bohnet at Harvard University, say research reveals that simple 'design interventions' - like updating portraits on office walls - can have a big impact.
And Napier has found this to be true.
"When you sit in a boardroom, for a client meeting, and folks discover this great woman, and how she changed the world, learn something you never knew - that really impacts your everyday life - that's a powerful thing to experience. It's makes an impression."
GWP collaborates with clients to create collections capturing women whose work relates to, and allows viewers to reflect on, company values:
"We might hang a portrait of Hertha Ayrton in an engineering firm or school, or help a pharmaceutical company introduce clients and employees to Gertrude Elion, who changed the way drugs are developed, or Dorothy Hodgkin, who paved the way to the mass production of antibiotics."
The Business Imperative
Driving D&I is business imperative today because diverse, inclusive organizations aren’t just better places to work, they work better: the evidence is clear that they are more productive, better able to retain top talent, and more innovative.
(And: 70 % of the new generation of talent want to work for companies that reflects a genuine commitment to inclusion (2021 Oracle report: Addressing Diversity and Inclusion: Going Beyond the Benchmark).
Companies need to create inclusive-feeling work cultures or risk losses in market share, in their pools of candidates, in profits. And Great Women portraits reflect - to employees and clients - what is valued and what is possible, says Napier. "If the portraits that hang in an office are only of male leaders, what does that say?”
For diversity leaders, like RBC Dominion Securities, portraits are indeed proving to be powerful tools: executives discovered that their Great Women boardroom collection 'changed the conversation' - and that investment advisors were specifically asking to book the "Great Women of Nova Scotia" boardroom for their meetings.
Great Women Productions (GWP) is a woman-owned Canadian business based in Halifax, Nova Scotia that creates portrait art and products reflecting the female face of innovation.
For more information:
Jo Napier c 902.209.8300