Not too long ago, we did a podcast with Stephanie Donaldson, executive director of business resources at National Museums Liverpool. She defined diversity and inclusion in a way that resonated with me. Diversity is the mix; inclusion is making the mix work. And it’s painfully clear that historically, the mix has not been working.
The recent Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place, and continue to take place across the UK and around the world, demand that we confront the unconscious racial biases that penetrate our culture. The Me Too movement has highlighted many of the issues facing women in both their personal and professional lives. And the current pandemic is likely to disproportionately affect low earners (mostly young people and those of Pakistani, Bangladeshi or black ethnicity) and working mothers due to a lack of childcare provision (schools/nurseries). These are only a few examples of how far we as a society still have to go in ensuring representation and inclusivity for all.
At its core, this is a moral issue. A matter of injustice around which, as representatives and servants of the public, we must try harder. That it is the right thing to do is reason enough for us to be bold in our leadership and do something about it.
But the reasons to embrace diversity and make it work for your organisation go beyond your values. It substantially impacts your bottom line.
The business case for diversity and inclusion is undeniable. For example, an independent government report into race in the workplace conducted in 2017 outlined that there would be a potential boost of £24bn to the UK economy annually, if employers got race equality in the workplace right. A McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
Diverse organisations perform better, have higher employee satisfaction, better financial returns, and are more innovative. A diverse range of individuals from a variety of different backgrounds bring a greater diversity of skills and ideas to the table, mitigating 'groupthink'. In 2013, a report by Deloitte concluded that when employees think their organisation is committed to and supportive of diversity their ability to innovate increases by 83%. Including these individuals in decision making, strategy and brainstorming benefits everyone in the workplace.
There are various ways in which employers can enable this, from employment processes designed to minimise unconscious bias, to job design and workplace adjustments. Most importantly however is creating a culture in which all individuals feel valued, respected and recognised.
While tackling this as a social justice issue is paramount, the wider business benefits are clear. If we want to reap the benefits, it’s high time we as public sector leaders challenged ourselves to do more.
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