PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: AN OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED IN THESE CHALLENGING TIMES
Prosper speaks to Pawel Adrjan, Economist and Head of European Research at global job site Indeed.
“Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce makes business sense, both in good and bad times,” Pawel Adrjan told Prosper.
“Diversity and inclusion help businesses thrive, both when the economy is growing and when it succumbs to a recession”, he said, “A growing body of research shows that diverse and inclusive companies perform better, thanks in part to their increased ability to recruit and keep talented employees. As the world grapples with a health crisis of unprecedented magnitude – and businesses and individuals face major uncertainty – retaining a diverse workforce is as important as before.”
When the economy is growing, jobs are plentiful. Even in those circumstances, however, some demographic groups face barriers that limit their ability to participate fully in the labour market.
“In 2019,” Pawel continued, “The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 45 years. Many businesses reported hiring challenges. Yet, when I spoke at the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce last year, I pointed out that the unemployment rates for ethnic minorities, single parents and people with disabilities were still much higher than for the rest of the workforce.
“Under-represented demographic groups represent a hiring opportunity for employers, both in good and bad times. But Indeed’s research last year found that only 13% of job descriptions included explicit statements about equal opportunities for candidates from all backgrounds. Office and managerial jobs, as well as education and tech jobs, were most likely to promote diversity and inclusion in job descriptions, while those in retail, hospitality and personal care tended not to.
“Business size also mattered when it came to the likelihood of using this type of language,” Pawel added, “With large employers much more likely to include statements about equal opportunities than small ones. Only 9% of jobs advertised by employers with under 150 employees included such statements, compared with 18% of jobs advertised by employers with 500 employees or more.
“That is despite a growing body of evidence suggesting that diversity and inclusion are good for business. Research conducted by Open for Business, a coalition of leading global companies dedicated to LGBT+ inclusion – whose Research Advisory Board I sit on – found that companies that are more diverse and inclusive have stronger financial performance, with increased ability to attract and retain talent as one of the driving factors.
“If that was the situation when the jobs market was strong, what will happen now that the economy has taken a turn for the worse? he asks.
“It's difficult to make concrete predictions because the timing and speed of the recovery are still uncertain. But an unfortunate pattern we see when looking at past recessions is that they tend to hurt disadvantaged and minority groups most.
“For example, between 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate for people with a BAME background increased by 4 percentage points to over 18%, while the rest of the workforce experienced a rise of 2 percentage points to 7%. There is a danger that history will repeat itself because of the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 is having on certain demographic groups.”
Pawel concluded, “This crisis could be an opportunity to reverse historical patterns - but only if policymakers continue to support minority groups and businesses remain focused on maintaining a diverse workforce through these challenging times".