Promoting Social Cohesion via Diversity

Promoting Social Cohesion via Diversity

Accepting diversity in the workplace so men and women from all backgrounds belong together not only promotes social cohesion – it’s good for business

For a country that has a black population of more than two million, three million Muslims and almost four million gay people, to say Britain isn’t diverse is foolish. Add the 8.3 million people who live here but were born abroad and the nearly 12 million Britons over the age of 65, collectively they comprise a nation defined as much by difference as similarity.

And yet for all this lack of homogeneity and despite all the research linking stronger profits with those organisations that embrace diversity, not a week seems to go by where one sector or another isn’t seen as diverse enough.

The legal profession in England and Wales was recently found guilty of having just 23 per cent female judges; only Armenia, Azerbaijan and Scotland were judged worse. The creative industry meanwhile has come in for criticism on racial grounds. The 2015 Creative Diversity Report found only 11 per cent of all creative jobs are held by black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers, despite the fact a third of jobs are in London, which is 40 per cent BAME. Moreover, whole sectors are still criticised for being ageist and discriminatory towards the disabled.

How can this be?

Paradoxically, the answer may actually come from well-meaning human resources policies that aim to get the very best talent, but in doing so, perpetuate sameness. These are talent management and talent pipelining programmes that by mapping top performers create a blueprint for hiring more of the same rather than looking further afield.

“The relationship between getting talent and achieving diversity is complex,” says Professor Paul Sparrow, director of the Centre for Performance-led HR at Lancaster University Management School. “In trying to meet business performance issues, HR can end up recruiting clones, which then creates organisational group-think.”

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