Part of the attraction of living and working in Britain is its status as a multi-cultural, diverse society, in which people of all ages, races, and beliefs can play an active part. That is why it is so important that the rights of minority groups are protected by law, and in the workplace. Diversity is high on the Government’s agenda, which has led to organisations investing in equality and diversity training. However, a recent survey conducted by the Ethnic Minority Foundation charity revealed that almost nine in 10 recent graduates have experienced some kind of discrimination at work.
The results included the following:
- Race discrimination affected two in five respondents
- 14 per cent of respondents experienced age discrimination
- Gender discrimination was encountered by 12 per cent of respondents
- Other motives for discrimination included sexual orientation and height
These figures are worrying and are a strong argument for organisations needing to invest in equality and diversity training. Kasmin Cooney, Managing Director of learning and development specialist Righttrack Consultancy, says: ‘The demand for equality and diversity training over recent years has grown significantly which, when you look at the focus placed on it by the Government, the regular changes of diversity acts, and the number of organisations being taken to court, comes as no great surprise. Equality and diversity can bring many benefits to organisations when all of the surrounding issues are understood, so equality and diversity make good business sense.’
Another report, Talent not Tokenism, shows promoting diversity need not be expensive, complex or a legal minefield for businesses. Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, (which jointly commissioned the report with the TUC) says:
‘Employers who take steps to encourage a more diverse workforce notice huge benefits from doing so, whether it is hiring skilled staff, understanding their customers’ needs better, or more fundamentally. through improved morale and productivity. It does not have to be hard work or legally complex either – simply making the effort to work out your precise needs, reaching out as widely as you can then hiring, training, or promoting the best person on merit.’
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines diversity as: ‘valuing everyone as an individual. Everyone is different. Diversity therefore consists of visible and non-visible factors. Everyone should have a right to equal access to employment and when employed should have equal pay and equal access to training and development, as well as being free of any direct or indirect discrimination and harassment or bullying.’
Dianah Worman, the Adviser for Diversity for the CIPD, explains that while some companies have been championing diversity, there is still much to do, and the issue is a bit like ‘pushing jelly up a hill’. She says: ‘Until we can get the understanding that the world is about difference, and use that difference much more positively for the self-interest of businesses, then just having diversity law on its own won’t bring about all the changes we want to happen. You really need to get people’s mindsets switched on to this as something we should do because it is the sensible thing to do. Unless we move things on by changing people’s understanding we will never deliver everything we wish to.’
It is not just a myth that equality and diversity result in business benefits. Diversity within the workforce creates an inclusive environment and motivates employees, which has positive benefits on organisational productivity and efficiency. Diversity encourages creativity and innovation, and helps employee relationships. By recruiting from a more diverse graduate base, companies can not only find, but also retain, good employees.
DIVERSITY – THE NUMBERS
- There are 14.1 million women in the UK workforce and 16.7 million men. Of the total workforce, around 3.5million are disabled, an employment rate of 50 per cent for disabled people, compared with 80 per cent of the entire working-age population. Source: ONS, Social Trends 2008.
- There are 4.6million people from ethnic minority groups in the UK (7.9 per cent of the population). Indians make up the largest group, followed by Pakistanis, those of mixed ethnic backgrounds, black Caribbeans, black Africans and Bangladeshis.
Source: 2001 Census.
- Almost half of all British people (47.5 per cent) say they are Christian, 45 per cent hold no religious beliefs, 3.3 per cent are Muslim, 1.4 per cent are Hindu, 0.5 per cent are Jewish, 0.2 per cent are Sikh, the same proportion are Buddhist and 1.4 per cent follow other non-Christian religions. Source: British Social Attitudes Survey.
- The majority of people are heterosexual and attracted to the opposite sex. Approximately 6 per cent of people are attracted to people of the same sex, or both the same and opposite sex. Source: HM Treasury Actuaries.