Diversity In The Workplace

Diversity in the workplace

Diversity it a topic that is discussed often lately and many workplaces are trying to actively increase the diversity of their workforce. But what exactly is diversity when discussed in the context of the workplace? For many people it may simply be expanding the range of ethnicity, but in fact it is much more complex and involved than this.

While racial diversity is incredibly important in business, there are other areas that are equally as important. Though it may not seem like it at first, employing more women or raising them to senior positions in companies can help a company to diversify itself.

An American study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company in 2015 saw over 118 companies and almost 30,000 employees take part. The study aimed to help encourage female leadership in the US as well as helping to encourage gender equality. In the study it was found that women were up to four times more likely to think they had fewer opportunities to advance simply because they were women.

But women should be actively encouraged to both enter the workforce and also aspire to high levels in their chosen environment as well. A Gallup study found that business units that are gender diverse will have improved financial outcomes compared to those that are only one gender.

A Different Culture, A Different View

A diverse workforce works better

A diverse workforce works better

This also applies when encouraging racial diversity as research by Harvard Business School Professors Robin Ely and David Thomas found. Their research showed that groups that actively chose to learn from each other and learn from their different experiences would perform better than those who didn’t. The reason for this is that diversity is not just in terms of gender or race, but also in mindset.

Women and men are often found to think differently to each other, resulting in differing viewpoints that the other may have never considered. With the addition of minorities, they could bring entirely different viewpoints and concerns that perhaps a mono-ethnic workforce quite literally could not consider as they are not part of that culture. This is particularly true for those who are from an entirely different country.

A Variety Of Diversity

It is important to remember though that diversity should not be limited to just gender and race. Sexuality and gender identity are becoming more prevalent and widely seen in today’s world as people become more comfortable with themselves, which equally means they are becoming more visible in the workplace.

Religion can bring an entirely new viewpoint to any workforce as there are plenty of religious viewpoints in the UK today. From Christianity to Judaism, Islam to Sikhism and many more, religion can bring unique benefits. It also requires both employers and employees to learn and understand about new religions, for example Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, which are bank holidays in the UK.

But Muslims, for example, celebrate Ramadan which requires a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha which is viewed as the most holy day in Islam. This may require Muslims to take these days off for religious reasons in the same way that Christians expect their days. Being sensitive to religious requirements can be a learning experience for many.

There are also disabilities that have to be taken into consideration which can include both mental and physical and could require physical change to the workplace. Age is something that is often forgotten when it comes to diversity, but it is important to remember that including people of all ages can increase the diversity in the workplace by introducing new, young minds that are eager to try to implement modern and new ideas.

But at the same time, employing older employees can also bring a wealth of experience and information that can balance out the young. Both can learn from each other, meaning that in turn business can benefit from the exchange of age.

Protecting Vulnerable Employees

While we have just extolled on some of the benefits that diversity can bring the workplace, it’s important to remember that there are many, many more reasons. But at the same time, these people can also find themselves subject to abusive behaviour from others and so may find that they need to be protected.

The UK government introduced the Equality Act in 2010 that merged together other legislation into a single Act that gives a legal framework for people to know their rights. It was aimed to help reduce discrimination and also protect people from any unfair treatment, encouraging a fair and equal society.

It is important that both employers and employees know their rights under this act. The Equality Act 2010 was designed for people with ‘protect characteristics‘. This means that the following are protected by law from discrimination, unfair dismissal and more.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Transgender
  • Being pregnant (or having a baby)
  • Race
  • Religion (or belief)
  • Sexual orientation

There is helpful advice available on the Equality Act 2010 whether you are an individual, an organisation or in the public sector. Take a look at this link to find out more. Employers looking to create a diverse workforce should ensure that they follow the Equality Act 2010 as well as making employees aware of their rights under this act.

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Sarah Jubb

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