The Changing Face of Diversity

9th February 2012, House of Lords

Diversity & Inclusion is a critical driver for sustainable business success and requires constant vigilance and competent leadership and management.  Whether it’s increasing representation in gender, race and disabilities; improving your corporate social responsibility, religious and spiritual impact or reducing generational differences how do practitioners know what models are effective and measure metrics that matter in a challenging economy.

The Changing Face of Diversity provided an exciting opportunity for senior professionals, specialists, leaders and change agents to connect and exchange information on how they work to embed a culture where diversity, equality and inclusion works throughout all aspects of business.

Hosted by Baroness Verma of Leicestershire the expert panel included Linda Bellos OBE;  Sandra Kerr OBE (Business in the Community); Romeo Effs (MITIE Plc);  Caroline Harper (the Diversity Practice) and Sonia Brown MBE (Founder, NBWN) who  updated attendees with research, case studies and a new perspective about advancing the field of diversity.

Linda Bellos OBE says:
“Diversity is more than employment issues; ticking the boxes and outputs.    The issue is about organisation’s looking internally at what changes need to happen within their organisation that enables ALL employees to flourish.  It’s about challenging the barriers that stop certain groups of people from getting through the door let alone developing their career.

In addition, we must stop competing against protected characteristics for hierarchy, but work on the legal barriers and push forward.  Let’s not disrespect or disregard the struggle and lessons that took us to the Equality Act, which is the greatest challenge.”

It has taken decades for this cultural change that recognises bad behaviour from whoever it comes from so we should condemn organisations with poor records, just like we do the footballers/fans racially abusing other players on the pitch.

Sandra Kerr OBE says: 
1 in 4 people are ethnic minorities in primary education.  Youth unemployment statistics released from the DWP for young people shows a rise to 30% but for mixed race it is 43% for Asians 48% Blacks 50.1% Chinese and others 53 %.  We need to push apprenticeships and other opportunities for young people to find work.

1 in 8 people are ethnic minorities in the workplace.  There is a greater need for data and segmentation; if we don’t we will get programmes that will realistically close the gaps. The BITC Race and Recruitment Report looked at progression in the workplace and found the workplace landscape is still not reflective nor is it balanced as per the consensus statistics.  Of the 2500+ respondees the survey found that 44% of white people were offered jobs through traditional recruitment agencies whereas only 29% of ethnic minorities.  Once they were in the organisation whites will get 4 promotions in their career whereas ethnic minorities will get 2.5 promotions.

1 in 16 people are ethnic minorities on boards.  There is a need to take action about what the talent pool looks like in the organisation and ensure that ethnic minorities have greater access to non-executive and public appointments.

Caroline Harper says:
There is nothing new about identifying diverse pools of candidates the challenge is to get the benefit from the talent once they get through the door so they feel part of and included in the organisation.    There must be accountability and engagement from the organisations leaders to commit to diversity (from ALL members of the company) and really accelerate the number of diverse groups reaching higher positions along the pipeline.

They need well thought out integrated strategies which takes a holistic, integrated approach to diversity both inside the organisations and it must be reflected in the products and services they deliver in the market place.

This is where data is very important to identify where companies are flourishing, stagnating or failing its diverse workforce in certain areas of the organisation.  This should be supported by a diversity action plan with clearly defined metrics, targets and evaluation is vital for sustainable success and return on investment.

Romeo  Effs says:
Just over a year ago we set a target to increase diverse company’s working with MITIE by 100 each year and then through collaborations and partnerships to reach business people to supply the goods and services we deliver to our clients.

We designed a mentorship programme for micro businesses to participate in the process (by working with our procurement managers) and although some companies did not win some of the contracts, it was more important to increase their capacity and improve their internal processes so they can tender for other contracts.

MITIE has seen 250 diverse suppliers join our supply chain with a £3.8 million pound impact. We have run over 35 workshops with suppliers and partnered them with strategic suppliers to build their capacity and grow.   70 of these organisations have gone on to win additional contracts as a consequence of being part of our award winning diversity supply chain programme.