Diversity In the Workplace
27th of June 2019 | Charlie Bailey
In 2019, you’d hope that we don’t have far to go to create a society in which everyone is equal. Unfortunately, however, we may be further than we think…
I have been looking at diversity within three areas: gender, LGBT status, and ethnicity.
Women are unfairly represented in the UK workplace, in both the private sector, as well as in politics. This is clearly evidenced by the facts that 9.7% of executives in FTSE 100 companies, as well as 29% of MPs, are female.
60% of British females want to start a business, however, 45% won’t pursue this dream due to a fear of failure. It is also clearly demonstrable that this is not due to a lack of ambition, as approximately the same proportion of women (64%) and men (65%) aspire to reach a leadership in their career.
Interestingly, a significantly larger proportion of men (86%) than women (56%) believe that they and their colleagues are paid equally regardless of gender.
Within law, 60% of trainees are female, whereas females only make up 47.4% of the professional law workforce. I find it even more disappointing that women represent less than one third of partners in law firms.
Despite it becoming illegal in 2003 for an employer to discriminate based on sexual orientation, more than 1 in 20 members in the workforce identifying as LGB, and 2.7% of PC holders are LGB, 32% of LGBT employees still choose to hide their sexual orientation.
1 in 8 people from the working age population is black or minority ethnic (BME). BME individuals, despite making up 10% of the workforce, hold only 6% of top management positions, which I thought to be surprisingly low!
Despite 12.6% of PC-holding solicitors are from ethnic minority backgrounds, individuals from BME backgrounds make up only 6% of partners in law firms.
According to the McGregor-Smith Review, maximising the utilisation of BME talent could boost the UK economy by £24 billion.
Why is diversity so important?
Obviously, discrimination is illegal, and can lead to costly claims and tribunals. In 2011-12, there were a total of 186,300 claims made.
Of these claims, 10,800 were sexual discrimination, 7,700 were disability discrimination, 4,800 were race discrimination, 3,700 were age discrimination, 940 were religious discrimination, and 610 were sexual orientation discrimination claims.
The median awards for these claims were as follows:
- Sexual orientation: £13,505
- Disability: £8,928
- Sex: £6,746
- Age: £6,065
- Race: £5,256
- Religion/belief: £4,267
Having a diverse group of staff can also help reduce risks of “group-think”, but research has also shown that it can have a positive impact on bottom-line results. Having a reputation for equality and fairness means that you are also more likely to continue to attract a diverse range of candidates in your recruitment process.
As a firm, in order to benefit the most from diversity and inclusion, your leadership should understand how D&I can benefit the business. You should also set clear goals pertaining to improvement in terms of diversity and improvement. Identifying and developing the capabilities required to create a diverse and inclusive working environment is also important.