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A New Look at Diversity in the Workplace for 2020

Read Time: 12 mins

Diversity in the workplace continues to be an important topic. In many countries, companies are examining their hiring practices, work cultures and attitudes to create inclusive workplaces with equality of opportunity and treatment. 

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Focusing on having an inclusive and diverse workplace doesn't just make you a great human being. It can also help your business thrive. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Despite the evidence that embracing workplace diversity leads to better business performance, executing the strategy remains as much of a challenge as it was when we last explored this topic

In this guide, we look at what's changed recently, and why diversity in the workplace remains a worthwhile goal. 

Top Trends for Diversity in the Workplace in 2020

When thinking about the challenges of managing diversity in the workplace, consider some of the key areas that affect employees' experiences. In this section we'll look at recent diversity facts and statistics related to gender, job benefits, inclusion, age, disability, representation, and corporate governance.

1. Gender Pay Gap 

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Diversity statistics show that there's still a gender pay gap. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The current diversity statistics show some improvement relating to the gender pay gap. Our last report revealed that the gap would close in 217 years. But the latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report shows that this is down to 108 years. 

Though women continue to spend more time on unpaid work than their male counterparts, on average, gender parity in pay is increasing around the world. It's encouraging to note greater visibility of women in key roles in some countries. For example, in Finland, all the country's top leaders are women according to a recent article from Forbes

But it's not all good news. Australian governmental statistics show that discrimination in hiring and pay continue to make the gender pay gap a major issue. In the UK, reporting of salaries on Equal Pay Day from the Independent found the gap had widened in favor of men. And according to Pew Research, women in the US earn 85% of what their male counterparts earn. 

For some women, Payscale shows that the gap is even wider. Women have to work until sometime in April the following year to make what men made the previous year. When looking at Black and Latina women, this increases to August and November, respectively.  

There's still a long way to go in addressing this workplace diversity issue. To learn more about achieving gender equality, check out the following article: 

2. Gender Identities

Another of the key challenges of diversity in the workplace is dealing with gender identities. People's chosen gender identity may not match their biological sex at birth. That's why it's important to ensure that your policies and actions reflect the non-binary nature of gender, and actively support transgender people.

Opinion about gender identity remains polarized. On the one hand, U.S. president Donald Trump has enforced a ban on transgender people serving in the military (Reuters, June 2019). Meanwhile, in many parts of the world, the right to determine one's own gender and sexual identity is becoming seen as a human right, as stated in The Conversation

There are more resources than ever to help employers navigate this area. The United Nations has hosted a summit on gender diversity and non-binary identities.

Support multiple gender identities by following these suggestions:

  • Use inclusive language, including allowing people to specify their preferred pronouns. With the singular "they" named the word of the decade by the American Dialect Society, there's never been a better time to update your communications.
  • Create policies that specifically prohibit discrimination against transgender people in the workplace. Follow up vigorously on any incidents.
  • Ensure that surgery and other transition issues are covered by health insurance and allow transgender people to take the time they need to handle their medical and other needs.

Learn more in the following article:

3. Harassment Policies

As in our last examination of diversity in the workplace, the #MeToo movement continues to be a factor in highlighting the urgent need for businesses to look at their harassment policies. 

According to the Federal News Network, an investigation into US Coast Guard harassment policies revealed that those who reported harassment were often penalized. The same report showed that there was a lack of accountability in relation to the harassment cases. Clearly, this is not the model that businesses want to follow. 

Many businesses have taken the chance to update their policies. To do the same, Baker McKenzie recommends that any policy should make it clear that:

  • Sexual harassment is unfair discrimination based on sex, gender or sexual orientation.
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace won't be allowed or condoned.
  • Anyone complaining of sexual harassment has the right to follow the outline procedure and employers must take the appropriate action.
  • Victimization and retaliation against someone who has made a complaint of sexual harassment offence will also be a disciplinary offence.

It's also wise to educate employees about understanding, recognizing and reporting sexual harassment, and supporting colleagues who have been affected.

Learn more about this in the following article:

4. Job Benefits

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In some countries both parents have equal parental leave. (Image source: Envato Elements)

When considering the importance of workplace diversity, it's essential to support a diverse workforce with inclusive and transparent policies. 

A good starting point is to let prospective employees know exactly what benefits are available. Recent exercises by Mumsnet in the UK found that only a small proportion of the top companies actually publish parental leave policies.

But there are also many examples of good practice that can guide you in creating a more inclusive approach to job benefits. Some examples include:

  • Finland. Equality is written into the country's laws so that women and men must be treated equally in relation to working conditions and remuneration and where parenthood shouldn't result in inequities in working life
  • Sweden. Both parents have the right to equal parental leave (source: Business Insider)
  • London, EnglandCompanies like Goldman Sachs pay for fertility treatments for employees, helping same sex couples become parents (source: EveningStandard)

To know what benefits really matter to employees and potential employees, your best bet is to ask.

5. Focus on Inclusion (Diversity Backlash)

Diversity and inclusion trends for 2020 show that this topic remains emotionally charged for some people. 

That's why many believe it's better to model inclusive behavior and talk of "inclusion," rather than "diversity." This can help avoid the "backlash against the backlash," or people making negative assumptions about what diversity policies entail, and ignoring the whole issue. 

A focus on inclusion avoids stigmatizing individuals or small groups and concentrates on making the workplace better for everyone. Focusing on what unites people rather than what divides them is a better approach.

One of the best ways to avoid negative consequences when discussing diversity and inclusion is to encourage all employees to contribute their opinions on creating a more equitable workplace.

To get started on this In your business do the following:

  • Explain the business and personal benefits of inclusion.
  • Raise awareness and teaching skills about what being inclusive looks like.
  • Frame it as a positive exercise that'll benefit everyone (which is true).

To learn more about inclusion and diversity training, check out the following article:

6. Generation Gap

When considering diversity in the workplace statistics, It's easy to ignore one area of growing concern: ageism in the workplace.

According to the World Health Organization, the world's population is ageing. That's resulted in rising retirement ages in many parts of the world. According to the recruiting site Built In that's resulted in a knock-on effect of more older workers than ever before. But that doesn't mean older workers get treated right.

Fast Company reports that some 80% of people say age discrimination has affected their careers, making it harder for them to progress. A Financial Times article found that age discrimination also affects women over 40 who may already be penalized if they've had a career break to have a family. 

Note that ageism doesn't just affect older people. Younger people's careers can also be affected by assumptions about their level of knowledge, and how long they'll stay in a job, 

Though ageism can be difficult to prove and is often underreported, it IS illegal. Nobody should be penalized in terms of pay, benefits, career progression or treatment because of their age. To solve this issue in your own workplace, approach issues of age in the same unbiased way you approach issues of ethnicity and gender.

Learn more about ageism in our article on generational diversity:

7. Disability Rights

Did you know that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is double that in the rest of the workforce? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is 8% versus 3.7% depending on whether you've got a disability or not.

People with disabilities don't just face active discrimination in the workplace. There are also barriers, which can include difficulty in accessing education and training.

UK/EU law calls for employers to make "reasonable adjustments" to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities. This can include:

  • adapting recruitment processes to allow people with disabilities to be considered for job opportunities
  • adapting the workplace to meet the needs of a person with disabilities
  • providing special equipment for workers if needed
  • allowing part-time and flexible hours if necessary
  • ensuring there are adequate refreshment, recreation and training opportunities

DiversityQ recommends that employers focus on ability rather than disability in the workplace. It's also a good idea to provide training to dispel the myths about people with disabilities.

Learn more about addressing disability in the workplace in the following articles:

8. Corporate Governance

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Diversity facts and statistics show a decline in diversity in the boardroom. (Image source: Envato Elements)

A major diversity and inclusion issue is who is making the decisions within the workplace. Unfortunately, recent diversity in the workplace statistics suggest that many companies are moving backwards rather than forwards in this area. 

The PwC annual survey of corporate directors shows a decline in diversity in the boardroom, both in terms of gender and ethnicity. And attitudes are shifting, too. In 2019, 38% of all directors saw gender diversity as important, and 26% saw racial diversity as important. This is a sharp decline from the respective figures of 46% and 34% in 2018.

Across the Atlantic, a Guardian report shows that the top UK firms are failing to increase diversity in the boardroom. Only 7.4% of top executives fit into the black and minority ethnic group, compared with 9% the previous year.

All this adds up to mounting pressure for companies to conduct diversity reviews.

To improve this area in your own business, here are some tips from KPMG:

  • Make it a priority to have a diverse slate for every board position.
  • Remove bias to allow you to find the best person who meets your needs.
  • Get to know a more diverse group of potential directors so you've got a network you can tap into when you're ready to meet hiring needs.

Learn more about unconscious bias here:

9. Diverse Representation

When talking about diversity and inclusion, how your company looks to the public is crucial. Consider whether the images you use to promote your business target a diverse audience. 

Diversity statistics from the digital marketing agency Ingenex. show that minorities are still underrepresented in marketing images. This is a shame, because inclusive representation is important to customers. For example, a survey conducted by Adobe found that 62% of Australians say that diversity in advertising is important to them.

Lack of diverse representation can affect revenue. An Adobe report suggests that customers will boycott brands if they don't feel their identity is represented in marketing. And a study of 50 top brands cited in Fast Company says that using diversity in ads and marketing is good for the bottom line.

One expert believes that companies could do a lot better. While 90% of companies say they care about diversity and inclusion, only 4% actually show it. (Source: Advertising Week)

To make your marketing advertising more diverse and inclusive start with stock photo sites that feature a diverse range of imagery. 

Benefits of an Inclusive Workplace

Focusing on having an inclusive and diverse workplace doesn't just make you a great human being.  It can also help your business thrive. Smarp suggests that companies can benefit from:

  • better financial performance
  • improved reputation
  • employee retention
  • employee engagement
  • improved creativity

So, it makes sense to think about implementing inclusive practices in your workplace.

Learn More About Workplace Diversity

To get more informed about workplace diversity and what you can do, check out the following guides:

Create a More Inclusive Workplace Today!

In this tutorial, you've seen some of the key diversity in the workplace challenges and statistics that'll affect your business in 2020 and beyond. We looked at ways that you can make your own workplace more inclusive and equitable. Follow the linked resources to learn more about this important issue. Also, check out the following guides that'll help you get started:

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