From Diversity to Inclusion: Where are Company Statements Now?
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The words 'Diversity & Inclusion' seem to go hand in hand for many companies. The clear rationale for pulling both together being that ‘diversity’ is focused on bringing people from different backgrounds and experiences into the company and ‘inclusion’ is about creating an environment which enables them to perform at their best, ensuring the differences work for the benefit of both the individuals and the company concerned.
But how much do companies focus on the diversity element of the above and how much do they really focus on the inclusion agenda?
There will be many indicators around the company as to what the division of focus actually is, for example, visible examples in the actions and behaviours displayed across the firm or the tone of colleague communications. One area that will also give a good indication is the equal opportunities or diversity statement the company publishes to both its colleagues and the outside world…how inclusive is it?
Many companies, in the past, have focused on listing all the ‘characteristics’ they do not discriminate against. This is a direct response to equal opportunities and is mainly focused around characteristics that are protected by discrimination legislation; however, does it signify how inclusive an organisation actually is?
Can multi-national companies develop global diversity & inclusion statements and continue to list the characteristics given that legislation will be different in the many countries in which it operates?
If characteristics are listed does one group get a louder voice over another? Is there an unwritten rule around the hierarchy of equality and / or inclusion within the company?
Should companies now consider inclusive statements that focus on everyone within the firm being valued and treated with dignity and respect? Or does that detract from workplace equality?
Do statements which list the characteristics and highlight the inclusiveness of the company contradict themselves purely by the fact they list who they will not discriminate against and may miss others out?
Looking at the externally accessible statements from a large number of companies there seems to be a mix of approaches, the three main ones being:
- Inclusive Statement – will not tolerate discrimination of anyone and focused on building an inclusive environment
- Listed Characteristics – clearly articulating will not tolerate discrimination in a number of areas
- Hybrid – including both an inclusive statement and listed characteristics
What is clear, however, is that many companies with a global reach have already moved to inclusive statements or are actively considering / debating the move. This is an interesting development which will start to change and influence the focus of many other companies as good practice is shared across industries.
The above may not give a definitive answer as how a company should progress, that all depends on the maturity of the company and their previous experience of diversity and inclusion. However, this does give them a starting point and enable them to have the debate internally and look at the wider implications of changing or adapting their overarching statement.
Whichever direction a company decides to take this will have far wider reaching implications than the pure words themselves, it will send a clear message across the organization of the strategic balance between the diversity and / or inclusion focus and will, therefore, set a clear direction.
- Charlotte Sweeney
Head of Diversity & Inclusion, EMEA
Nomura International PLC