As an experienced recruiter at senior level I am often asked as part of the brief to search and find individuals from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds and put them on my shortlist. Recently a client has told us that if we don’t put someone with any of the protected characteristics on our shortlist they will reject it outright. Originally it was “find more women” - TICK. Now it’s we “want more BAME”. We want it too.
I get it! We want you to have a more diverse Board or senior leadership team because we know that the more diversity you have across your organisation the “richer” it will be in opportunity for all. In the UK 32% of Women occupy senior leadership roles. There’s no doubt a focus on increasing diversity is getting results. I want to help you too.
Listen I am a woman who has been recruiting in a man’s world since the early 1980s. I personally have not seen my gender as an issue, other people might have, but I have certainly proved the naysayers wrong through results. I’m very curious about people, and I find it easy to engage with a wide range of people. It could be that I adapt easily because I have lived in different parts of the world and been exposed to different cultures from an early age. You may say that I have come from a privileged background - I am white, lower-middle class, (but female), I went to Boarding School and I have lived in India, Moscow, Singapore and Washington DC.
My dear ‘Dad’ was an Electrical Engineer, he was very forward thinking for his time, my girl-ness was never a barrier to him. To him I was the same as everyone else and so thank you Dad; I know where to put oil in my car and I ride and maintain my own motorbike. I remember when I got my first job in recruitment in 1984, my Dad simply said, “Well done Suzi that’s great” but my Mum said “How can you do that, you don’t know anything about it”!! Maybe some barriers are created closer to home? That’s a whole other topic!
So, do I understand diversity?
I’ve read a lot of the research, I enjoy working with people who see the world differently to me and I see a richness in decision making where there are more perspectives in the room. But can you ask me to fix your diversity through one recruitment process? Recruitment alone will not fix the problem.
This is a massive task considering the relatively low numbers of diversity in the workforce. BAME is a real area of focus now and I am sure that this will improve in time, but for now very low levels across BAME make it to the top jobs. You can help by providing access into your organisation through developing recruitment processes, developing career pathways which are inclusive and developing a genuine culture of diversity and inclusion at work. But one recruitment process is a drop in the ocean. In a Guardian article in 2017 it quoted that 13% of the make-up of the UK is BAME but only 3% occupy the top jobs. Think about it!
“According to The 5% Club – an organisation that encourages its members to have 5% of its workforce in earn and learn programmes – only 11.3% of apprenticeship starts are made by non-white applicants and 10% are by people with learning difficulties or disabilities.” In a recent LinkedIn article, a wheelchair bound, a young Hispanic man was successful winning an Internship, but it took him 36 interviews. The organisation he joined is at the forefront of developing a culture of diversity. How can we learn from them?
The move to shortlists which show diversity might make you feel good but are you just plastering over the issue.
Research has shown that there is a risk that if you force specific inclusion tactics into a recruitment process, and it’s not part of your culture, you can potentially increase the bias against the very diversity you are trying to develop. Diversity and inclusion needs a whole system approach, a change of paradigm.
You’ve probably read about leadership, and how telling people what to do increases resentment and dis-engages people. To improve diversity, you need to start at the beginning - bring people through the ranks, or find out why individuals across under-represented groups are not making it through the ranks to the senior leadership roles. Understand what barriers disadvantage individuals or groups, entering your workforce or moving through the organisation. Then work on those.
Work on your recruitment practices so that they support your culture and in collaboration with your recruiter to help you become more diverse. Don’t just say it ……. walk the walk too. Make diversity your culture.
I’m sorry but this could take years and so getting that Diversity you want in your Boardroom make still take a little while. Creating diversity is not just about recruitment and only accepting what appears to be a “diverse shortlist”, it can help, but there’s a lot more grass roots work that still needs to be done.
How aware are you of what you need to do to accelerate diversity in your organisation?