The benefits of cultural diversity and experiences in companies’ workplaces are obvious: Inclusion and diversity foster a positive working climate, since differences in genders ethnicities, beliefs, cultural behaviours and knowledge can create more tolerance, improved wellbeing and an interesting exchange by hiring diverse employees if there is an openness from all sides, including and in particular from employers.
However, as several studies about inclusion and diversity in the workplace in the UK and USA show, the facts often tell a different story. All BME (Black and Minority ethnic) groups in the UK are more likely to be overqualified than white ethnic groups, but white employees are more likely to be promoted by employers than all other groups regardless.
The employment rate for ethnic minorities in the UK is only 62.8%, while the employment rate for white people is 75.6%. For certain ethnic groups, this gap is even worse. For example the employment rate for individuals of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin is as little as 54.9%. This is a huge gap, which can not only be attributed to cultural differences in candidates.
Looking at the diversity numbers in the US, you’ll find that white, non-Hispanic men are overrepresented in well-paid jobs with more chances to climb their employers’ career ladder and better training opportunities and benefits. Black and Hispanic women in the workforce are significantly overrepresented in the service sector, which offers the lowest wages. They are less likely to receive individual training, benefit from investments in human capital or to receive job flexibility and benefits, through which they will have access to higher level jobs hiring and better exit opportunities. Black and Hispanic women face more challenges moving out of low-wage employment and their occupational mobility is often more limited over the course of their lives.
The underemployment, underpromotion and hiring of diverse people from BME backgrounds by employers is not only unfair for the individuals affected. Numerous studies confirm that diversity actually benefits businesses and companies’ cultures.As a diversity study conducted by McKinsey identified in 2015, companies that ranked in the top quarter for racial and ethnic team diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Diverse organisations of people attract and develop uniquely skilled individuals from the widest pool of talent and consistently perform better.
Open racism still occurs, but unconscious discrimination is even much more pervasive and potentially more dishonest, because people in a team may be less likely to identify or call it out. Who would disagree that diversity — race, gender and background — should be irrelevant when it comes to choosing the right person for a role? But organisations and individuals generally tend to hire in their own image, whether consciously or not and this adversely affects diversity in the workplace.
Given the positive impact ethnic diversity can have on organisational success and employees in the workplace, it should be given the same prominence as other key performance indicators. Individual organisations need to establish a baseline picture of their values, set aspirational targets for what they expect their diverse organisations to look like in five years’ time, and measure progress against those targets annually, if possible. On top of that, they should be open with their employees about what they are trying to achieve in terms of inclusion and how they promote diversity in the workplace. Real diversity can only be achieved when discrimination of any kind is prevented by education and the introduction of mitigating measures.
Lawpilots’ “Equal Treatment Laws” individual online training programme addresses these diversity issues in a profound, yet concise way. It focuses on how to prevent any initial discrimination, with the aim of building a respectful, tolerant workplace. Equal treatment involves daily personal interactions with colleagues as well as the conduct of managers and of the employer in general and is therefore a necessity for all members of every organisation and company.
As well as direct discriminations there are indirect versions, such as lower hourly wages for the part-time workforce: Since part-time employees are primarily women, they would be at a disadvantage to the diverse opportunities of the full-time male colleagues. Indirect discrimination, but if you think it through, job roles that indirectly discriminate against certain candidates for social, ethnicity, disability, sex or many other reasons will decrease the acceptance and therefore the selection of your workers in the long term. Performance should always be the key factor for understanding individual candidates and determining salary increases or promotions across all sectors including gender and race. Therefore, it is fundamental to always evaluate whether the situation is comparable and if there is an objective reason for a decision: Is a candidate being hired or promoted because of their equal performance and role, or for other reasons such as status?
The most prevalent reasons for discrimination are race or origin, gender, religion or ideology, disability, age or sexual identity. Harassment and discrimination of people based on these characteristics are illegal. The same applies to employers ordering their employees to discriminate in the workplace beyond their skills. Differences in perception of individuals, depending on the context of diversity, can make it difficult to address problems. Another extreme threat to an inclusive work environment is sexual harassment. Sometimes even comments meant as compliments (especially towards women) can turn in the wrong direction and create very intimidating situations if understood differently, so it is crucial to be aware of reactions and read the signs after recruitment. Even if women are mostly victims of such discrimination, men also experience it.
To create the definition of an inclusive workplace culture, the most important step is to always ensure that the company identifies and subsequently addresses prevalent discrimination and promotes equality.
Lawpilots’ “Equal Treatment Laws”online training is an ideal learning tool and skills builder for ensuring and building a tolerant and respectful work environment with regard to diversity. In the online training employees will understand the most important rules for targeting issues and dealing with situations appropriately. Constructive discourse about diversity and equality among people can be a chance to raise awareness of such incidents: The importance lies in learning, understanding, apologising and avoiding them in the future. The more your employees engage with the topic, the greater the social and justice-oriented awareness in your company will be and the better the benefits. In this way, your company can proactively protect itself from possible violations.
It is also usefulto establish a unique monitoring and reporting system based on complaints about discrimination in large companies’ workplaces. This ensures that every employee knows who to contact in the event of discrimination. All these measures are simple steps that will help your team to grow together and build an inclusive workplace.
Diversity management based on experiences across gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability and much more is a must for every employer nowadays. Now is the time to act to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.