Barriers to diversity and inclusion in the workplace

October 20, 2020

Growing diversity in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, studies show it provides a host of business benefits too.

Want to disrupt or innovate in your industry, attract millennials or improve your financial performance? Improving diversity has been shown to help. 

We have looked at diversity and inclusion best practice but what are some of the things that  can stop businesses from achieving diversity? Your business may be aware of some while others might surprise you. By changing these practices your business is starting its journey towards a more varied workforce:

Distinct from a formal mentoring programme, informal mentoring occurs when a senior employee chooses to guide, advise and assist in the career development of a junior team member. The unplanned nature of this kind of mentoring can be a barrier to diversity because, unconsciously, we are more likely to assist a colleague in this way if we can see ourselves in them. Change this natural tendency by making employees aware of it. Suggest they consider approaching the person on their team or in the office who adds the greatest diversity for informal assistance instead. 
Review social traditions and commentary in the office for insensitivity or inappropriateness. Everything from ‘boys only’ drinks, social events revolving around alcohol or in private clubs or venues may discourage diverse employees from attending or leave them feeling excluded if they do. Plan events carefully and communicate clearly what is and is not acceptable ‘banter’ in your office environment. 
Creating a diverse workplace is something that can be achieved relatively quickly if there is a strong consensus to do so. A study by McKinsey found inclusion within an organisation can take many years to achieve. It requires continuous commitment from the top, linking inclusion to the growth of the business and building an inclusive company culture.
A higher percentage of women, people from ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community report facing microaggressions at work. These could be in the form of derogatory comments, comments about how they dress or exclusion from social events. Over time, these small knocks prevent these employees from feeling comfortable sharing their ideas with other employees for fear of judgement or contempt.  This has been shown to impact the performance and wellbeing of diverse employees.
Having diverse leadership and middle management is a key component to supporting diversity. Seeing those of the same race, gender or background succeed is reassuring and empowering to others in your organisation. Having diverse role models will positively shape the experience for younger, less experienced diverse employees. Building a work environment where diverse employees know if they experience a microaggression, they have allies in management who will support them really matters.