Diversity and inclusion have never been more important for businesses, not just in the employees you recruit but also for customers and investors.
To be a success in today’s market, diversity must be reflected at every level of your business. It can shape public perception and enrich the products you sell and the services you provide.
As more and more businesses are starting to realise this, we’re seeing a surge in diversity statistics being made public. Companies in every sector are setting targets and ticking boxes. ‘We have 38% gender split, and by 2025 we will have increased this 45%’.
On the surface this type of message seems positive, it gives the impression of growth, it shows that companies are trying to be more diverse, but does it actually solve the problem? Will it make our workplaces more diverse?
No. And here’s why.
From the moment children are born, they’re put into boxes, blue for boys and pink for girls. Boys like maths and numbers and science, girls are creative and arty. These stereotypes stick. They influence the things we like, the things we pursue, and the careers we choose.
If we use the tech industry as an example, we can see a candidate pool that is dominated by men (almost 90% in fact). So a company trying to raise it’s gender diversity will pile its resources into hiring women to even out the gender split.
With the number of women in tech already low, recruitment is difficult and time consuming. Perhaps in an attempt to fill roles, they start to make compromises on the people they hire. After all, they have a 45% gender split to achieve!
As time goes on the business begins to suffer, the people they’ve hired aren’t particularly happy and they move on. The diversity percentage slips and they start the process all over again.
When we start setting diversity targets to check a few boxes – we’ve already failed.
If we’re going to solve our diversity problem, if we’re going to make our workplaces truly inclusive then we have to focus on the source of the issue. We have to create a new generation of employees that aren’t influenced social stereotypes. We must work with young people to raise aspirations, to remove the barriers placed around them by society. We have to give the young people of today access and opportunity to follow any path they choose.
Raising people’s awareness of social biases and stereotypes and teaching them how to navigate them, working to remove them should be our priority. Once we start doing this, we will truly see a change in our workplace diversity.