Since the pandemic, we’ve all been thrown into a new way of working and living. While in many ways our efforts to adapt have been impressive, this and other recent events have also shone a light on the huge disparities throughout businesses.
Whether it’s surrounding gender, race, sexuality or disability, there is a lot of work still to be done on inclusion, diversity and equality in the workplace.
Despite many companies having had their eyes opened in the last year, with employers being held accountable for issues of inequality, the gap has also widened in many ways too.
The Gender Gap Widened
This is especially true regarding the workplace gender gap. It isn’t news that in most cases, women become the primary care giver when life demands it. And the pandemic certainly did demand it.
Women found themselves home schooling the kids whilst calming their fears and relieving their frustrations. They were taking care of their sick or elderly loved ones while nurses and carers were stretched to their limits. All whilst trying to hold down full-time work. In many cases, women were left behind, forcing them to work unsustainable hours whilst facing criticism from colleagues and management.
Life outside of business carries on throughout pandemics and crises and this may be overlooked and unappreciated by businesses.
Bridging the Workplace Gender Gap
Of course, such big issues are never easily remedied but awareness is one huge piece of the puzzle. Recognition is the first step in ensuring women’s various roles in life are both appreciated and compensated.
According to an article by Fast Company, ‘On average, women spend 30 or more hours a week than men caring for children and loved ones.’ Therefore, expectations to stick to a rigid 9-5 schedule, or to give 24-hour notice if they can’t make a Zoom call, can be unreasonable.
However, being unrealistic isn’t often people’s true intentions. Having open conversations and being clear about company policies will help everyone to understand the expectations in place and why. This is also true regarding hiring. Employers need to be transparent before hiring, providing as much flexibility within as role as possible. This creates greater productivity and work satisfaction for all.
Racial Inequality in the Workplace
Following global protests and movements including Black Lives Matter in 2020, businesses found themselves firmly under the spotlight over racial equality and their policies on equal opportunities.
A year on, a survey by Reboot delved into the work-life of 800 employees from 440 UK financial services firms, delivering some eye-opening results. City AM reflected on the survey reporting, ‘More than half of the UK’s black financial services professionals don’t believe they have equal opportunities at work and more than 70 per cent say they have experienced discrimination at work.
Many put this discrimination or lack of opportunity down to the long-ingrained culture within their company where discriminatory behaviour is widely tolerated. According to the report, ‘Only six in ten black employees believe racial, ethnic and gender-based jokes are not tolerated in their company.’
When comparing responses from people of differing ethnicities, of those from Black, African, Caribbean or Black British backgrounds, 52% felt they don’t receive equal opportunities at work. This figure fell to just 16% in white respondents. These findings are only supported when considering, ‘There are no black executives in any of the top three roles – chairman, chief executive officer and chief financial officer – in any of the UK’s FTSE100 firms,’ according to recruitment consultancy, Green Park.
Building Equal Opportunities in the Workplace
Changing a company culture starts at the top. Directors and management are being encouraged to make inclusion and diversity a priority, ensuring the culture is effectively filtered throughout their workforce. But to do this they must understand the needs and feelings of their employees, particularly those of ethnic minorities. Employers must listen and when a situation calls for it, act so employees feel supported and heard.
Education is another huge part of building equality in the workplace. Companies should be regularly updating their training programmes while teams should be acutely aware of the company’s policies on inclusion. Recruitment procedures are also vital in building an inclusive and diverse workforce. Regularly revisiting and revising these policies is key to a progressive workplace.
While these two issues may have come under the most scrutiny in recent times, there are many ways that people face discrimination at work. Sadly, people’s differences can be open to punishment rather than celebration.
With this said, small steps have been initiated in the right direction. And the Gen Z workforce are set to bring radical changes to business standards surrounding inclusivity and diversity. Could this finally be the beginning of the end of workplace inequality?
If you’re looking to move your team to a workspace that better supports your evolving business and diverse team, get in touch with Officio on 020 3053 3882. We have access to the vast majority of the market with the ideal space to support every business.