Diversity doubles

Number of employer-led Diversity & Inclusion initiatives doubled during lockdown

A survey of 7,500 professionals across the UK & Ireland by Robert Walters has found twice as many professionals (64 per cent) stating that they are aware of their employer’s diversity & inclusion initiatives, compared to 2019. In the face of mandatory remote working, active participation in diversity & inclusion initiatives has grown by 10 per cent in lockdown – with more than a third of professionals now participating in employer-led working groups.

Interestingly, 15 per cent of respondents who previously had not been actively involved in D&I initiatives stated that this was something they now intended to get involved with following the resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in Summer 2020.

The findings come ahead of the launch of Robert Walters’ Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Strategy Report – a significant survey-led insight into D&I progression in the workplace.

In what has been a positive result in employers’ efforts, the report findings highlight that two-thirds of professionals (61 per cent) feel that their organisation ‘celebrates people’s differences’ – with 10 per cent more women feeling confident to negotiate salary, and pay satisfaction amongst black professionals increasing by 10 per cent in the past year.

“D&I has rightly been a prime concern for leadership teams, who now actively understand how critical an effective D&I policy is for success. But this is an intersectional and complex matter – and the nuances of D&I mean that some conversations are, in some respects, still in their infancy,” says Chris Hickey – UK & Ireland CEO at Robert Walters. “Whilst we celebrate any steps forward that have been made – and our report shares best practice examples that everyone  can learn from – our year-on-year findings indicate that there is still some way to go to close the diversity & inclusion gap.

“As the option to return to the office draws closer, employers must not take their foot off the pedal in regard to inclusion – where our findings indicate that remote working has had the potential to further marginalise under-represented and minority professionals who didn’t feel the same level of connectivity to the workplace pre-lockdown.”

Despite organisations stepping-up their efforts around D&I in 2020, the impact of Covid-19 has been widespread and varying amongst individuals – with early studies all showing that under-represented and minority groups have been the most negatively impacted. Whilst the full impact yet to be determined, experts predict that the Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to push back any progression made around diversity & inclusion in the workplace by as much as 5-10 years.

“Whilst analysis into this is still early, both Covid-19 and lockdown have had some serious D&I implications at both a macro & societal level – from a rise in anti-Chinese prejudice we’ve witnessed across the globe to childcare being disproportionately dispersed amongst socio-economic groups and across gender,” says Nic Hammarling – partner and diversity & inclusion specialist at Pearn Kandola. “The temporary suspension of the UK gender pay reporting and the long term hiatus following the consultation on ethnic pay reporting has a profound impact on not just how businesses behave but society too – as people pay attention and respond to what the government is taking seriously.

“Making genuine progress on diversity and inclusion is about turning multiple cogs at the same time. It is about tackling the barriers to diverse recruitment, whilst also tracking progression from entry-level roles. It is about tackling bias in appraisal and bonus decisions whilst also addressing the importance of managers understanding the personal circumstances of their team members. It is about tackling pay disparity whilst also ensuring everyone has good access to the resources available.

“It is positive to see that participation amongst employees is growing, but we must not slow down in our research, understanding and action.”

The Robert Walters’ Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Strategy Report publishes on 26 April 2021 – and features insight from the country’s leading D&I organisations including  Qlearsite, Pearn Kandola, BYP Network, The Kaleidoscope Group and Inclusive Group.

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