Inclusivity in the workplace: the time is now

Creating and sustaining diverse workforces is a challenge that can no longer be ignored by businesses large and small. Now is the time for leaders to engage their organisations in constructive dialogues around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).

And while many well-intentioned businesses are tracking and vying to improve the percentage of their employees who belong to traditionally under-represented groups, it’s becoming apparent that there’s still more to be done to bridge the gaps.

Demographic impact

Ethnicity: Just 13 of the FTSE100 companies revealed their ethnicity pay gaps in recent reports, while those who did publish figures revealed on average, a 15.6% pay gap between white and ethnic minority staff. And the disparity in pay isn’t going unnoticed among workforces, as 80% of managers say that employers should be required to report their ethnicity pay gap. This may go some way to begin addressing the fact that over half of surveyed managers reported fewer than 5% of their team as being from an ethnic minority – highlighting the need for greater representation for BAME employees.

Gender: Despite studies showing that diverse boards generate better financial performance, female directors are still being paid 73% less than their male counterparts in blue collar companies, and 15.5% less in the broader jobs market. Not only are they not being paid fairly, but women are still having to contend with discrimination and a lack of support around issues such as the menopause, resulting in almost 1 million UK women having left their jobs. How can businesses hope to achieve inclusivity when key members of their workforce are facing discrimination?

Disability: Research has found that hybrid working could unlock more than £48 billion for the British economy by allowing parents, carers and disabled people into the workforce. The DWP found that there are only 50% of disabled people in work, compared to 81% of non-disabled people – highlighting the substantial employment gap between these two groups. A recent Made by Dyslexia report also found that 75% of surveyed dyslexic people feel disadvantaged by recruitment processes, while 42% of employers are unable to detail the skills that dyslexic people offer. This lack of understanding and knowledge is preventing disabled people from entering the workforce, inhibiting businesses from tapping into more diverse talent pools – and reaping the benefits of a neurodiversity in the workplace.

Socioeconomic background: PwC recently revealed that just 14% of its 21,000 employees in the UK come from a working-class background, and are typically paid 12% less than their colleagues. Such data suggests that individuals from a lower socioeconomic background are facing greater barriers to career progression than those from high-income backgrounds. And with the UK wealth gap between the richest and poorest households having been further widened by the pandemic, businesses must address their hiring and promotion practices to ensure a workforce representative of society itself.

What can businesses do to improve DE&I?

It starts with inclusive leadership. Diversity within the workforce alone won’t engage, retain or advance diverse employees. Instead, diversity must be paired with inclusive leadership to create a work environment where all identities can advance and thrive.

Business leaders need to develop the confidence, knowledge and behavioural strengths in order to create sustained change within their organisations, that looks beyond the statistics and sees the benefits a diverse workforce can bring.

With leaders bought-in to the value of ongoing learning in this area, the business benefits will quickly become apparent, as companies…

Inclusive leadership is leadership.  Great leaders drive cultural change through conscious inclusion, by starting the conversation, leveraging data to identify problems and set quantifiable goals and leading workforce strategies that create true impact.

Author: Bernadette Hampton, Principal Consultant – Talent Solutions Right Management UK