Diversity and inclusion efforts rose during lockdown

More and more professionals feel that their employers are celebrating people’s differences, a survey from recruiter Robert Walters indicates.

Twice as many professionals (64pc) stated that they are aware of their employer’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives, compared to 2019.

The findings come from a survey of 7,500 professionals across the UK & Ireland by leading recruiter Robert Walters – and comes ahead of the launch of the Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Strategy Report – which launches on 26 April.

“As the option to return to the office draws closer, employers must not take their foot off the pedal in regard to inclusion”

In the face of mandatory remote working, active participation in diversity & inclusion initiatives has grown by +10pc in lockdown – with more than a third of professionals now participating in employer-led working groups.

Interestingly, 15pc 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.

Women more confident in salary negotiations

In what has been a positive result in employers’ efforts, the report findings highlight that two-thirds of professionals (61pc) feel that their organisation ‘celebrates people’s differences’ – with +10pc more women feeling confident to negotiate salary, and pay satisfaction amongst black professionals increasing by +10pc 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,” said Louise Campbell, managing director of Robert Walters in Ireland.

“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.

“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.”

Covid-19 impact on D&I

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 and inclusion in the workplace by as much as 5-10 years.

Key findings include:

  • Disabled professionals: With Ireland having one of the highest inactivity rates for persons with disabilities in the EU, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission warns that there is a real risk that discrimination against disabled workers may become even more widespread in the coming period of economic turbulence. In addition, the rising costs of living with a disability due to expenditure on PPE and shielding measures could further exclude persons with disabilities from the labour market – placing them at an increased risk of poverty and social exclusion.
  • Women in work: According to a report from McKinsey – women are 1.8 times more likely to lose their job as a result of the pandemic, compared to men – due to varying factors such as women being disproportionately represented in vulnerable industries such as leisure, hospitality and retail, as well the heightened burden of childcare during lockdown – which is disproportionately carried by women.
  • Impact to non-national minorities: According to National Economic & Social Council, migrant-background families have a lower level of income than Irish-born families and so were more likely to feel the financial effects of the Covid-19 lockdown more strongly. In addition, non-Irish nationals are over-represented in sectors severely affected by Covid-19 – such as accommodation and food – and so will have been at higher risk of unemployment.
  • The age factor: According to industry figures, the long stretch of lockdown has already had a negative impact on youth employment – with popular graduate and training schemes from large corporations on hold. Added to that, some 10,6000 jobs for 15-24 year-olds are at risk in the hospitality sector in just Dublin alone – highlighting the potential long-term social and economic effects of the pandemic.  

“Whilst analysis into this is still early, both Covid-19 and lockdown have had some serious D&I implications at both a macro and 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,” said Nic Hammerling, partner and Diversity & Inclusion specialist at Pearn Kandola.

“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.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 14 April 2021