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13 January 2021

What did 2020 teach us about diversity?

Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter movement and more, have made companies think differently about HR. What steps are organisations taking towards inclusion?

By Spotlight

The world of work is changing. The pandemic has speeded up the shift from office environments to virtual ones. Organisations are increasingly judged on their values, as much as the quality of their products and services. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of modernising workplaces in order to reflect and address challenges across society. Diversity – of thought, skin colour, gender and more – is widely recognised as key to achieving this aim. The New Statesman’s Spotlight supplement collated insights from diversity and inclusion leaders on what they learned in 2020, and how they will continue adjusting to new working practices and expectations in the year ahead.

Kate Fergusson, Head of responsible business at Pinsent Masons

The sudden introduction of mass remote working prompted a widespread cultural and behavioural change for many industries. For us, our transition to agile working prior to the pandemic, and approach to doing business in the right way, for the right reasons, has underpinned support for our people throughout the crisis. 

Running more than 3,000 remote offices provides insight into people’s home life, fostering an emotional connection and increased focus on mental health. We have provided a suite of support including home-schooling resources, flexible working options, wellbeing check-ins and embedding the Mindful Business Charter, which seeks to eradicate working practices that negatively impact our wellbeing.

The inequalities highlighted last year, not only as a result of the pandemic but by events such as the tragic killing of George Floyd, have underscored the need for change and open dialogue about racism. Alongside other firms, we signed up to Rare Recruitment’s Race Fairness Commitment which commits firms to use data-driven techniques to monitor the legal careers of minority ethnic lawyers – from recruitment to senior promotion – with the aim of identifying and tackling the points at which minority ethnic lawyers unfairly fall behind their peers.

Miranda Wayland, Head of creative diversity at the BBC

The pandemic has been felt in all corners of the UK. Widespread home-working has accelerated the consideration of accessibility, while conversations about racism were in the spotlight throughout 2020. All organisations have had to confront these challenges with unprecedented urgency and there has been renewed recognition across our industry that we need to do better when it comes to representation. 

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At the BBC we have made good progress with regards to inclusive representation on-screen, but this hasn’t been replicated at the same pace off-screen, and that is why we have amplified our efforts to accelerate change. This year, we are introducing our new workforce diversity plan that underpins our recently announced 50:20:12 diversity target – 50 per cent gender, 20 per cent ethnicity, and 12 per cent disability. This is supported by our new 20 per cent off-screen diversity target for all new commissions and a commitment to spend £100m of existing budgets on diverse content from April. 

You can’t solve problems that you don’t know exist and you can’t always do it alone. That is why we set ourselves targets, which we monitor, review and report, and it is why we are increasingly working with our partners to find solutions.

Dal Darroch Head of diversity and inclusion strategic programmes at the Football Association

Last year was a difficult year for every industry, and sport is no different. While the pandemic has challenged businesses and individual health, many organisations have questioned working practices and how inclusive they really are, with the important conversation around diversity and inclusion rising in the public consciousness.

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It has brought about honest discussions and we have listened to the views of our colleagues to better understand how we can embed inclusion and improve working experiences for everyone. We have enhanced our fight against discrimination, as part of our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, In Pursuit of Progress, which sets clear targets to drive meaningful change within the organisation and across the game.

We recently launched the Football Leadership Diversity Code, with more than 40 professional football clubs committing to tackling inequality across their senior leadership, team operations and coaching teams. Importantly, it will increase accountability and transparency encouraging recruitment from across society. While recruitment should always be based on merit, it’s crucial the right candidate is selected from a diverse pool.

Alessandra Bellini Chief customer officer and executive sponsor of diversity and inclusion at Tesco

At Tesco, we treat people how they want to be treated and actively celebrate diversity. Our yearly colleague engagement survey shows that 88 per cent of colleagues feel we have an inclusive workplace. 2020 was a challenging year, but it provided a chance for us to listen and consider how we can ensure everyone feels welcome. 

All colleagues complete mandatory D&I training, with additional training for managers, and we are proud to offer inclusive policies that use gender neutral language. Our colleague networks have executive sponsorship, and support our listening groups, career and mentoring programmes that focus on different ethnicities, sexual orientation and gender. To help shape future plans, colleagues can voluntarily share their personal diversity data. Our external commitments – including the Race at Work Charter, Valuable 500, and recent open letter in the Sunday Times – will hold us to account in supporting colleagues from all backgrounds. The importance of diversity should be embedded in every area of a business. We all have a responsibility to share learnings with each other, and to support a more inclusive Britain.

Jihan Ahmed Global head of employer brand and inclusion and diversity at TransferWise

Finance and technology, as a combination, are often perceived as being masculine industries. There’s a legacy reputation of bro-culture, and priority of high-speed growth which can be intimidating and frankly unattractive for some candidates.

In order to understand where we can improve our diversity efforts, it is crucial to look at where we are going wrong. Roles that severely need more diverse candidates, such as engineering, often have long and detailed requirements, and we know that often women and other minority and under-represented groups don’t apply for roles unless they tick every box. There can be intimidating, masculine language, and not enough talk on growth, and development.

At TransferWise, we’re analysing and improving the inclusivity of our job adverts and have published our career maps and salaries. This upfront change to the way we position our roles, and describe what it’s like to work with us, should, over time, attract a much more varied and uniquely talented team.

Having diverse teams that reflect our customer base helps us build a better product. We want to make sure we leave no one behind on our journey to achieve money without borders, for everyone. 

Staynton Brown Director of diversity, inclusion and talent at Transport for London

London is incredibly diverse and, as an organisation, it is important we reflect that. The major events of 2020, such as the killing of George Floyd, galvanised people across TfL to go further and faster in tackling discrimination. We continue to ensure we have an evidence-based approach to diversity and inclusion incorporated across our work – from hiring to inspiring, leadership to behaviour, wellbeing to talent management. We listen to our staff, are held to account by our board, and respond to our pay gap reports and annual staff survey.

There is always room for improvement. To become a more proactively anti-racist organisation, we held more than 100 “listening” sessions across TfL. Through creating safe spaces, and bringing people together to listen and learn, we are developing new approaches to meet our ambition. Our staff network groups represent different protected characteristics, and act on what we learn. This then improves the experiences of all our people and helps us better deliver for the city we serve.

This article originally appeared in a Spotlight report on the future of work. Click here to download the full edition.