Race, Diversity and Inclusion: The Recruiters Perspective
In recent times, we have seen a crucial focus on Diversity and Inclusion across many industries. Whether it’s seeking more women in senior leadership positions, encouraging members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community into the business, understanding the needs of professionals with disabilities or mental health conditions, or supporting LGBTQ+ communities and their rights.
The last decade has seen Diversity strategies principally centre around gender equality. Progress is being made, and globally the number of women in senior management roles has grown to 29% (an increase of 5 percent since 2018). However, we still have further to go before we reach true gender equality.
Less light has been shone on issues of Race and tackling the inequality and systematic bias which surrounds promoting or hiring BAME professionals. This has been thrown into the spotlight following the shocking killing of George Floyd and the growing Black Lives Matter movement, which has sparked debate and ignited people’s passion to act.
The Colour Of Power 2020 report, conducted by Green Park, highlights that fewer than five percent of the most senior jobs across UK companies, Government and public bodies are held by people from ethnic minority groups. To quantify this – only 52 out of 1,099 of the most powerful roles in the UK are occupied by members of the non-white community. Clearly, the biggest priority should be increasing representation at the Senior/ Executive Board level.
Only 52 out of 1,099 of the most powerful roles in the UK are occupied by members of the non-white community. Clearly the biggest priority should be increasing representation at the Senior/ Executive Board level.
As a female mixed-race Recruitment Consultant within the Financial and Professional Services sectors, two of the largest sectors contributing to the UK’s economy, I felt uniquely placed to gain perspectives on the issue. I think back to my own journey and remember the pressure from an early age of needing to stand out more than my white peers to get noticed. There have been instances where I’ve felt discriminated against, being told I ‘wasn’t the right fit’ for certain opportunities. The lack of diversity in these businesses made me question whether it was perhaps the colour of my skin; gender or working-class background which prevented me from ‘fitting in.’
It’s for these reasons that I felt compelled to explore viewpoints from Executives and Diversity & Inclusion leaders across both sectors, including Roger Dix, Chief Risk Officer and Nathan Wallis, Head of Culture & Engagement at Wesleyan Assurance; Pippa Marler, Diversity & Inclusion lead at Weightmans LLP; and Simba Mamboininga, Managing Partner at Devlin Mambo LLP.
This article will discuss the benefits, challenges and pragmatic solutions organisations have made to combat these issues.
We currently hear a lot about ‘ESG’ (Environmental Social Governance); and if we look at what the ‘S’ in this stands for, ‘social’ relates to representing the community. Increasing the number of BAME employees at a senior level will not only create a culture which embodies this inclusivity, but it will help naturally drive business in the customer-based community. As emphasised by Roger Dix, CRO from Wesleyan, “It’s important that we do the right thing for the right reasons!”
Now more so than ever before, individuals are choosing ethical brands when it comes to purchase decisions. Likewise, professionals are considering how socially and ethically responsible a business is when considering a role and their future career. I think it’s important that people feel aligned with the intrinsic values of the company and believe they can bring their whole self to work; this can be key to keeping your talent or pushing them towards a competitor.
I think it’s important that people feel aligned with the intrinsic values of the company and believe they can bring their whole self to work.
Let’s not beat around the bush, the main aim in business is driving profitability. Increased diversity in leadership can also lead to greater innovation and wealth. Research conducted by McKinsey Global Institute in 2019 illustrated that organisations are on average 36% more profitable when the board included both women and people of colour. Diverse perspectives at the board level will trickle down through your company, inspiring loyalty and ensuring issues from all communities are considered when making strategic business decisions.
There are a number of challenges to factor in when we consider why we don’t see enough people of colour represented at Senior levels and in higher numbers throughout an organisation. Some struggles are levelling the playing field from an entry level; increasing opportunities for those from lower economic backgrounds; and encouraging more applicants from Black and Minority communities.
Widely acknowledged throughout my discussions with business leaders and Diversity & Inclusion specialists is that businesses need to gather the appropriate data in the first instance, analyse effectively before pledging commitments (or targets) and then concentrate on the recruitment process to tackle some of these issues.
Let’s explore in more detail:
Many leaders recognised that without fully understanding the demographics within their business, it’s difficult to improve on diversity statistics. Summed up excellently by a Global Diversity lead from a leading bank: “we need to look, listen, learn and then act.” Gathering this information can prove difficult, crucially, employees need to feel safe and encouraged to volunteer their ethnicity information. For example, Zurich Insurance reported an excellent staff declaration rate for race of 86 percent, before bringing in behavioural scientists to understand retention and career development e.g. promotions across BAME employees.
Whilst the statistics might be hard reading, it is imperative that we understand the true demographics of the business so we can reflect and look pragmatically at next steps. “Having this information allows us to honestly look at where we are on our D&I journey, and then from there affect positive change” says Pippa Marler, Diversity and Inclusion lead at Weightmans LLP.
Quotas or Targets on Diverse Hires
The idea of imposing targets or quotas (which are similar but different) has expectedly mixed responses, employees especially feel they might create a sense of tick box hiring or possibly upset colleagues already in the business leading to resentment. However, targets can be a positive commitment to keep the organisation on track with their diversity agenda.
Business in the Community’s (BITC) Race At Work Charter, for example, encourages percentage targets for the board. This was echoed by Nathan Wallis, Head of Culture & Engagement at Wesleyan Assurance Society “We need them to measure our progress and have a realistic goal to work towards.” People are more productive when having clear objectives. David Mollison, CRO at Monmouthshire Building Society agreed that in the immediate term they can be impactful and aid us to get where we want to go.
Diversity and Inclusion in recruitment
Recruitment strategies are such a big issue within this topic to which I could probably devote an entire article. There are three parties which have a share in responsibility to achieve diversity: the organisation; Exec search and agency partners; and the candidates themselves. From an organisation perspective where it has been problematic to attract diverse applicants, questions should be asked internally such as: are we making ourselves attractive to wider communities? Do we portray an inclusive culture? Are we using the right language? Are all job adverts and interview processes free from unconscious bias? If offices are not based in a diverse area, do we have remote working options for non-local candidates?
In partnering with Search firms and Recruitment Consultancies, organisations are, by nature of the process, only seeing candidates that are shortlisted by the agency. As we have seen work successfully with gender diversity, insisting on diverse shortlists or anonymised CVs, notably improves diversity and inclusion in the hiring process. It is important to work with executive search and recruitment firms who have diversity at the forefront of their agenda. I for one, have personally committed to provide clients with candidate shortlists that are diverse and representative of multiple communities.
The solutions implemented
Over recent months, we have seen many organisations strengthen their diversity policies, champion diversity leads and race network groups and publicly take a stand towards changing the industry. Through the conversations I have had with business leaders and D&I leads, I have been impressed and in awe of the great strides being made. Some of which are:
- Reverse mentoring scheme where execs can have an opportunity to learn and ask questions from staff at other levels – Standard life Aberdeen have pioneered this, working hard with their network group Unity to implement.
- Executive led and supported networks, groups and safe spaces internally. Vannessa Whitehead, co-chairing Unity (race network group) suggests that where possible having leaders who belong to the community they are representing, is critical for engagement. Powerful allies from outside the community are equally important.
- Community programmes and apprenticeship schemes, to break down barriers from an entry level perspective. A fantastic example of this is Direct Line Group’s £3.5 million Covid-19 community fund which helped the most vulnerable in society when they needed it most. Direct Line Group also made a social mobility pledge in February this year with more to announce very soon.
- Establish your D&I strategy early and form a steering group of leaders, allies and employees to drive the strategy forward. Weightmans LLP has a dedicated D&I Lead who coordinates the voluntary Steering Group. The group consists of colleagues from the managing partner, board members and strand leads who come from all areas of the business. The Steering Group is supported by a wide network of D&I Champions from all areas and pay grades, who in turn communicate with the wider business, meaning everyone has the opportunity to be heard.
- ‘Talk about Race’ and ‘Bring Yourself To Work’ campaigns – ensuring safe spaces are created for positive discourse and discussions.
- Legislation – reporting on ethnicity pay gaps. Soon likely to be debated in the House of Commons and pushed by regulators as similarly done with gender pay gap reporting in 2018. This is an agenda supported by the ABI (Association of British Insurers). Organisations such as Zurich, NatWest & Eversheds Sutherland LLP have led from the front by publishing their statistics already voluntarily.
Whether you are a leader, manager or individual there is always something you can do…
- Don’t just listen, provide a platform for the voices on your team – let’s get past the awkwardness and start embracing uncomfortable conversations.
- Sign up to BITC’s Race at Work Charter, or choose to pledge commitments to improving equality
- Take opportunities to learn about different cultures – You could encourage conversations about heritage or host a lunch in your office where employees could bring in a national dish.
- Watch out for micro aggressions and undertake unconscious bias training. You could take an online test and might be surprised to find you have some as everyone does, but it’s about recognising these unconscious behaviours and changing our mind-set.
- BAME – (personally I dislike the term) I’m very proud to belong to the black community and wouldn’t want that fact dismissed. When speaking with your colleagues, try to find out their thoughts on this before using the term.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your peers and family or friends questions – it’s the only way we learn.
In summary, it’s hard to say exactly what the right path is moving forward. What this year has proven is that there is a wave of change on the horizon. Whether an organisation has 10 or 10,000 employees, Diversity and Inclusion needs to be on the agenda. There won’t be an easy solution, nor can the ingrained systematic issues disappear overnight, but we are all on a journey!
Some organisations will be further along than others, but it’s vital that we talk to each other and ask the questions that need to be asked, in order to break down barriers. I hope this article will inspire others to share their views, but the message is clear; if we each take conscientious accountability for moving the dial just an inch, then together we will achieve a more diverse, profitable and brighter world for generations to come.
Having achieved a 2.1 in her Law degree at The University of Westminster, Ebony began her career in recruitment within Finance in London before relocating back to Manchester. She especially enjoys employing her technical knowledge of the regulation industry to offer bespoke recruitment solutions and consulting with clients on salaries, diversity policies and internal structures.