Inclusion is the solution to maintaining diversity
Since our inception in 1989, Lansons has pursued a culture of inclusivity; championing those who do not always have a voice, establishing ways to give back to society and promoting opportunities amongst diverse socio-economic backgrounds.
Appreciating the benefits this type of culture brings to both people and business, we have naturally always encouraged our clients to do the same.
We have just published our latest gender pay gap report and we are proud to say that at just 0.9%, we do not have a gender pay gap.
We are amongst other organisations who have taken a lead in publishing this year’s figures ahead of the April deadline for companies with 250 or more employees (we employ just over 100 people).
Like many of these organisations, we share a mindset of remaining restless and continuously thinking of ways to improve.
We know complacency does not facilitate diverse thinking or an inclusive environment so we’re always challenging ourselves to listen to people and society’s needs to better inform our decisions.
Generally speaking however, progress for diversity and inclusion seems slow and in some ways scarcely credible.
The Equal Pay Act of 1970 ensured the same pay for men and women completing the same work, but it has taken another 40 years until the Equality Act of 2010 to tackle workplace disadvantage and discrimination on a wider scale than gender alone.
This year has only just seen a major global airline remove make-up as a mandatory part of female staff uniform, we are still awaiting the introduction of Ethnicity and Disability Pay Gap reporting and only one in five start-ups that receives investment is founded by a woman.
Meanwhile outside of the UK in 2019, homosexuality remains illegal in 73 countries (punishable by death in 18), international sports games continue to be interrupted by racist chanting and in the US nearly 90% of young women have already experienced some level of sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge that even the moral conscience of a majority is not enough of a force to drive fast and significant change.
But we cannot be disparaging about the progress that is being made; there are lots of successes we can celebrate and it is fantastic to see so many organisations taking steps to prioritise their diversity and inclusion strategies.
There is a growing conversation centred around D&I moving from a ‘nice to have’ to a business imperative and it feels right to be part of it. We are supporting clients through their own diversity and inclusion journeys as we have experienced our own.
A key part of this journey should be galvanising the desire to change. In the context of business transformation, this ordinarily proves challenging. But the yearning for belonging and inclusivity is already permeating through organisations, creating noise and attracting attention.
However, for leadership this is proving difficult to navigate. Knowing where to start can be hugely overwhelming.
‘Diversity and inclusion’ is to some, a minefield of unknown terminology, ridden with taboo and a clash with ‘what has always been’. For many, it is a very real fear that taking any action at all will cause offense, not just to individuals but to whole groups of employees.
But this inaction can result in the perception of leadership passivity and a disregard for what matters the most to their workforce and wider society.
We have to start somewhere and although knowing where to start can seem like mission impossible, burying our heads in the sand is no longer an option.
Equally as risky on the other hand, is sporadic, standalone activities and initiatives not linked to business strategy as these can cause further disengagement as employees immediately see through disingenuous leadership and the missing link to overall business purpose.
Leaders should start by looking at the business risk for not having a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture, as they would with anything else that can impact their reputation (and fundamentally their profitability).
To aid the case for change, there is also increasing research that proves a diverse workforce is more innovative, more creative and more successful, generating a progressively compelling argument.
But rather than looking to increase the diversity of teams, primary consideration should be given to the culture of the organisation and how inclusive it is. Upping the diversity of the workforce is futile if there isn’t an inclusive culture to sustain it. Inclusion is the solution to maintaining diversity.
Anyone can increase their diversity of teams through attraction and recruitment initiatives, but what happens once they start to experience the culture is critical as to whether new recruits feel they belong enough to want to stay.
Creating an inclusive culture is not something that can happen overnight, but a good place to start is understanding and acknowledging what your culture currently feels like in order to see how much work there is to do.
Assessing your current state and knowing where you are before you design your diversity and inclusion strategy means it will not be based around assumption.
With growing pressure from employees, the media and the general public, acknowledging cultural issues with honesty and integrity is the best approach.
Your employees should be well placed to help diagnose how inclusive your culture is, as they live and breathe it every day.
If the conditions are right, most employees are more than willing to share their views, particularly as the topic of inclusivity touches all of us; everyone has a right to feel included. They will undoubtedly have great ideas and solutions and also give great indication as to what the key obstacles will be to overcome.
Ensure your employees have a role in designing a more inclusive workplace as involving them will make the culture change stick. Fostering inclusive cultures is the long term solution to developing, maintaining and growing truly diverse teams.
At Lansons, we have been working to accelerate the pace of change.
We have partnered with The Diversity Project to support the savings and investment sector which is currently one of the least diverse industries.
We have supported the BBC 50:50 Project to increase female contribution to content across news, current affairs and topical programmes.
We have also been working with many of our other clients; helping to shape their D&I strategies through effective culture change and communications and forming their pay gap reports.
The sooner we accept that the moral obligation twinned with the business imperative provides a non-negotiable case for change, the more we will start to see progress accelerate.
We don’t think this conversation is going away anytime soon. We want it to continue growing and we want you to take part in it as the more voices there are, the more powerful it becomes and the faster the pace of change.
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