Why It’s So Important for Your D&I Strategy To Be Authentic

As part of my role, I’ve been taking a deep dive into different companies and their diversity and inclusion strategies, especially when it comes to recruitment. What has become really obvious is that so many companies publicly proclaim their commitment to diversity and inclusion, their commitment to people and being a great place to work, but internally follow none of the best practices with their people.

One of the biggest challenges affecting companies — in my opinion — is talking the talk but not doing the do.

It’s easy for candidates to see through sexism, favouritism and tokenism even if a company is a self-declared ‘great place to work’. And it’s a really hard one. Fair processes need to be driven by the top — and often, in reality, this favouritism is what helped those at the top get to the top. But, of course, this ‘favouritism’ tends to negatively impact women more than men.

Covid has greatly affected the workforce, with companies being conservative about getting the required people in case of more cuts. The pandemic has impacted women the most. Women are still more likely to be caregivers and, thus, are working fewer hours and less able to do the ‘extra’ required to progress.

Now things are looking up! It nearly came home, summer holidays are more in full swing ever, and the job market is buoyant. So, why are we seeing some of the highest resignation rates in history?

The Microsoft Work Index found that 40% of people want to change jobs this year, leading to what has fondly been coined, ‘The Great Resignation of 2021’.

Clearly, the way companies have handled the pandemic will have a real impact on people looking for new jobs, with many people citing feeling undervalued and underappreciated as reasons they want to leave — and the impact of this hits worse for women.

We know that statistically, men are more likely to inflate their skills to apply for a job, and women are more likely to experience imposter syndrome.

Companies talk about how they want to alter their gender/ethnicity pay gap, how much they care about their inclusive environment, and how they provide a safe space for all people to have an opportunity to thrive. But, the problem is that it is individuals making these decisions.

So, again, going back to statistics — let’s back up all statements with facts-, you are more likely to hire someone that matches your background, experience and gels with your personality. So essentially, you’re gonna hire people like you, right?

Companies with a management layer made up of 82% white males are likely to hire white males, so the situation continues.

I guess, in a way, I’m lucky. I’m a mixed-race woman with a passion (obsession) for women’s and LGBT rights (nothing like being downtrodden to make you fight for the underdog, am I right?).

Unsurprisingly, few people ‘like me’ cross my desk, which makes it harder for me to recruit a carbon copy of myself. And hey, this is subconscious, unconscious bias. You can’t blame individuals for this.

So what can companies do to live and breathe what they purport to? Here’s a nifty (recruitment 101) tick list:

1. Have FAIR interviews!

Define the criteria you will use to invite people to interview — and please, none of this ridiculous ‘years of experience’ nonsense. Do you want me to start on about ageism as well as everything else?!).

Once you decide your minimum criteria, give everyone the same experience. Do you want them to do a presentation? An assessment? Competencies? You do, you boo…but make sure everyone has the same and provide tangible criteria to score them against. Then you can take emotion out of it, tot up a score, and all is well.

2. And while we’re on the topic of interviews, you need to have mixed interview panels.

It is sometimes quite challenging because often companies are trying to shift the dial on ethnicity and gender. But you don’t want to roll out your token BAME or female colleagues to do ALL your interviews. Instead, you want to encourage diversity of thought.

Try and have people interviewing who often disagree with you, come from a different part of the world/country/political party/Hogwarts house, and you’ll soon have a diversity of opinion. It means you can make fairer decisions. And we should all know by now that companies with a diverse make-up are more successful. #justsaying

3. Have a fair promotion process.

Tell all your staff what they need to do to get to the next level. Advertise all internal jobs. Consider team members who are 70% there or more because they can fill that 30% in the time you hire and train up a new starter. It also saves you inevitably back-filling them and the cost of onboarding…and we all know cash is king!

No matter what you do, don’t give jobs to your friends, or people you worked with for ages, or your BFAW (Best Friend At Work)…unless they’re genuinely the right person for the job. Because you’ll annoy everyone else with your apparent bureaucracy and favouritism. And you never know, someone might surprise you! Plus, a workforce that feels they have opportunities and are listened to is a successful workforce.

So what’s the takeaway from this blog?

Well, I advise anyone with the same ‘how do we increase diversity?’ issue in their organisation to hold a mirror up to your own internal processes.

Instead of thinking you’ve ticked that box by your LinkedIn post about inclusivity that shows your only female and black man in the entire company, or posted on a diversity job board, stop and wonder: Is there more I can do to change things?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

This blog contribution was made by Charlotte Allen

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