New studies reveal employers’ efforts to improve workplace inclusion aren’t paying off

Research finds discrimination against minority ethnic job candidates is still rife, while almost half of LGBT+ workers believe their employers are failing to improve inclusion


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Research finds discrimination against minority ethnic job candidates is still rife, while almost half of LGBT+ workers believe their employers are failing to improve inclusion

Two recent studies have highlighted persistent failings in employers’ efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, particularly for people from minority ethnic backgrounds and LGBT+ workers.

Researchers from the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, found that UK jobseekers from minority ethnic backgrounds had to send 80% more applications than a white person of British origin to get a positive response from an employer.

Comparing their findings with similar experiments carried out in 1969, the researchers found that levels of hiring discrimination against black and south-Asian Britons – especially Pakistanis – had changed little in the past 50 years.

The researchers sent out nearly 3,200 applications to manual and non-manual jobs – including chefs, shop assistants and software engineers – between November 2016 and December 2017.

Related: Five reasons why diversity and inclusion at work matters

An average of 24% of applicants of white British origin received a positive response from employers, compared with 15% of minority ethnic applicants who had identical CVs and cover letters. Minority ethnic candidates – including white minorities – had to submit 60% more applications than a white Briton to receive a positive response. People of Pakistani origin had to make 70% more applications, while the figure was even higher for Nigerian and South Asian candidates (80% more) and Middle Eastern and north African people (90% more).

Quoted by the Guardian, Dr Zubaida Haque, deputy director of Runnymede, a race equality think tank, said the findings showed that “it’s not just covert racism or unconscious bias that we need to worry about; it’s overt and conscious racism, where applicants are getting shortlisted on the basis of their ethnicity and/or name.”

A separate global study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), also published in January, revealed a wide gulf between organisations’ professed commitment to LGBT+ diversity, and the levels of inclusion experienced by LGBT+ employees.

Nearly half (45%) of British LGBT+ employees surveyed said their employer had made no progress on LGBT+ inclusion in recent years; a further 63% said they would quit their organisation within three years because their employer is not committed to a diverse workplace.

Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Elliot Vaughn, a partner at BCG and one of the report’s authors, said: “The worrying thing is that while 98% of firms offer diversity and inclusion programs , three-quarters of staff are not indicating that they are seeing any personal benefit. People are looking for a workplace free of bias, which is not that much to ask for.”

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In 2018, a UK-government-backed study found that one-in-five (19%) of LGBT+ employees has felt unable to be open about their sexuality with colleagues. More than a fifth (23%) said they had experienced a mixed or negative reaction from colleagues about their sexuality, while three-quarters (77%) of those who had experienced a ‘serious’ workplace incident related to their sexuality didn’t report it.

Commenting on BCG’s report, Claire McCartney, diversity and inclusion advisor at the CIPD, told People Management magazine:  “The survey highlights that if diverse employees don’t feel properly supported in the workplace then organisations are likely to lose their talent. It is important, therefore, for organisations to show real commitment to diversity and inclusion in not just their words but their actions, and create a culture that creates a bias-free day-to-day experience for all, which allows everyone to give their best.”