Let Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Be Seen in Business

It’s time that we let Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) shine through and be seen in the business world.

Although many companies are making progress in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and social issues – the ‘S’ in ESG, there is still more to be done. This includes providing more support for people with disabilities at work, equal representation for women at board level and educating, training and supporting overlooked and underrepresented communities.

I feel particularly passionate about this, as I have an invisible disability, so I know first-hand the difference that DEI understanding and initiatives can make.

DEI makes great business sense

But there is another reason why companies should focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives – they make great business sense.

Alexandra Nicholson, Senior Director of Social Media and Impact at Pegasystems (Pega), a maker of artificial intelligence software, takes up this theme in a new report from iResearch Services, How Sustainable is the Technology Sector? Part Two.

Commitment to people

She speaks about Pega’s commitment to support its people and extended communities through commitments that follow its core values – innovative, engaging, adaptable, inclusive, genuine, and passionate.

Pega achieved a score of 95 out of 100 with its first submission to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Corporate Equality Index and made charitable contributions to more than 200 organisations in 20 countries through the PegaCares programme. In India, the Resource Emergency Action Care Helpline (REACH), has been launched to help Pega staff and families affected by Covid-19 in locating hospital beds and medical supplies. Employee Resource Groups – Black@Pega, Pride@Pega, Veterans@Pega, Women@Pega, Asian@Pega, Latinx@Pega, and PwD@Pega (Persons with Disabilities) have been established.

Alex says, “Sometimes it’s not about selling software. Sometimes, it’s about enabling coding skills in a community that really needs them. So, I think that letting people see their work come forth in your ESG efforts is really important from a business perspective.”

Awareness of what sustainability means in every sense is essential – across the technology industry and into other sectors.

New technology to benefit all

Spreading the benefits of new technologies to all parts of society, especially to those on low incomes, is also important if technology is to become socially as well as environmentally sustainable, the report points out.

As thought leadership specialists, iResearch Services has been exploring similar ideas in blogs and podcasts as well as in practical ways through our Giving for Good Foundation.

How to future-proof your business

I’ve written in the media about how Investing in DEI is not only the right thing to do – it pays off and brings major business benefits.

Through investing in diversity and inclusion, companies can future-proof their business by:

  • Maximizing talent opportunities at a time when talent is competitive and hard to come by.
  • Being more sustainable – how can you be a sustainable company if you exclude a significant portion of the workforce and population?
  • Building a better customer experience and making the workplace, products and services more accessible for customers.
  • Offering opportunities to widen the client base and gain repeat business and advocacy from a loyal and engaged customer base, which feels valued and welcome.

The right DEI approaches

The conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplaces has been particularly active during the pandemic and throughout 2022 as the need for inclusion and greater equality has come to the forefront. Work makes up a huge part of people’s lives and the boundaries have blurred in a sea of lockdowns and remote/hybrid working. As the world of work continues to evolve, having the right DEI approaches and processes in place will be vital.

Business leaders switched on to the commercial and cultural benefits of greater inclusion are also interested in tracking and measuring progress, while developing standards for DEI metrics, greater consistency and collaboration.

More work to be done

However, our recent professional services pulse survey suggests there is more work to be done. It finds that, while 77% are working on a DEI policy and 15% say they would like one, 8% are focusing on other priorities. Of those that have a policy, 68% have measurements in place.

Seven out of 10 respondents (71.5%) say their company includes disability awareness in its DEI training. Just under 30% don’t include disability issues in their DEI training – suggesting that disability isn’t on the radar in the same way as other areas of inclusion. Most say it is something their company is working on. It is not a priority for 7.5% and 3.5% do not know. This is where greater awareness of how to go about implementing initiatives and technologies to support employees and build a more inclusive business is clearly needed.

Following The UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) in November 2021, which aimed to limit global average temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and produced “alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1 °C of warming to date”, there has been renewed support and visibility for greater equity and inclusion in the technology sector. New industry initiatives, partnerships, events and demand for fresh action occurred.

Having a formal commitment is an important starting point for promoting diversity and inclusion within a company, our Part One report outlined. The UK (56%) and Japan and Germany on 50% led the way, while China (38%), France (36%) and Russia (34%) trailed.

Barriers to sustainability investment

The top three issues dissuading companies from investing in DEI are cost (39%), time constraints (38%) and speed of initiatives (34%). But these vary from country to country, with Chinese companies saying access to talent is a major barrier to progress and Indian companies citing a mix of half a dozen problems – cost, time constraints, speed of initiative internally and externally, logistical challenges and IT/infrastructure.

Accessibility and sustainability

Accessibility is more important the sustainability to most companies, the report shows, with Italy and Spain seeing a 10 basis points difference from 80%-70%. China is the only country where sustainability is prioritised over accessibility.

When it comes to disability initiatives, just over half (54%) of report respondents say there are programmes to support disabled employees where they work, with around one in four (26.5%) working towards it. However, one in five HR professionals is not thinking about how their business can offer disability support, with 12.5% having other priorities and 7% unaware of the situation.

Regarding wider DEI initiatives, half of the companies surveyed (49.5%) are actively working on an agreement and 34% are in the process of creating a strategy. Another 11% have no policy at the moment but want to create one. Just 5.5% say DEI is not a priority for their organization.

Break the bias in leadership

There is also progress to be made on female leadership roles in business to help break the bias. In a similar snap survey of 200 senior leadership figures in the UK and the United States conducted by iResearch Services, just 11.5% of those companies surveyed have 1-5 women in leadership roles, 19% have 6-9, 22.5% have 10-19, 16% have 20-29, 16.5% have 30-39, 5.5% have 40-49 and 9% have 50-plus.

Looking at board membership, there are 3% with no female board members, 6.5% with one female board member, 28.5% with two, 25% who have three, 14.5% with four and 22.5% with five or more.

It is encouraging to note that six in 10 companies are actively working on appointing more women to senior roles and another 32% are creating a strategy to do so. Just 5% say they have no plans, but would like to, while 3.5% state that appointing more women to senior positions is not a priority for them.

Inclusive company culture

It’s positive news that building an inclusive company culture is an active priority for the majority of professionals we spoke to across business disciplines, with apparent progress made to date. The next step is to build a picture of employees’ perceptions and experiences of this in practice and look at opportunities for greater investment, awareness and inclusion throughout all areas of the business.

But there is a gap that needs to be addressed between positive attitudes toward building awareness and supportive corporate culture and seeing practical changes to workplaces in the form of concrete strategies, support and assistance. Our data shows that honest conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplaces need to continue and move from words to action.

Giving for Good Foundation

The Giving for Good Foundation (GfG) was founded by iResearch Services to help marginalized sections of the community meet their full potential. It focuses on three key areas: education, health, and the environment in Pune, where our India office is based.

We have provided:

  • practical help and care during COVID including clinical provision, remote education and reading support for children and food programs
  • preserved and conserved important forests and environmental clean-up campaigns
  • founded specialist SMART classrooms to educate hundreds of women and children in computer literacy ad technology skills and cyber safety
  • menstrual kits and education for young girls

To finish on an uplifting thought – GfG supports random acts of kindness and believes that every good deed has a beautiful story attached to it – and so do I!

iResearch Services provides thought leadership services and industry insights about the future of the workplace and the most pressing environmental, social and governance challenges for organizations today, providing first-hand knowledge and insight into often-overlooked issues such as how disabled people are treated at work.

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