What More can we do to Improve Diversity and Inclusion within the Business Community?

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Allan Cook
Chairman of the Henry Royce Materials Innovation Leadership Group

We have made some progress in developing a more inclusive gender culture within the business community. However, we have not made the same progress in areas such as ethnic minorities and social equality.

What more can we do to improve this situation so that our businesses and organisations are more diverse?

VocL Voices’ Responses

Vincent Egunlae
Manager – M&A, Grant Thornton UK LLP

By recognising the concept of equity is severally important to the concept of equality. The interventions needed for ethnic minorities and social equality are different to those needed to promote gender inclusivity and those businesses who understand this will reap wider benefits from the diversity dividend.

Gonzalo Coello de Portugal
Associate, Design and Project Leadership, Arup

A good set of tools was identified long ago, although the implementation has been patchy.

Some practical steps relate to avoiding bias in the hiring process, strengthening anti-discriminatory policies, setting up focus groups, or celebrating the different cultures. But I would highlight two more general approaches which are critical:

1) Promoting a culture of Inclusion in the workplace, as the way to maintain the diversity that is hard to achieve.

2) Incorporating business leaders from diverse background to the top management, who can inspire as role models to the company staff, customers and partners.

Paraphrasing William Gibson, we should distribute the present more evenly if we aspire to a better future.

Genta Haxhija
Enhancing communities manager, Morgan Sindall infrastructure

Addressing diversity is a complex problem which has short and long term solutions. Ultimately there needs to specific interventions to attract, to train, to retain and to promote individuals in order to have the best chance of genuine diversity. Short term solutions include:

1.) Relaxing entry level requirements and routes to employment to expand your pool of candidates. Does everybody really need a university degree in order to work for your business? The focus should arguably be more on personal attributes rather than skills at this stage with a commitment to invest in any necessary training.

2.) Are you promoting opportunities through a variety of platforms which will be seen by a broader range of people? Establishing valuable community partnerships can help with this.

3.) Are there appenticeship routes available which might appeal more to somebody which comes from a low income background and can’t afford higher education?

Once you attract these individuals, it’s another job to retain and crucially coach and promote them into senior roles through more flexible and generous policies which allow people to feel supported through whatever challenges they might face. The long term approach requires a focus on early engagement. Many young people are excluded from certain industries or roles (particularly in STEM) before they have even reached 18 through their subject choices, this is still the case for gender too. Targeted Engagement needs to start as early as possible within a school setting so that these paths appear desirable and achievable to young minds. Clear routes to employment are powerful in those early stages so exposure to your industry and clear direction will mean you have a chance of staying on the radar. Programmes which support generations ‘from pencil to pay cheque’ are most effective – regular interactions and mentorship for young people will mean less are likely to drop off into different paths. It’s important to note that to achieve the outcomes of diversity, you need to go and look for it. Schools in the most deprived areas, often rich in diversity, do not have the resources or the privilege of teachers who are able to do industry reach outs. You need to go and find them!

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