Diversity is about more than just gender

Gender inequality is the tip of the inclusivity iceberg.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 08 Mar 2018

We all know the unpleasant statistics around gender diversity: the 9.1% pay gap, the fact that women comprise only 28.1% of FTSE 100 board members and 7% of CEOs.

But did you know that 50% of disabled people are unemployed? Or that men with mental health problems have a 40% pay gap?

It’s not a competition, of course – this group is harder done by than that. But the very fact that the gender statistics are better known says something about how businesses treat diversity and inclusion.

Diversity as an HR tickbox

Diversity and inclusion too often are seen as a PR opportunity or an HR tick box - and gender is the easiest box to tick.

It was summed up last year by Steve Anderson, founder of social enterprise Prime Candidate. He told MT about his efforts to get larger firms to commit to tackling ageism in their recruitment process. ‘When I went to larger organisations, almost without exception, they said it is not part of our strategy right now. It’s in our policy but we’re looking at gender balance, BAME OR LGBT. I think it’s because there’s been a lot of promotion, and, for want of a better work, marketing about those other issues in recent times.’

Businesses have to prioritise their objectives, so it's no surprise that gender gets the most attention. It's arguably the biggest problem, and the there is a case that gender can be the Trojan Horse of diversity - if women get equal treatment, the same will follow for other underrepresented groups.

Come to our Inspiring Women in Business conference. Edinburgh. 15th May: Get tips and advice from Britain's most powerful businesswomen. Hear from Skyscanner, Clydesdale Bank, CBI Scotland, Atkins and more. Guest speaker: Dame Cilla Snowball.

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But breaking diversity down into different categories - for example gender, disability, sexuality - unintentionally promotes the idea that they can be tackled as individual problems.

This is not the case. You can't promote diversity without living inclusion. And if you're inclusive, you'll be inclusive of all people. Indeed the very fact that many firms are uninterested in the less obvious areas of diversity is evidence that they are not inclusive, but are instead chasing targets, however well meant. 

So while we should applaud progress on gender equality, as far as there has been progress, we won't see real inclusion until it's for everyone, not just the relatively 'easy' wins (which disability is not - there is a lot more progress to be made there). 

Image: Shutterstock



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