Kate Maclean, Administration Officer
If you’ve been following our blogs this month, you’ll have noticed we’ve been discussing UK employment law. Today I would like to reflect on equality and diversity legislation - where we have come from, and the inequalities that people continue to campaign against even now.
Although in many cases the implementation of this legislation has enabled the workplace to become a fairer environment, many people suggest that there is still work to be done:
- A 2013 paper reported that ethnic minority employees are more likely to be promoted to teams that are failing (the ‘glass cliff’ phenomenon). Additionally, the paper reported that after accounting for education, experience and occupation – minority employees are still less likely than their non-minority colleagues to hold leadership positions.
- Research has found that compared to non-pregnant women, pregnant women experience significantly more hostility in job interviews, and have their work performance rated more poorly.
- A 2013 UK study, looking at the experiences of adults aged over 52, found that 33% of participants had experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
Being an organisation that encourages equal opportunity and celebrates difference isn’t just a ‘nice’ thing to do. Alongside the moral argument for adhering to equality and diversity legislation, a strong business reason also exists:
- Diverse boards make better decisions, due to the reduction of groupthink – a phenomenon in which highly cohesive groups of people make very similar decisions. Groupthink is problematic as it can hinder innovation and can prevent employees scrutinising their actions, which may lead to unethical and illegal behaviour. Adding different opinions and perspectives helps to diminish this risk. You can see a great report on the business case for diversity by the Financial Times here.
- According to research, women currently govern 80% of household income, and therefore organisations that want to tap into that customer base should ensure they are capturing women’s preferences and opinions by having a greater number of women in decision making positions.
- Optimising women’s employment is estimated to be worth between £16billion and £23billion to the UK economy, for example by ensuring they are not ‘demoted’ when returning from maternity leave. This would come from better performing companies, and an increase of talent into the workforce. A factsheet from Opportunity Now can be viewed here.
The driving force behind embracing equality and diversity is seen as the ‘business case’ – that a diverse workforce will result in more focused marketing, greater creativity and decision making and happier staff who stay longer and benefit from organisational opportunities.
Whether we believe discrimination is still a major issue is irrelevant. Even a cursory glance at the research highlights its lingering presence in modern organisations, and society as a whole.
Managing diversity isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s a long-term strategic business factor that has a significant impact on productivity, workforce motivation and innovation, market competitiveness, teamwork and customer loyalty. How we all work together – whether it is teamwork, communicating with people, decision making, designing policies and systems, management, leadership, plans for reaching goals, simple day to day actions – all will benefit from considering different perspectives.