Inequality and inequity persist in society. People from various demographic groups and backgrounds continue to experience a lack of social mobility as well as unfair treatment and discrimination.
This is acutely apparent in the world of work, where significant group differences remain in terms of pay, opportunity, job security, and fair and respectful treatment. For example, research by Pearn Kandola found that candidates from minority ethnic groups need to have eight years’ more experience than a white candidate to access the equivalent employment opportunity.
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Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has never been more important for employers, says Alan. However, many organisations struggle to maintain momentum or continue to make a difference. The biggest hurdles to overcome? Firstly, indifference, says Alan. The fact that progress has been made over the last 20 years is a positive, but it’s not a reason to stop pushing for positive change.
Secondly, the pressures on individuals to work at speed. This pressure can lead to shortcuts being made in the recruitment process through the choice of tools and methods used to sift candidates. Lastly, bias which is a powerful force and one in which an in-group/ out-group effect is systematic and pervasive. The answer? To be systematic and pervasive in our response. Hema agrees, adding that although we have made progress, we have not achieved enough in terms of equity in the workplace.
“In a fast-moving situation, the speed and agility demanded of individuals and teams puts pressure on people and that causes people to rely on short cuts. Mistakes happen when you try to act quickly. When you apply this to hiring it’s dangerous. That doesn’t mean you can’t hire quickly, but you have to do it well.” - Alan Bourne, Sova Assessment
Lucie brings the lens onto the broader landscape of social mobility, unfairness, and injustice in society which take indirect as well as direct forms. Research tells us that within the workplace, indirect discrimination has a profound and damaging effect on inclusion (see Pearn Kandola’s Racism at Work webinar series for more information).
Subtle adverse impact in the workplace has a negative effect on individual confidence and mental health and wellbeing which results in individuals not putting themselves forward for opportunities for promotion and new roles (for example 49% of people from ethnic minority groups feel they cannot be themselves at work). This is an undercurrent that needs to be addressed, says Lucie.
“Equality is not enough. It cannot be about equal opportunity as everyone is not starting from the same position. The entrenched nature of some of the biases we know occur have had an impact on certain sectors of society so that it is not enough to just give everyone equal opportunity. We need to recognise that certain groups are disadvantaged and do everything that we can do to level the playing field.” - Lucie Ilbury, Sova Assessment
Equity requires us to be aware of the intersectional nature of influences in the workplace. If we look at certain categories in terms of demographics and try to fill a quota, we present a one-dimensional view of individuals, says Lucie. For example, we know from our data that a lack of upward mobility is more pronounced for women when we overlay ethnicity as well as gender. People belong to more than one group, and we need to recognise in the way we capture and apply data.
“It’s important for leaders to look at the economic and societal backdrop against which we are operating. Everyone in that organisation, and prospective candidates, are operating in a challenging environment. There are heightened tensions everywhere, we are seeing social injustice vividly on our screens. Yes, we have made progress, but we have not achieved enough.” - Hema Bakhshi, Sova Assessment
As HR and assessment professionals we have a huge opportunity to bring about better workplace equity. The frameworks that we put in place influence not only who we bring into the organisation but also development opportunities, promotion and through them, organisational culture.
Assessment professionals have the opportunity to make assessment inclusive, or conversely to just replace what the organisation currently has. Here’s why an equitable approach makes sense for the business, for teams and for society, according to our panellists:
Effective approaches require the right people, processes, and systems to work together to create meaningful and lasting change:
The Sova EDI assessment toolkit builds the foundations for concrete action on equality, diversity and inclusion. Within the toolkit you'll get access to: