New research has found that twice as many professionals have reported being aware of their employer’s D&I initiatives compared to 2019. 

Employer-led D&I initiatives have seen a large increase during lockdown, according to research conducted by recruiter Robert Walters.

In 2020, almost two-thirds of professionals (64 per cent) stated that they are aware of their employer’s diversity & inclusion initiatives, compared to the year before.

Active participation in diversity & inclusion initiatives has also grown by +10 per cent in lockdown – with over a third of professionals now participating in employer-led working groups.

A significant reason for this increase was the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests last summer. Almost a fifth of workers (15 per cent), who had never previously been involved with D&I initiatives, stated that they were planning to after the social protests.

Now, over three-fifths (61 per cent) felt that their organisation celebrates people’s differences. According to the study, this has led to a rise in the number of women who feel comfortable in negotiating their salary (+10 per cent) and a higher rate of pay satisfaction amongst Black women (+10 per cent).

Despite this, the research also highlighted that several groups were at risk of being negatively impacted by the pandemic if targeted steps were not taken when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

These groups included workers with disabilities, women, ethnic minorities and the youngest and oldest workers within the workforce.

Chris Hickey, UK & Ireland CEO at Robert Walters, commented:

D&I has rightly been a prime concern for leadership teams, who now actively understand how critical an effective D&I policy is for success. But this is an intersectional and complex matter – and the nuances of D&I mean that some conversations are, in some respects, still in their infancy.

Whilst we celebrate any steps forward that have been made – and our report shares best practice examples that everyone  can learn from – our year-on-year findings indicate that there is still some way to go to close the diversity & inclusion gap.

As the option to return to the office draws closer, employers must not take their foot off the pedal in regard to inclusion – where our findings indicate that remote working has had the potential to further marginalise under-represented and minority professionals who didn’t feel the same level of connectivity to the workplace pre-lockdown.

Nic Hammarling, Partner & Diversity & Inclusion specialist at Pearn Kandola, stated:

Whilst analysis into this is still early, both Covid-19 and lockdown have had some serious D&I implications at both a macro & societal level – from a rise in anti-Chinese prejudice we’ve witnessed across the globe to childcare being disproportionately dispersed amongst socio-economic groups and across gender.

The temporary suspension of the UK gender pay reporting and the long term hiatus following the consultation on ethnic pay reporting has a profound impact on not just how businesses behave but society too – as people pay attention and respond to what the government is  taking seriously.

Making genuine progress on diversity and inclusion is about turning multiple cogs at the same time. It is about tackling the barriers to diverse recruitment, whilst also tracking progression from entry-level roles. It is about tackling bias in appraisal and bonus decisions whilst also addressing the importance of managers understanding the personal circumstances of their team members. It is about tackling pay disparity whilst also ensuring everyone has good access to the resources available.

It is positive to see that participation amongst employees is growing, but we must not slow down in our research, understanding and action.