Equality, diversity and inclusivity issues

Karen TuckI’ve written for BCS both internally and externally a couple of times now about equality, diversity and inclusivity issues and, as most people will know, I don’t work on this because it’s my job, because it isn’t really, I do it because it matters. However, thinking about it now, I’m not sure I’ve ever really gone on to explain exactly why it matters. Maybe I was falling into the old ‘well of course diversity is a good thing, we all know that’ trap? So it’s probably about time I said a bit about why I think it’s important. Although, that could take hours so I’ll restrict myself to just a few points here.

We’ve all heard that there’s a connection between the diversity of an organisation and its financial performance and those with lower ethnic and gender diversity correlate with lower financial performance so there’s clearly a driver for getting a diverse mix of people into your business. That’s a fundamental point that we all need to recognise and why wouldn’t you want to do what you can to improve the performance of your organisation? So take a look around you, what do you see? How is your mix? Does everyone look like you? Did everyone go to university? Is anyone openly ‘out’ in the office? I think you probably know what the answers to those questions should be, but if you have the wrong answers there’s always room for change.

So if you need more diversity, where are you going to get those people from? Well, you can go to your recruiters and tell them you want a diverse candidate pool, but if the hiring manager doesn’t understand unconscious bias and the importance of diversity in their team, the chances are that not much will change. So there’s an aspect we need to fix; awareness and understanding of recruiting managers and the requirement on agencies to provide a diverse mix of candidates. If we don’t make some changes here, we’ll simply be recreating and reinforcing existing problems.

Back to my ‘take a look around’ question, organisational culture is important. Why would someone want to work for your organisation? Are they going to feel that they can openly be themselves? You may have the best perks in the business to offer, but it’s probably not going to attract or retain people if they have to hide who they really are or they feel like ’the odd one out’. So for large firms it’s great that there are employee networks and support groups, but that’s not really possible for smaller organisations is it? But there are solutions. There are lots of initiatives, networks and groups that exist for exactly these reasons and anyone can get involved to seek support and share experiences. So your SME doesn’t have to (and often can’t) provide that on its own, but you can steer people to the right place and help people get the support that they might be looking for; the need and value of these sorts of groups can’t be denied.

Now, what about the talent pool itself? Well, we’ve got computing on the curriculum and digital apprenticeships launched, so the pipeline box is ticked and it’ll all sort itself out in a few years surely? Well, actually maybe not. Now that we’ve got those educational pathways in place we can’t sit back and put our feet up. The diverse team of the future is the diverse pipeline of today; we need to make sure that these routes to education and opportunities are offered and available to everyone, whether it be a GCSE, a degree or an apprenticeship. We need role models who inspire the confidence in our young people that they too can do this, whether they be male, female, LGBT, someone who dropped out of school - that’s not important. What matters is that all of those people bring a different perspective and different ideas to our business and our society and we, as the workforce of today, have a job to do in showing the workforce of tomorrow just how great these careers can be, and what you can achieve, no matter who you are.

About the author

Karen Tuck is Head of Policy and Campaigns at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. She works across the organisation to ensure the successful delivery of our Making IT Good for Society ‘Challenges’ in Health and Care; Personal Data; Education; and Capability. She also leads the Institute’s equality, diversity and inclusion activity, as well as the policy and parliamentary engagement team.

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  • 1
    Joe Bloggs wrote on 9th Mar 2017


    You write: "We’ve all heard that there’s a connection between the diversity of an organisation and its financial performance and those with lower ethnic and gender diversity correlate with lower financial performance so there’s clearly a driver for getting a diverse mix of people into your business. "

    Can you provide any evidence at all for this? The Chinese economy has been going gangbusters for decades with very low ethnic diversity, as a counter-example. IBM made its best profits when it had very low gender diversity.

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  • 2
    Karen Tuck wrote on 9th Mar 2017

    Dear Joe

    There is lots of research published online about this, so a quick search should be helpful to you. There is a related article by Martin Cooper that we published shortly before this blog which looks at precisely the business case for diversity. It has lots of information, including experience from Microsoft - see http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/57308
    One major report that Martin references is McKinsey and Company, Diversity Matters, which is where you will find some great research and evidence.

    Kind regards

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September 2017