Why diversity is the biggest opportunity in business
July 11, 2019
Embrasing inclusion and diversity makes good business sense – here’s why.
There are some very simple things that businesses could do that would make a significant boost to the economy. For example, improvements to gender diversity in the workplace could add $2.1tn (£1.6tn) to Europe’s GDP by 2025, according to consulting firm McKinsey.
Full representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in the labour market could be worth £24bn a year to the UK economy. Not to mention the economic impacts if the same thing happened for the LBGT+ population, or if managers made it easier for disabled people to work.
It seems like an obvious choice when you put it in fiscal terms, but making it actually happen is easier said than done. All of these groups are sorely underrepresented in senior roles and management positions.
Gender pay gap reporting is a step in the right direction, but we need to take things further. How can managers take action to reduce pay gaps and improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Can new tools and technology make a difference?
THE #METOO EFFECT
The #MeToo movement has highlighted a sea change society’s attitude towards calling out sexual harassment, with more emphasis on belief in the victims, and swift action against the perpetrators. This has been most common in very public-facing sectors, such as the film industry. But the message is trickling into other markets, writes Karen Higginbottom in Forbes: “The #MeToo movement has put issues involving women in the workplace front and center in the workplace.”
However, it will take time for this movement to make serious changes across the board. In that same article, Brian Kropp, group vice-president, HR practice for Gartner, said that while incidents will keep happening, the response will be different.
“In the past, the job of general counsel or employment lawyer was how do we minimise risk to the organisation by not talking about it or by buying off the accused. The goal of general counsel was to make it go away. Employment lawyers are getting more comfortable sending messages to the workforce that it’s not acceptable and the company will be proactive and not hide it.”
So managers and businesses can make a big difference by publicly calling out discriminatory behaviour, and creating policies that proactively try to remove it from the workforce. The younger generation of workers and managers, who entered the workforce with more of an expectation of a level playing field, are your advocates in this.
TECHNOLOGY IS A LEVELER
New technology allows us to work from anywhere, changing our working patterns. We can hold virtual meetings, work flexibly, independently and remotely. This could make a huge difference for mothers and disabled people, opening up opportunities that they wouldn’t have had before.
Our patterns of work are beginning to change. More than any generation before them, millennials increasingly expect to work flexibly, independently and remotely, with virtual meetings seen as the norm. At the same time, the diffusion of technology is creating an ‘always-on’ culture, or digital presenteeism, making it difficult for workers switch off during their leisure hours. A key issue for future managers will be how to overcome these challenges while simultaneously managing personal relationships with colleagues who may not share the same office space.