Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are important elements of any forward-thinking organisation. They create a culture that celebrates differences, encourages collaboration and strengthens team dynamics. However, achieving diversity and inclusion is no easy task. In a world where many workplaces are dominated by one demographic group or type of person, creating a truly diverse and inclusive environment can be a constant challenge.
As the D&I specialist at a talent management agency, it’s encouraging to see that greater steps are being taken to recognise diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For example, the European Council and European Parliament recently gave its final approval on a new law entitled the ‘Women on Boards Directive’, requiring listed companies implement quotas to increase gender diversity on corporate boards throughout the European Union by 2026. These regulations would require EU-listed companies to have at least 40% of their non-executive director positions held by women.
The Law Society has also released its diversity and inclusion framework encouraging businesses to take a systematic approach and embed D&I in a way that has a lasting impact. And some large corporations are taking note. American multinational food manufacturer Mars, is a great example of this. The company recently announced that for the second consecutive year, it had received a score of 90 per cent on the Corporate Equality Index, a national report on corporate policies and practices relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
Stanley Black and Decker, industrial tool and hardware provider, is another great example of a corporate business doing D&I well. The business appointed a Chief Diversity Officer in 2021 to drive its D&I Charter. The company reports that 33 per cent of its global workforce are women, 34 per cent of its US workforce are racially or ethnically diverse and 18 per cent of its board directors are racially or ethnically diverse.
However, despite these great steps taking place in some large organisations, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. Some of the CMOs that I speak to are telling me, there is still only one female on a board of Caucasian males and their voice isn’t being heard.
The benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace
As we already touched on, there are numerous advantages to having a diverse workplace. These include increased creativity and innovation, better problem-solving skills, improved decision-making processes, higher customer satisfaction ratings, greater financial success, stronger employee morale, greater loyalty from employees and customers alike, better team building skills, more effective communication between departments or divisions within an organisation or company, the list goes on!
All of these points demonstrate just how important it is for companies to invest in making sure their workplaces are diverse and inclusive. So why is progress slow?
The challenges of promoting diversity and inclusion
There are several challenges that organisations are facing on their D&I journey, one such challenge is cultural bias. Unconscious biases impact our daily lives in ways we may not even be aware of, they can encourage us to favour certain groups over others without even realising it. Without proper training on recognising unconscious bias (as well as proactive steps taken to ensure there is no discrimination based on race or gender), companies are finding themselves falling short when it comes to achieving true diversity at work.
Another challenge faced by many organisations is lack of resources. Many businesses don’t have the necessary budget or personnel dedicated solely towards promoting diversity initiatives and following these through.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, some businesses fail at fostering diversity because they don’t understand what true inclusion looks like. While it’s easy enough for companies to claim they value ‘diversity’, without actually taking concrete steps towards creating a truly inclusive environment (such as providing equal opportunities for advancement regardless of gender/race/sexual orientation) these efforts will ultimately fall flat due to lack of follow-through from upper management or executive staff members who should be held accountable for these initiatives.
It’s clear that promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace has numerous benefits, but also presents challenges along the way. Organisations need to make sure they have adequate resources dedicated towards achieving true inclusion at all levels, recognise unconscious biases within their own culture, provide equal opportunities for advancement regardless of gender/race/sexual orientation and make sure upper management is held accountable when it comes to following through on initiatives related to diversity/inclusion in order for these efforts to be successful long-term. By doing these things and understanding what real inclusion looks like, organisations can create truly diverse workplaces where all employees feel valued no matter what background they come from.
Billie Dhadda BSc (Hons) Managing Consultant, specialising in Digital, Marketing and Commercial Hires and The Change Partners D&I champion