Companies have relied too long on entry-level schemes, apprenticeships and initiatives - which don’t create a long-term impact - to create a more diverse workplace.
Diversity experts believe it’s time to throw out such schemes and focus on leadership, boards and roles that can actually “influence and implement” change across businesses.
Calling it “initiative-itis,” Tayo Arewa, a consultant HR director, says these initiatives have been relied on for more than 10 years because companies feel comfortable with them.
“They need to be made redundant. We need to embed diversity and inclusion into the business plan. We need to link D&I KPIs to leadership performance reviews.”
Arewa joined the Diversity in Leadership panel at the Phocuswright Europe 2020 online event this week with other experts who are advising companies on how to create a balanced workforce.
Quizzed on the how the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing issues into the spotlight, Simon Gallow, advocate, UN Women U.K. says he is seeing two shifts.
Gallow believes people are increasingly educating themselves to understand what “structural, societal, institutional racism and sexism” means.
A second change is around the idea of it no longer being good enough for people to say they are not racist - they need to be deliberately “anti-racist” and take action.
“If you don’t take action yourself then you are complicit in the structures that have been created.”
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Intersectionality - the idea that gender, race, class and other factors also come into play when people experience discrimination - was also discussed.
Arewa says that a startup she spoke to recently, which is trying to phase employees back to work, had not considered that most Black and Asian young people live at home in multi-generational families with members who are potentially shielding.
“You look at their leadership team, their third parties and outside counsel, they all look the same, so you don’t have any diverse voices, you don’t have any diverse perspectives, so you’re going to have gaping holes in whatever strategy you're working on at the moment. We really need to progress beyond those behaviors.”
Leading the panel was Jamie Lee Abtar, executive director of BAME Women in Travel CIC, who also asked panelists how to move diversity in leadership from a “nice to have to something that is business critical.”
Lauren von Stackelberg, global head of inclusion and diversity at Expedia Group, reinforces the need for D&I teams to have access to leadership but also be embedded across organizations and in everything they do.
“Think about who are you servicing and who are you doing a disservice to,” she says, and also recommends employees at companies should each having one goal related to diversity and inclusion.
The idea of “responsible” artificial intelligence and its impact on recruitment and diversity was also discussed.
Kristina Liburd, founder and CEO of the startup Viageur, says that while a lot more companies are beginning to use AI to drive efficiency, there is a need to acknowledge that data sets are skewed and not fool-proof.
During an earlier session, Gillian Tans, chairwoman of Booking Holdings, spoke generally of having data to see how diversity can be improved.
“We need data to see where people get stuck and then we can take actions.”