Last week I chaired a UN Women UK high-level roundtable in response to the UK Government's consultation on Ethnicity Pay Reporting and heard a wide range of suggestions of what businesses can do to reduce the gap this will undoubtedly highlight. Women of colour remain underrepresented at management and senior executive level, which businesses cannot afford to ignore any longer. Is it important for organisations and individuals to respond to the consultation to make change happen.
The session focused on some of the very real issues ethnic minority women face and the practical solutions businesses could adopt to break down the barriers and in time reduce the gap.
The key part of all of this is data – taking an intersectional approach to reporting alongside gender, including age disability and sexual orientation will give a much clearer picture and help to reduce the discrimination & challenges ethnic minority women face, as well as hopefully highlighting and eradicating inbuilt biases in most recruitment processes, as the talent is out there, but as one of our attendees pointed out, the opportunities aren’t. It is also essential to communicate the data to all employees so that they will in turn feel more comfortable sharing their own information. However data is great but means nothing without action.
It is important to create an inclusive environment and take the time to listen to encourage open dialogue, able to have difficult conversations and improve understanding, which in turn will promote diversity of thought and innovation. At every level of the organisation you need to demonstrate a commitment to narrowing the gap and creating a level playing field.
Creating more role models will lower attrition levels, as the leaders of tomorrow start to see people they can identify with in more senior roles and aspire to be, so will more likely stay within that organisation longer term, creating a sustainable diverse pipeline.
If an organisation does have to attract talent externally, it is an ideal opportunity to think differently and bring new people to the table. It might take more effort to create more balanced shortlists but don’t let any recruiter get away with the old line of not being able to find anyone. If your search consultant does deliver such a shortlist, don’t accept it.
Just as all male shortlists used to be the norm, they are becoming rarer (although the FT still reported this week that men are still appointed to 75% of all Board roles) and this should the case for ethnic minorities, men and women, too. Creating mentoring and sponsor programmes should also help these talented individuals become more visible too.
Certainly in the UK we need to become more open about salaries and attach value to the role in question, not what an individual was paid in their last role, to avoid perpetuating the gap. We need to encourage women, particularly women of colour, to challenge offers more often, rather than just saying thank you.
At UN Women UK we are committed improving the lives of women and girls, to increase the scale and influence of our advocacy, I also encourage you to respond to the consultation on behalf of your organisation. The consultation can be found here https://beisgovuk.citizenspace.com/lm/ethnicity-pay-reporting/
and closes on 11th January 2019. This is an important window of opportunity to create change, and so it is crucial that we take it.