Guest blogger Simon Langley, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, demonstrates how the topic should not be a token issue in the workplace.
The question of inclusion and diversity practices in the workplace is a topic that I have been championing for close to 25 years now. Hiring diversely gives the opportunity to include a wider range of voices and opinions in your organisation as well as a number of key economic benefits. There are four main areas that are impacted positively by the implementation of these policies, each as important as the last:
At the base level, having an inclusion and diversity policy means the avoidance of financial and reputational risk. This is done by meeting the minimum legal obligations we all have as employers not to breach relevant employment legislation, including the Equality Act 2010. And yet, if you look at the number of recent Employment Tribunals, it seems to be an area where many companies still get it wrong, at significant cost. However, even if you never end up in court, if your only reason for addressing diversity is to avoid trouble, you’re missing the point really.
Moral & Ethical
There is an overwhelming moral argument for wanting to create more inclusive workplaces where diversity is valued and celebrated. Sometimes, these conversations can devolve into accusations of ‘political correctness gone mad’ but I fundamentally disagree – I see that ‘PC’ statement as an excuse to preserve the status quo. The reality is that there are many systemic obstacles which prevent or reduce certain groups’ full economic participation in society, a few examples being:
- The amount of unpaid work (childcare, cooking, housework etc.) performed by women greatly exceeds that performed by men. The career progression penalty, a.k.a the Motherhood penalty, paid by women for becoming mothers is well-documented. There also remains a significant gender pay gap in the UK (although this is gradually reducing).
- For people without disabilities, the employment rate in the UK is 81.4%; for those with disabilities it is 51.3%.
- For people from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background, there is also a significant jobs gap and pay penalty despite an increase in the numbers obtaining degrees. In 2017, the Guardian revealed that only 3% of Britain’s most powerful and influential people are from BAME groups, despite almost 13% of the UK population being of a minority background. From a list of just over 1,000 of the UK’s top influential figures, drawn up in partnership with Operation Black Vote, only 36 (3.4%) were from ethnic minorities. Just seven (0.7%) were BAME women.
Business & Financial
There is also an overwhelming and multi-faceted business case. People from diverse backgrounds are not diverse just because of their skin colour, gender or sexuality etc. They have the potential to bring diversity of thought, experience, and cultural intelligence.
BAME people face an ongoing problem with under-employment. The overall proportion of working-age people with degrees has increased across all ethnic groups in recent years, from 12% in 1996-99 to 30% in 2014-17, the Resolution Foundation found. However, graduates of all BAME groups facing a jobs gap compared with white people with degrees:
- Pakistani and Bangladeshi graduates are about 12% less likely to be in work than white British graduates.
- Indian and Black Caribbean graduates have a jobs gap of about 5%.
- Black African and Bangladeshi graduates are twice as likely to work in low-paying occupations as Indian, white and Chinese graduates.
Yet there is no evidence to suggest that graduates from a BAME background are any less valuable to an employer.
McKinsey’s recent ‘Delivering through Diversity’ report establishes that companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. Those in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. That this relationship continues to be strong suggests that inclusion of highly diverse individuals can be a key differentiator among companies.
In my view, inclusion and diversity should be inextricably linked. However, most employees in a business probably don’t consider themselves to be particularly diverse. As a result, without inclusion, they may see conversations and initiatives around diversity as not being relevant to them (hence ‘PC gone mad’-type comments).
The key to success is ensuring that workplaces, as well as being diverse, are also inclusive. That way, those who don’t see themselves as diverse are still included in the conversation. Too many organisations make the fundamental mistake of saying, for example, “we need to recruit more diverse people who will offer a broader range of views”, without then making the cultural changes within the organisation to ensure that those views are heard.
Instead, these new recruits find themselves isolated, disengaged and, in the end, they normally quit. The more senior the hire, the more likely a negative outcome. Inclusive organisational cultures, however, respect people’s diversity and value the contributions they bring which result from their diversity.
As we have seen, whilst the issue of inclusion and diversity continues to persist and enter the mainstream of workplace conversation and policy making, some organisations still fall behind in the implementation of these policies. In 2019, this is baffling; not only are they weakening their place within the market but missing out on all the wonderful benefits that being a more inclusive and diverse employer has to offer.
About the Author:
Simon Langley - Inclusion & Diversity Consultant
Simon’s interest and involvement in equality, diversity and inclusion stretches back some 25 years. Between 1980 and 1993, he served as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy before joining Rank Outsiders, a group that lobbied for the overturning of the exclusion of LBGT military personnel in 2000.
In 1997, he joined National Grid in an IT systems development/project management capacity as well as helping to found their LBGT employee network. Simon was then appointed National Grid’s UK Head of Inclusion and Diversity in 2010. Since then, he has been a keynote speaker and panellist at a number of events across industries.
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