Below please find key take-outs from our May 12th panel featuring Alexandra Mousavizadeh, Economist and partner at Tortoise Media; Van Jones, Teneo Senior Advisor and CNN presenter; Sarah Sands, Chair of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council; and Mervyn Davies, Teneo Senior Adviser.
- One year on from the murder of George Floyd, it’s clear businesses in the UK and the US have accepted that more needs to be done around diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. The challenge for the future is how it can be done successfully. Business no longer sees diversity as a ‘box ticking’ exercise – they have recognised that they are missing out on talent and innovation, but they now need to understand how genuine good intention can be translated into attracting, mobilising and retaining diverse talent in their workforce.
- The Responsibility100 Index (R100) has shown that while many businesses have been quick to announce changes, action remains in a largely nascent phase. For example, only four FTSE 100 companies publish data on their ethnicity pay gap during the pandemic and nine FTSE 100 companies failed to publish gender pay gap reports last year. Businesses need to be held accountable for measurable action both to ensure that genuine progress is being made and that there is no ‘slippage’ in action because of COVID-19.
- Employees, consumers and investors alike are expecting a more responsible approach from businesses. A lack of action on diversity, equity and inclusion will become a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for those that have failed to innovate and those who have been unable to take advantage of diverse pools of talent. Companies that fail to respond and adapt their working practices will continue to struggle in attracting and retaining talent. In the long term, our panel suggested they would ultimately fail.
- Crucially, the response from business needs to be embraced across the whole workforce, not just in the boardroom. One of the main challenges that businesses will face is how to implement and measure change. What can sometimes seem like resistance from business is often actually fear and a lack of understanding among staff and middle managers of how to react. People at every level in business will have to respond. Junior staff will have just as much difficulty in navigating these changes as older, senior executives.
- COVID-19 has had a huge impact on how business interacts with workforces and vice-versa. Business leaders have had to focus on their teams, on employee wellbeing and mental health. This focus could well translate into further action on diversity, equality and inclusion. Our panel felt that there is no doubt that progress has been made in the past year and that, if it continues, we won’t be having the same conversation in a decade – instead, they argue, we’ll be having a much deeper and richer conversation with the firms that have thrived.