Diversity in the workplace

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Does your business promote diversity and inclusion in its workforce?

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Despite huge strides forward in terms of building a more equal society, there are still many groups of people who face discrimination and barriers to professional success. Women are still underrepresented at the top of business, making up only 26.9% of FTSE 100 boards, while less than 50% of people with disabilities are employed. Racial minorities in the UK are more likely to be underemployed, and less likely to be promoted than their white counterparts, even though BAME groups are in general more qualified than white ethnic groups. This is unfair and unjust, first and foremost, but it also has a harmful effect on business and society. Most people would agree that everyone should have equal opportunities regardless of their skin colour, social background, sexuality, etc, yet many groups still face harassment in the workplace, unconscious bias and systemic exclusion, despite legal protection.

In the UK, the nine “protected characteristics” set out in the Equality Act 2010 are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race (including ethnicity and nationality)
  • religion or belief (including a lack of)
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

It’s illegal to discriminate against someone on these grounds, yet widespread inequalities still exist. Businesses have an important role to play in addressing this challenge.

A work culture that creates a hostile environment is damaging for the individuals involved and the business. This can range from an environment that prevents individuals feeling comfortable fully expressing their full identity, such as their sexuality or hidden disabilities, to outright harassment and bullying of minority groups. Individuals from diverse backgrounds can be inhibited from reaching their full potential in their career because of the behaviour of others, including unconscious actions or those that stem from ignorance. This can lead to psychological damage to individuals involved and can contribute to them leaving that business. A hostile environment can be created by:

● Outright harassment, bullying, abuse or discrimination based on characteristics (this can also come from clients and customers)
● Failure from management to address this abuse
● Pressure on individuals to ‘conform to the norm’, by hiding features/aspects of identity that differentiate them from the dominant group, eg middle class, traditionally masculine environments, the country’s dominant religion
● Casual comments, jokes or teasing, microaggressions, ‘banter’, or unintentionally hurtful comments
● Refusal to accommodate different requirements, such as time off for religious holidays
● Stereotyping
Exclusionary social events e.g. observant Muslims may feel uncomfortable socialising in pubs
● Discussions around private lives that do not conform to the norm being seen as inappropriate or unprofessional, e.g. a gay man talking about his partner compared to a heterosexual woman discussing her male partner.

Discrimination also stems from structural issues which fail to minimise unconscious bias or unintentionally favour one group over another.These usually manifest in people hiring and promoting in either in their own image, or based on preconceived notions of what makes a good employee. For instance, some women can face barriers to promotion due to them being perceived as uncommitted employees due to long periods of absence taken to look after children. Removing these barriers requires a holistic approach that can address ‘the way things have always been done’ to reach a system that does not hinder particular groups unfairly.

Many countries have legal provisions that address instances of discrimination and harassment, such as the UK Equality Act of 2010. Businesses need to be aware of the characteristics that are protected by law across different territories and what practices are defined as illegal. However, legislation does not cover all aspects of diversity. For instance, UK law does not address discrimination relating to class and socioeconomic background, travelling lifestyle (although Irish and Romany travellers are protected under laws against ethnic discrimination), weight or personality type. It also does not adequately address the intersectionality of the multiple characteristics that are addressed. Diversity is about embracing difference, recognising and valuing the contributions of all groups of people. Research by McKinsey found that the top 25% of businesses for racial and ethnic diversity in management were 35% more likely to be above industry means for financial returns. Further benefits include:

● Better outcomes for innovation-focused tasks
● A wider mix of talents, ideas and perspectives
● A greater understanding of the values, expectations and preferences of all their stakeholders
● Access to a wider pool of labour from which to recruit and retain staff
● Confidence within the staff that promotion is based on merit, which helps retain talent.

Further difficulties and challenges can arise when efforts to tackle inequality and promote diversity in support of one group come at the expense of another group that also faces barriers. The CMI reported that 42% of those surveyed in their Delivering Diversity report believed that prioritising gender had become a barrier to progress on racial diversity. Focusing on one characteristic is not enough by itself, and viewing diverse identities as mutually exclusive is also problematic. Recognising the intersectionality of diversity and discrimination is important in addressing this, as it acknowledges that individuals have multiple identities which affect their experiences and how they interact with efforts around diversity and inclusion. Care must also be taken to ensure groups are not siloed into certain professions, departments or levels of seniority, such as women in caring roles, or men in senior management positions. Balancing all these aspects can be challenging, and there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach. Despite these challenges, there is much that business can do to improve the status quo. Examples of positive business actions may include:

● Setting objective job specifications and selection criteria within a job advert
● Not asking for age or other identifying details on a CV (blind recruitment)
● Engaging staff in the issue through training, communication and encouraging discussion
● Assigning responsibility to key individuals or teams, e.g. all team managers
● Career development schemes to develop the talent pipeline, e.g. formal mentoring or sponsorship
● Enabling flexible working arrangements e.g. work patterns to accommodate religious commitments or easy physical access to workspaces for disabled staff
● Communicating policies on diversity and monitoring implementation across the whole organisation
● Establishing procurement policies for support services or in the supply chain which help to promote diversity, e.g. giving preference to social enterprises that deal with social exclusion
● Outreach to traditionally marginalised groups outside of the organisation, e.g. work experience opportunities for marginalised students, advertising jobs in non-elite universities
● Developing the talent pipeline for minority groups and opening channels for their career development
● Promoting diversity within the board of directors and senior management team
● Considering seriously whether certain qualifications are actually needed for the job
● Considering life experience to be equivalent to a degree.

Addressing these barriers is by no means straightforward, and can be a contentious issue. Implementing successful policies requires the buy-in of the whole workforce, who otherwise may feel resentful of the perceived favouring one group over another, as, arguably, has been demonstrated at Google. Fundamental improvements in diversity are unlikely to result if accurate, relevant data is not collected and analysed. Measuring and monitoring allows businesses to identify successes and failures and thus areas that need attention, monitor the outcomes of interventions, and engage the workforce in improving policies and procedures.

Blind hiring

A hiring practice where identifying markers that indicate gender, race etc, such as name, date of birth, are removed from applications in order to reduce the impact of bias.

Cisgender

A person whose gender identity conforms to the gender they were assigned at birth, in contrast to a transgender or gender non-conforming individual.

Direct discrimination

Treating one person worse than another because of a protected characteristic (known as direct discrimination).

Diversity

'Diversity in the workplace' implies “creating an inclusive environment: one which recognises and embraces people’s differences; which encourages and provides opportunities for all to achieve their full potential; and which in turn allows the organisation to reach as wide an audience as possible.”

Equality

'Equality' is about opportunity for all, creating a fairer society where every individual can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination. In a workplace, this could mean providing equal parental leave and pay for men and women, and for adoption leave.

Equity

'Equity' recognises that not everyone is starting from the same position, and that treating individuals in the same way will not address this initial inequality. As such, it means that employees’ differences are acknowledged, and any special measures to accommodate these differences are in place in order to reach equality of outcome. For example, a business could provide targeted career development programs to people from marginalised backgrounds, recognising that they may not have received this support already while those in privileged positions will have.

Gender expression:

This is how a person chooses to outwardly display their gender. Someone whose gender expression does not conform to traditional interpretations of gender is not necessarily transgender.

Gender identity

A person’s 'gender identity' is their innate sense of their own gender. This can differ from the gender they were assigned at birth, or may not conform to either male or female.

Harassment

'Harassment' includes unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect or violating someone’s dignity or which creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone with a protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination

Putting in place a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one, when this cannot be objectively justified.

Intersectionality

Overlapping or converging social identities experienced by an individual that differentiates their experiences to those of an individual who has only one of those identities. E.g. a black woman might experience gendered racism and racialised sexism, which is different in nature to the racism experienced by a black man, or the sexism experienced by a white woman.

Microaggressions

A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.

Privilege

'Privilege' is an advantage or set of advantages attributed to an individual or group based on identity traits. An individual may be unaware of the privilege they experience, and may also experience discrimination based on other identity traits. For example, a gay man may experience discrimination based on his sexuality, but privilege based on his gender.

Protected characteristics

'Protected characteristics', as covered by UK legislation, are: race (including ethnicity and nationality), disability, gender reassignment, sex, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion and belief (including a lack of), sexual orientation and age.

Returnships

High level internships for experienced professionals who have taken career breaks, usually due to caring responsibilities.

Reverse mentoring

Schemes where younger and less senior employees mentor older, more senior members of staff to share their experiences and increase communication and understanding among different groups.

Sequential interview

Used as an alternative to panel interviews, a candidate is interviewed by several members of staff separately. This can help to avoid groupthink and maintain impartiality in the hiring process.

Structural Inequality

A 'structural inequality' is the result of society's structure, rather than an individual’s actions or thoughts. So structural racism is not just an individual bias, but takes place at an institutional level. These inequalities can be built into the economy, the education system, the law etc. and go beyond individuals’ best, conscious intentions.

Tokenism

'Tokenism' is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to include under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of diversity and equality within a workforce, usually by including only one or two individuals from minority groups. This can be harmful because it increases the chances of those individuals being seen as wholly representative of certain groups, such as women or young people. This fails to recognise that these groups are not homogenous, or the people involved as individuals. Additionally, it can put additional pressure on the tokenised person to prove that they, and by extension everyone else in that group, can succeed in that role, so that in the future others can be given the same opportunity. This can be avoided by including more than one or two individuals from the same group.

Trans

Stonewall defines 'trans' as an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) Transgender, Transsexual, Gender-queer (GQ), Gender-fluid, Non-binary, Gender-variant, Crossdresser, Genderless, Agender, Nongender, Third gender, Two-spirit, Bi-gender, Transman, Transwoman, Trans masculine, Trans feminine and Neutrois. Some non-western cultures recognise gender identities that do not fall within the woman-man binary.

Victimisation

'Victimisation' is treating someone unfavourably because they have taken (or might be taking) action under the Equality Act or supporting somebody who is doing so.

Answering YES

All Businesses MUST

Detail any policies related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Explain if and how staff are engaged in diversity and inclusion policies and procedures

Describe procedures to address any complaints regarding discriminatory behaviour

Explain if and how these policies are monitored, how objectives are set and how they are measured

All Businesses MAY

State any philosophy or key values which govern or influence their approach to diversity across the workforce

Describe the business’ corporate culture and how it relates to diversity and inclusion

Detail if and how data is collected on workforce diversity and what types of data

Detail any trends they may have identified during monitoring

Describe their approach to transparency on this issue

Describe if and how they influence others to support or strengthen diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Provide examples of specific policies that protect against direct or indirect discrimination

Provide any other relevant information

Large and Multinational Corporations (MNCs) MUST

Explain if their practices differ from one country to another

Justify these differences, if any

Answering NO

All Businesses MUST

Explain why they do not or cannot answer YES to this question and list the business reasons, any mitigating circumstance or any other reasons that apply

All Businesses MAY

Indicate any relevant practices and policies, even if they do not fully address the specifications for answering YES

Provide any other relevant information

Answering NOT APPLICABLE

All Businesses MUST

Confirm that they are made up of directors only and have no employees

DON'T KNOW is not a permissible answer to this question

Version 2

To receive a score of 'Excellent'

Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to business. Concerted effort is made to create and support a diverse workforce through a holistic approach

Examples of policies and practices which may support an EXCELLENT statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Effective policies in place that promote diversity and inclusion
  2. Policies are consistent across territories where laws may be less stringent
  3. Equal pay, benefits and working conditions apply to all staff for same grades and equivalent roles
  4. Policies and practices address characteristics in addition to those protected by law, e.g. socioeconomic background, class, values, size
  5. Business adopts work-life balance policies that enable traditionally marginalised groups to engage more fully in the workplace, e.g. flexi time, job-shares at all levels of organisation, babies allowed at work
  6. Business engages in outreach programmes to encourage traditionally marginalised groups to enter sector, e.g. women in tech, tutoring for low-economic groups, school outreach programmes
  7. Work experience/apprenticeship schemes established for traditionally marginalised groups
  8. Ensures opportunities are available to all, and removes financial barriers to entry positions by paying all internships are paid living wage or above
  9. Hiring practices encourage applications from traditionally marginalised groups, e.g. vacancy is written in neutral language, diverse hiring panels, diverse shortlists
  10. Hiring practices aimed at reducing bias and impact of bias, e.g. blind hiring, work tests, pre-selection process job criteria, sequential interviews instead of panel interviews
  11. Detailed feedback provided to all interviewees
  12. Diversity training in place and available for all levels of staff, including induction
  13. Support available for managers who are tasked with implementing diversity and inclusion policies
  14. Business has formal career development schemes in place for all employees, e.g. reverse mentoring, mentoring, formal sponsorship. Uptake encouraged from traditionally marginalised groups
  15. Progression to all levels is clearly communicated to all staff from induction
  16. Performance appraisals are systemised to ensure feedback for all staff is constructive
  17. Encourages open discussion of diversity and inclusion issues among staff
  18. The importance of diversity is well communicated to staff to increase buy-in to policies and practices
  19. All staff are encouraged to engage in developing diversity policies
  20. Regularly measures and publishes progress on diversity and inclusion against ambitious goals
  21. Employee satisfaction surveys regularly conducted regarding diversity and inclusion policies and practices
  22. Purpose of data collection clear to all staff to encourage disclosure
  23. HR policies include option for choosing non-binary gender identities, and policies are inclusive of all gender identities, e.g. staff are able to choose own pronouns, including ‘they’, ‘theirs’ etc
  24. Culture of openness is promoted; where staff are encouraged to share ideas, concerns, as well as expressing all aspects of their identity, e.g. LGBT status, religion
  25. Diversity champions embedded throughout organisation
  26. Business engages with advocacy and campaigning groups, e.g. Stonewall
  27. Business has undergone accreditation, or similar, on different diversity issues
  28. Executive team are engaged in, and have responsibilities regarding, diversity and inclusion
  29. Increasing diversity is integrated into business KPIs
  30. Objectives relating to increasing diversity in place for all managers
  31. Business has roles with distinct responsibility for promoting diversity, inclusion, awareness and engagement, e.g Role Models
  32. Clear grievance procedure regarding harassment, etc
  33. Issues effectively resolved according to clear guidelines, and communicated to complainants
  34. Clear which behaviours are unacceptable, with associated repercussions
  35. Desired behaviours are clear to all staff, and modelled by all levels of management
  36. Employees are encouraged to report harassment from customers, clients etc and action is taken
  37. Diversity is an important part of working with suppliers/partners etc
  38. Traditionally marginalised groups are widely represented at all levels of organisation
  39. Policies in place to avoid tokenism across the organisation
  40. Diversity and inclusion policies use an intersectional approach, recognising
  41. Multiple aspects of diversity are recognised and addressed in company policies
  42. Business takes leading role in advocating for diversity and inclusion within sector, e.g. campaigning for better laws, establishing networking groups etc
  43. Uses positions of influence to champion diversity and acceptance of differences in society at large, e.g. participating in government reports, refusing to engage in activities which promote exclusion or discrimination
  44. Encourages diversity and acceptance through their products and services, such providing support for service users that are victims of harassment, integrating needs of diverse groups in product design etc
To receive a score of 'Good'

Diversity and inclusion are important to business

Examples of policies and practices which may support a GOOD statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Clear policies in place that are consistently and effectively implemented
  2. Some outreach programmes in place, e.g. working with schools in deprived areas, in order to encourage marginalised and underrepresented groups to join profession, and develop the talent pipeline
  3. Some practices in place to reduce hiring bias, e.g. pre-set interview criteria
  4. Applications encouraged from diverse groups, e.g. advertisements in non-elite universities, returnships
  5. Training regarding diversity and inclusion is available
  6. Career development available to all staff, e.g. mentoring
  7. Forums are available for staff to discuss issues around diversity and inclusion
  8. Staff are encouraged to engage in diversity policies, e.g. regular workshops/ training sessions
  9. Efforts are made to collect accurate and complete data regarding diversity
  10. Employee satisfaction surveys include issues around diversity and inclusion
  11. Transparency on data is good but not complete
  12. Set goals are clear and achievable
  13. Regularly publishes data on levels of diversity and pay bands of employees
  14. Diversity and inclusion are recognised as key aspects of the culture
  15. Celebrates diversity of workforce, e.g. formal role models
  16. Commitment from leadership on diversity and inclusion
  17. Commitment too and progress on diversity and inclusion are included in business plan and annual reports
  18. Individual managers are given responsibility for diversity and inclusion in their teams, with regular appraisals and performance measures
  19. Staff are encouraged to report any grievances and there is a formal process to do this
  20. Clear guidelines on what behaviours, speech etc are unacceptable
  21. Grievance processes are clear and communicated to complainant, including resolution
  22. Grievances regarding customers and clients are addressed through formal process
  23. Third party approach to diversity is considered in the procurement process, but not a primary concern
  24. Diversity is found at all levels of the organisation
  25. Efforts are made to avoid tokenism, e.g. top levels of the organisation are 1/3 or have at least 3 members from traditionally marginalised groups
  26. Several diverse characteristics are addressed in improvement efforts, yet intersectionality is either not recognised or not integrated into approaches
  27. Some effort on tailoring support to individual requirements
  28. Business partners with organisations or consultants specifically to improve diversity and inclusion
  29. Supports sector wide/national efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace
To receive a score of 'Okay'

The business has ad hoc policies or procedures for dealing with diversity and inclusion OR has no employees

Examples of policies and practices which may support an OKAY statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Policies conform to legal minimums
  2. Some efforts made to reduce bias and discrimination
  3. Commitment to future improvement
  4. Diversity training is available but ad hoc, limited
  5. Some programmes available to support career development of diverse groups, but inadequate or foster feelings of resentment from other groups
  6. Communication on diversity policies is passive and/or ad hoc
  7. Diversity initiatives could be construed as largely top down, and/or tick box efforts
  8. Data collected on staff diversity is ad hoc, irregular or inconsistent
  9. Selective as to which data is used or published, or publishes legally required data only
  10. No clear goals on diversity set, or commitments which are made are vague
  11. Diversity and inclusion not recognised as a culture issue
  12. Leadership’s interest in / commitment to diversity and inclusion appears to be motivated by PR rather than a genuine commitment
  13. Responsibility for diversity and inclusion is siloed to specific team or individual
  14. Approach to diversity in leadership could be construed as tokenistic, e.g. 1 woman on the board
  15. Grievances are largely dealt with informally
  16. Resolutions to grievances are inconsistent or fail to address core issues, e.g. systematic discrimination or repeat offences from certain individuals
  17. Business prioritises customer experience and retention when dealing with instances of harassment against staff from customers
  18. Diversity and inclusion are not considered in procurement process
  19. Diverse groups are represented in the organisation at varying levels, but is low at the top of the organisation
  20. Takes 'easy' route to diversity, e.g. promoting white women who conform to traditional measures of success
  21. Tailored approaches are only extended to employees legally entitled to them
  22. Support on inclusion is one size fits all
  23. Only one or two aspects of diversity are addressed in improvement efforts, e.g. gender or race
To receive a score of 'Poor'

No evidence of policies or practices regarding diversity and inclusion and/or performance is inadequate

Examples of policies and practices which may support a POOR statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Policies in place contribute to marginalisation of certain groups, e.g extending spousal benefits to heterosexual/married couples only, no child care arrangements
  2. Wide pay gaps are evident e.g. racial pay gap, gender pay gap
  3. Employees are actively discriminated against, e.g. pregnant women made redundant, ethnic minorities regularly passed over for promotion
  4. Work-life balance policies seen as specific to marginalised groups, e.g. men discouraged from taking parental leave
  5. Unpaid internships used
  6. No outreach efforts
  7. Hiring practices entrench inequality, e.g. no pre-defined job specification, homogeneous hiring panels, hiring undertaken through informal networks
  8. No/ineffective diversity training available
  9. Informal mentoring relationships formed through routes that entrench inequality, e.g. 'old boys clubs', exclusionary after hours socialising
  10. No formal career development support
  11. Measures of success favour traditionally privileged groups, e.g. part-time positions or career breaks seen as lack of commitment
  12. Policies on diversity and inclusion are inadequate and/or poorly enforced and/or poorly communicated
  13. No/inadequate data collected
  14. No targets set on increasing diversity, or any targets set are low, vague, not monitored
  15. Little transparency on diversity or related issues, e.g. pay gaps
  16. Culture is hostile towards diverse groups, e.g. instances of harassment/victimisation are common place, employees are pressured to 'conform to the norm’
  17. Staff regularly leave or take absences due to stress, harassment etc
  18. No leadership from the top of organisation or ownership of issue
  19. Grievances fail to be addressed, or addresses inadequately, e.g. victim is blamed or suffers repercussions
  20. No support available to staff harassed by customers and clients, or staff actively encouraged to ignore this behaviour
  21. Levels of diversity are low, or concentrated in lower levels of the organisation, or by department
  22. Campaign for reduced legal protections for traditionally marginalised group and/or engage in activities or groups that work against diversity and inclusion