I was talking with a female consultant recently who mentioned a technique she uses to get taken seriously. She consults to the defense industry and regularly finds herself in boardrooms with groups of military men. In the first ten minutes of a meeting she makes sure to weave into the conversation the exact ranges, which she’s memorized assiduously, of that army’s top three rockets.  And—as if by magic, each time—something shifts in the room with how the men engage with her.

Funny old thing, isn’t it… how showing you know your stuff about the punchy end of the business has people sit up, take you seriously, and include you in the conversation.

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion movement has made huge progress in the last couple of decades in activating the talents and releasing the potential of employees in businesses globally.  The world is wealthier and better off for that success.  But the challenge is not over.  For one thing, many companies have made more progress with having a diverse workforce than following through and making all those diverse team members feel included. The full benefits of diversity don’t manifest without a strong culture of inclusion.

One of the biggest areas from which people feel excluded at work, is the financial conversation. And yet—let’s shoot straight here—the punchy end of any business conversation is finance. “How is the plan/idea/strategy going to impact the company’s bottom line/balance sheet/cash flow/share price/return on equity/CEO’s priority”?

If you’re not in the company’s financial conversation, then you’re not fully in the business conversation. You’re simply not going to be taken as seriously in the workplace and included as much as you should be, deserve to be, and frankly, the company needs you to be.

Hang on though… I know that accounting is the language of business, but aren’t finances an expert-domain that people need to be long-studied and expert to partake in?  Aren’t people appropriately excluded in the same way most people don’t belong in the brain-surgery and rocket-design conversation?

No!  If it ever was the case, it’s no longer. There’s new access to the finance conversation which makes it available to all. 

In the last twenty years there have been proven breakthroughs in financial education methods and approaches that democratize accounting-literacy and financial-literacy.  Most of them, literally, involve a focus on language itself. Turns out, it’s the words and grammar that confuse people when reading financial reports, rather than the numbers.  

Which gets us to the key point about the enormous lost opportunity in productivity, performance, and profitability: Businesses that aren’t exploiting the new ways of bringing so-called “non-financial people” (ughh, horrible term) into the heart of the workplace financial conversation are missing a trick. And probably a buck.

No matter what your background, or your special attribute that can make you feel excluded or under appreciated, nothing will get them sitting up faster in the boardroom than when you confidently ask a probing question about that accrued expense report and hold your own in the EBITDA discussion.

Peter Frampton | CEO
Financial Inclusion advocates: giving everyone a voice in the financial conversation