From boardrooms to sports teams, it appears the importance of having a diverse workforce in the modern world is rising by the day. David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle was the latest high profile attempt at cracking the diversity nut, as he announced 40 new appointments and the promotion of ten women. Experienced cabinet faces like William Hague and Michael Gove made way for new members such as Nicky Morgan and Liz Truss, who became the youngest female Cabinet member in Tory party history.
According to the Prime Minister, the reshuffle aims to bring in “a fresh team with the ideas, the energy, the policy and the ability to take this country forward.” While it is clearly a positive step to see new faces brought in to address the gender imbalance, it is also vital to ensure that these changes bring a genuine evolution in culture and attitudes rather than simply amounting to diversity for the sake of it. Although it is always positive to have a mix of males and females, as well as younger and older individuals in any working team, it must be a natural balance rather than one that is manufactured.
Cameron’s shake up has been questioned by some political commentators who claim that it is no more than a publicity stunt coming one year before a general election. It has also been noted that although there have been some high profile changes, the general age and gender demographic of the cabinet has remained reasonably similar, with the average member age being reduced by 1.6 years and the number of women moving from three out of 21 to five out of 22. Whether this proves to be an encouraging start or a move for PR purposes remains to be seen.
When trying to introduce diversity to any workforce, it is vital that we don’t resort to tokenism – whereby an employee is hired simply because they are part of a minority, whether this is gender, age or ethnicity related, simply to satisfy a quota system. Instead we must ensure that those hired are genuinely the right person. Cameron has walked this tightrope before when he appointed Shajid Javid to the position of culture secretary – a move criticised by some due to his background in banking and lack of experience in arts.
While sourcing candidates from diverse backgrounds is clearly important within business, it is just as crucial to ensure that the culture in place at the company is set up for these individuals to flourish. Clearly, if an organisational structure is too rigid and resistant to change, then even if it does hire individuals from a mix of backgrounds, these people will simply bounce off the establishment wall rather than being able to influence development. So if David Cameron wants his reshuffle to be a genuine turning point in the battle for diversity, he must ensure his cabinet is set up so that the “fresh ideas” brought by his new recruits can be fully incorporated.
Article by Julia Colin, Global Engagement Lead at Cielo
Cielo will be hosting a think tank The XX Factor – Diversity & Inclusion, hosted by GE, in London on 16th September, 2014. If you’re an HR Director or Head of Talent and would like to attend, please contact Amy.Murray@cielotalent.com