This leads to the question of whether it may create more opportunities for women in particular, in the long-run. Whilst this is not currently true given reports that the pressure of balancing home schooling and work is having a greater impact on female progression, the lockdown may mean that more employers offer purely remote working. This might lead to greater opportunities for working mothers to have more flexibility in balancing their careers around family life. In fact, remote working could help to remove additional biases around location if employees can be based anywhere and even disability if employees can work in an environment that is customised to their needs. Furthermore, this could help to reduce visual bias, reducing assumptions made around appearances such as skin colour, hairstyles, fashion or tattoos.
4. Get equality, diversity and inclusion on the C-Suite agenda
Leadership plays a pivotal role in the success of truly embedding equality, diversity and inclusion throughout an organisation. The Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020 saw a surge of support in terms of people talking about unconscious bias and committing to challenge their own perceptions. However, the momentum needs to be maintained. A strategic programme that is underpinned by the reporting requirements around pay gaps of underrepresented groups is important to keep diversity and inclusion in top level plans for organisations.
Equality, diversity and inclusion needs to be seen as a C-Suite issue that the whole organisation commits to support. Leadership should continually signal this as a priority over time. Embedding this as a key value of the organisation or pillar in its business strategy ensures that equality, diversity and inclusion is beyond a topical moment that the employer is paying lip service towards – this makes the issue a priority beyond the impetus created from outpourings of outrage over the treatment of people that ebb and flow. Real change is rooted in creating firm, long-term plans to achieve genuine racial and gender equality.
5. Step up equality, diversity and inclusion training
Employers are taking steps to increase their equality, diversity and inclusion training and review their diversity policy. This includes increasing hiring in equality, diversity and inclusion-focused roles, such as creating Heads of Diversity and Inclusion to monitor progress in this area. Unconscious bias training and redacting identifiers of race or gender in CVs are also improving the recruitment process and ensuring the shortlisting and interview process is objective and fair. Others are focusing on setting up more networking, working groups and mentoring opportunities across the business to ensure people can connect and inspire one another, sharing similar experiences and backgrounds to overcome any obstacles to progressing within the company. These connections build bridges, driving employee engagement by building strong teams and by ensuring every employee feels listened to and supported.