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Ten top trends in diversity and inclusion

From gender pay gap reporting to parental leave to mental health support, organisations are embracing the latest advancements in D&I

Shared parental leave is helping to ensure issues relating to childcare are not restricted to women. Photograph: iStock

Shared parental leave is helping to ensure issues relating to childcare are not restricted to women. Photograph: iStock


Transparency is here

Log on to the BBC news website (bbc.com/news/business-47212342) and you’ll find a widget that allows you type in the name of UK companies such as Marks & Spencer to see its reported gender pay gap. M&S has a reported (by itself) pay gap of 4.2 per cent in favour of men, which means, the BBC explains, that for every £10 the average man earns, the average woman takes home £9.58. Such transparency will put pressure on all organisations to close the gap right? Well, yes, except the retailer’s previously reported pay gap was 3.3 per cent. In its favour, the company’s pay gap is lower than the average of UK companies that had reported, which is 9.6 per cent.

More than box-ticking

Research from law firm Pinsent Masons into the effects of gender pay reporting legislation in the UK found that some employers are going beyond the regulatory requirements and disclosing additional information in relation to ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability pay gaps too. Other instances of proactive reporting are seeing some employers give a breakdown of the gender make-up of their organisation, including at board level, and describing the actions they are taking to redress imbalances. In addition, hundreds of employers with fewer than 250 employees voluntarily disclose their GPG, despite not being legally obliged to do so.

Academics are weighing in

The launch of the DCU Centre of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion provides all employers with access to the very latest in academic research, insights and tools on workplace diversity and inclusion. Getting it right is a combination of policy and best practice. Says director Sandra Healy: “It’s about hearts and minds. You can have all the policy you like, but it has to be delivered in practice.”

Mental health is moving centre stage

A significant shift has taken place in relation to employers and mental health. More are seeking out ways to support employees and proactively putting measures in place to enhance overall staff wellbeing. New research from Ibec shows the number of organisations offering stress management and mental wellbeing programmes has doubled in the last five years. Fostering a workplace that is supportive to mental health disclosures starts with culture. “We can’t expect someone to disclose about their mental health if it doesn’t feel safe for them to do so. The organisation needs to signpost to its workforce that they can safely disclose and that support is available,” says Kara McGann, head of social policy at Ibec.

What’s getting measured is getting done

Ibec’s KeepWell Mark provides organisations with a recognised accreditation in workplace wellbeing. Enrolling in the programmes provides Irish businesses with an assessment tool to help them conduct an extensive audit of all aspects of their corporate wellness practice. Participation also includes the services of an expert assessor who will support the business in identifying – and making – the changes required to improve its performance in relation to wellbeing. The Irish Centre for Diversity, supported by Ibec and the DCU Centre of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion, has introduced a Diversity and Inclusion mark for Irish businesses to support best practice too.

Technology is helping

Organisations are turning to technology tools to reduce the risk of gender and other biases. Apps such as Gender Decoder and Textio are being used to ensure language is gender-neutral, particularly for job adverts. “D&I technology has the potential to be a disruptor to the structural biases, intentional or not, that hide in our process and behaviours,” says Mercer’s Helen McCarthy. They can help remove biases in relation to talent acquisition, development, engagement and retention.

Employers are preparing

Research from Mercer indicates almost three quarters of companies in Ireland agree with mandatory reporting, and two thirds believe it will make a difference. But businesses are also concerned about the potential risks to their reputation, particularly if their performance is poor relative to Ireland’s estimated average of 13.9 per cent. Mercer’s research found more than two thirds of companies in Ireland are concerned about the potential reputational risks of gender pay gap reporting, with half worried about the cost that addressing pay differentials might impose on their business.

Sectoral approaches are growing

The DCU-led Irish Centre for Diversity is launching its Year of Inclusion for the Aviation Industry. It makes sense, points out Sandra Healy, head of diversity and inclusion at the university, given that worldwide, only 7 per cent of pilots are women. Research from Mason Hayes & Curran, a law firm, which publishes a Gender and Diversity in Aviation survey, found that while 71 per cent of respondents said women make up more than 30 per cent of total headcount, only 16 per cent said women make up more than 30 per cent of senior roles.

Childcare seen as a societal issue, not a women’s issue

Shared parental leave is helping to ensure issues relating to childcare are not restricted to women. Organisations are increasingly seeing the value of having parents share parental leave, and are striving to ensure their policies support that. Internationally, there are no prizes for guessing that the Nordic countries rank highest for parental leave, according to Unicef research. In Norway and Sweden, almost all fathers take some parental leave.

Salaries are being spoken about

In Europe, the pay gap between women and men, in their first job, is €4,255, according to Catalyst. After five years, the pay gap widens to €36,304. While some attempt to explain this is by saying women are not negotiating, research shows the opposite, says Sandra Ondraschek-Norris, the consultancy’s vice-president of Global MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) Learning. Transparency around pay is essential to stop the culture of secrecy, says Catalyst, which calls on employers to ensure salaries, or salary bands, are published, along with explanations and discussions, to ensure clear and open lines of communications.