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Diversity And Inclusion At EQ

Pledging For A Bright And Inclusive Future

Friday, 2 October 2020

As corporations eagerly await a possible parliamentary debate on mandatory ethnic pay reporting, we ask is reporting enough to turn words (and numbers) into action?

A petition to get the UK Government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting has achieved enough votes to ensure it is considered for debate. Rabya Aftab Lomas, the petition’s creator, states that we need to “shine a light on race/ethnicity based inequality in the workplace so that they can be addressed.” The Government’s acknowledgement noted that it ran a consultation from October 2018 to January 2019 on this subject. They are currently analysing the responses and will respond by the end of the year.

Recent events have prompted organisations to pledge their solidarity with the BAME community. The petition helps bring the subject to the fore and, in light of the recent Black Lives Matter campaign and Covid-19 pandemic, may help motivate positive action from businesses in the UK. It is a shared belief that action not outpourings are needed to move things forward.

So how would ethnicity pay reporting help?

Ethnicity Pay Reporting will give everyone transparency of the current situation. By benchmarking, we can set achievable goals and see positive improvement. There is the element of pride for companies too, wanting to be seen to be doing the right thing. Reporting is not currently mandatory but some companies already do so on a voluntary basis. Others are committing to do so in the near future, with or without the Government’s directive. For example, last year 15 large UK companies signed-up. These included companies such as The Bank of England, Citigroup, Stella McCartney and Bupa.

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Fiona Hathorn, Chief Executive Officer, Women on Boards UK, commented on the subject:

“Ethnicity pay gap data is not required by the government, although increasingly campaigners believe they should be. Prudent boards would get ahead of this curve and request their firm’s ethnicity pay gap be calculated to inform their internal decision-making. I admit that only the very bravest would publish it.”

CEO Guy Wakeley comments: “We have been wanting do this for a while and see the huge importance of getting this into effect as soon as possible. Only through measurement can we quantify our current position and plan for a positive future to which our BAME colleagues are central.”

Data collection is being worked out

EQ, like many other companies of 250 plus employees, needs to establish the right framework and mechanic for gathering meaningful data. Nick McAulay, Head of People Experience comments:

“Through adoption of Workday, our new HR platform, EQ now has a system that is capable of recording and securely storing D&I data in a way we’ve never been able to do before. Upon introduction of Workday, colleagues were invited to populate their diversity data on an “opt-in” basis.

To date, there are about 18% of colleagues across EQ who have recorded their ethnicity. Given the universal benefit of diversity, we’re looking to increase the number of colleagues who have disclosed their diversity data. This helps us as an organisation understand the make-up of our colleague population, and also set a baseline measure so we can track our performance.”

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In a poll, EQ asked its own employees whether they would be willing to disclose their ethnicity to their employer. The results were interesting. A sample made up of colleagues predominantly from the UK, US and India showed that 89% would be happy to do so to support a journey to a more diverse and representative organisation. Nick continues:

“The stats were very encouraging and showed that when colleagues understand the greater good of why this data is being requested, they feel much more inclined to disclose it. We will be starting an initiative to encourage all colleagues to populate their diversity information, and collectively help us champion diversity and inclusion at EQ.”

GDPR and meaningful data

GDPR and confidentiality has also been considered a barrier to collecting and storing data. Unless the company can effectively communicate the change for good, and the care which they will take with the data, asking for such information could be perceived as invasive. So it is understandable that companies are treading with caution. 

Meaningful data is another key barrier. When BAME are significantly under-represented within a company, data can be skewed by anomalies as the sample group is not always significantly robust. The government has noted this as a potential problem. They are trying to work out how reporting will take this into account.

Pay gap measurement is important but inclusivity is key

 Whilst the intricacies of data collection and pay gap reporting are considered, there is more change that can take place in every company from today. “What gets measured gets done” is the belief of over 40+ large UK companies who are committing to a pledge to drive Black inclusion in the workplace. UK business leaders have signed the open letter created by Audeliss and Involve which “backs up words of solidarity for Black Lives Matter with agreed action for change”. Guy Wakeley has signed on behalf of EQ. The pledge includes reporting, not just on pay but on other factors too.

These are as follows:

toggle Diversifying the face of our organisations:

Setting targets for diverse candidate slates for every position and holding recruiters accountable for presenting diverse shortlists. More specifically, setting targets on Black talent in our candidate slates.

toggle Measuring

Investigating the specific challenges and barriers faced by Black talent in our organisations, starting to track ethnicity data and conduct focus groups or listening sessions to properly understand the experiences of our Black and minority colleagues.

toggle Joining us on our journey of learning

Educating ourselves on the experiences of Black people in the workplace and in society at large.

toggle Starting the conversation

Being vulnerable with our people. Admitting we haven’t done enough and that the work is just beginning.

toggle Elevating Black voices

People know discrimination and racism are a lived, everyday reality now – but do they know what forms it takes every day in the workplace? We must start these conversations. We will also do more to celebrate Black leaders and talent in our organisations and the wider business community.

toggle Committing to specific actions

We’ve posted on our corporate Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, but now we must show what our organisations look like truthfully and what more we are doing to change it.

Tangible and meaningful actions such as these give us the opportunity to start conversations, work together and treat everyone equally. In McKinsey’s report  “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters” from May this year, different corporate approaches to Inclusion and Diversity were explored through research with many companies. One key insight was: “Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough - it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive.”

This insight was gleaned through “social listening,” of employee reviews of their employers posted on US-based online platforms. McKinsey honed in on sentiment and the findings are telling: Overall sentiment on diversity was 52 percent positive and 31 percent negative. Yet for inclusion, sentiment stood at only 29 percent positive and 61 percent negative. This really shows the need for focus on inclusivity and culture within companies.

Are we ready to put values into action?

Sheryl Cuisia, Managing Director of Boudicca - specialist advisors to corporate clients and part of the EQ Group - sees the current times as an “awakening of the social conscience where business is not just about profit but about purpose too”. The old corporate values of profit, hierarchy, control, plans and privacy are being replaced by purpose, networks, empowerment, experimentation and transparency.

Inclusivity certainly feels more akin to the new values of business. Sheryl uses the concepts of “awakening” and “mind-set shift” and ultimately believes this is about sincerity. More than ever people are understanding how inclusivity really affects us all in the corporate world. It’s like everyone has suddenly started to “get it”. Sheryl believes that only now are we really starting to see a high level of sincerity and good intention:

“People want their business to change because they now genuinely believe it is the right thing to do, it is going to enhance business, and it is going to help society. They now also know that increasing inclusivity is going to help with corporate purpose.”

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It feels we are at a turning point. Fiona Hathorn recognises that those companies who do not take action, who do not actively nurture an inclusive culture, could be left behind and may be negatively impacted. She also believes that action needs to come from the top:

“Boards must step up by asking what their companies are doing as regards to culture, collaboration and inclusion. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it will very likely affect your company’s financial survival long term if you don’t”.

McKinsey’s research aligns with this view too.

So there is also sound financial business sense to making our organisations as inclusive as they can be. Whether change is led from the top, via HR, or even via equality networks in the business, we can all get involved in consciously improving the world of work for everyone.

Let’s continue this

It is encouraging that initiatives like the Government poll and the Audeliss / Involve open letter are helping continue the momentum for change in the context of business. A pay gap report, in itself, may have little impact on an individual’s experience but it is a starting point. What will bring about real change are the actions behind the report.

Together, we can start open and honest conversations. Together we can help establish useful measurement systems from which we can gain valuable insight. More importantly, we can start getting real about how our colleagues work together. We can all help make positive change for the future. Together.