When deeds speak, words are nothing - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Disclaimer – This article is not intended to trigger any negative perspective on the efforts made by companies across the planet in their inclusion and diversity reports. Heavens know, we need more reports, more numbers, and more instances of mainstream media accolades. Besides, since PR and HR have coalesced on their efforts and virtues of inclusion and diversity in the workforce, sparks have flown and pretty unicorns have paced the breadth of the rainbow with joyous abandon. More is more here, for sure, and hymns in praises of the great diverse workforce in major corporations are surely an inspiration for all of us in the HR community. Why not simply sweep the reality of < 2% black representation in the technology industry under the rug and place a dainty statuette over it instead? After all, diversity and inclusion initiatives continue to remain the gentle waves crashing against the wall of ethnic bias and employment discrimination. TLDR: Prettify the reports, and all is well.
Or is it?
Well, that wasn’t exactly the disclaimer we were aiming for, but reality, does, indeed, gnaw at our heels like the faithful pup from time to time – and reality, as amply proven by statisticians, business associations, researchers, and basically anybody who has bothered to look, is that on the ground, inclusion and diversity are merely numbers on reports and press releases.
ARE THE ESPECIALLY ABLED, ENABLED?
“Dear CHROs and HR leaders, do you remember the last time you walked into a board meeting and discussed organization’s critical matters with someone with special abilities?”
“Dear CHROs and HR leaders, when was the last time you recommended someone for a C-suite job in your organization, someone who had at least a minor disability but was a brilliant and skilled leader?”
Not for lack of availability, for sure. Leaders with special abilities have it tough, and as Human Resources leaders, facilitating their rise to the rank and file that they deserve to be in isn’t something that we do very often. This despite the fact that according to a CTI study, an astonishing 75% of employees with disabilities reported that they had ideas they believed would be key in driving value and innovation at their company. 66% of employees without disabilities think so.
ILO reported that despite numerous initiatives, less than a third of white collared employees are specially abled, and on the other side of the same coin, more than one-third of the respondents reported to have faced negative bias at the workplace. Most of these go unreported (only 21% disclose their disabilities to the HR) and the despair is evident with 47% stating that they would never achieve a position of power in their organization, regardless of their achievements, performance, or qualifications.
For the CHRO, the imperative here is to strike at the heart of the problem – the business managers and the governance bodies. It may sound uphill, but this is precisely where HR leaders, as change agents, have the opportunity to make their mark. Point is, who’ll take the lead?
SEARCHING FOR THE REAL EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
Sounds great as a tagline in recruitment ads, but where does equal opportunity employment vaporize in practice? Some other sphere for sure and the residue is— bias.
The now infamous Google diversity report has probably caused the brand more harm than good, but in all honesty, it’s just a speck of sand in the desert. The global technology industry, though calling itself progressive, has more dogmatic stereotypes than most would imagine. Less than 2% black representation? Check. Nearly 70% male staff? Check. A measly 3.6% staff of Latin American origin? Check. 25% of leadership position staff female? Check that too.
Since this publication does not discriminate against employers who discriminate, here are some stats from Facebook and Microsoft about their “diversity initiatives” too. Microsoft has 81% of male staff in leadership leaving just 19% of women in both leadership and technology. And the world’s largest online social network? Well, it’s a little more gender diverse, with 28% of its global leadership staff being women. Within the US, however, the dismal representation of a staff with African American origin persists at a mere 3% in leadership positions, though to be fair, it’s up from 2% in 2014.
It’s a global endemic with little signs of eradication, despite the diversity and inclusion report headlines that we keep telling ourselves are creating a more inclusive corporate world. It is best summed up by the uproar that the BBC gender pay controversy raised since the report was published last year. More than 66% of top presenters and highest earners were male, compared to their female counterparts. The report, once published, led to an unprecedented outcry among some of the highest profile female celebrities of the media conglomerate. Open letters were published, Lord Tony Hall had to intervene himself, though he failed to control the stymie that followed immediately after, including the resignation of the BBC China editor Carrie Gracie, and even the Cultural Secretary’s comment that the “brilliant women working at all levels of the BBC deserve better”.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say, and going by that, there’s plenty of delicious statistics to be savored for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Recent research by the UK Government threw up a startling fact that if the black and ethnic minority talent in the country were utilized to a 100%, up from the currently dismal 14% of which an even meager 10% are in the workforce, the economy could be boosted by a staggering $29bn!
Wait. There’s more!
Workforce productivity, in absolute terms, is an amalgamation of several business imperatives, the most prominent among them being the size and efficiency of the workforce. With approximately 68% of the Black and Minority Ethnicity being employed (either fully or partially) vis-a-vis 75% of the white population in the UK alone, the scope of leveraging a huge talent pool and enhancing its skillsets, pardon us for being a little dreamy here, make the “war for talent” a thing of the past. But before we get ahead of ourselves, the point again, is, who’ll take the lead?