A new year is always a time for reflection and anticipation, and for many of us in Diversity & Inclusion teams, this year in particular feels full of possibilities. After a difficult 2020, technology organisations everywhere are picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and getting ready to face a new challenge. Many of us are starting to hope that maybe, just maybe, we will begin to see a return to some semblance of ‘normal life’.
Last year paved the way for an exciting 2021 in the world of diversity and inclusion. Here are some predictions about what this year may hold.
Ethnicity pay gap reporting will become the norm
Even though it’s not yet a legal requirement, it is increasingly likely that mounting pressure from customers and competitors will lead many large organisations, including those in the tech sector, to make ethnicity pay gap reporting part of their annual report. After an official petition calling for mandatory reporting of the ethnicity pay gap gained more than 130,000 signatures last year, it is likely that increased attention will bring increased action on this issue, leading to more organisations integrating their gender and ethnicity pay gap reports and producing ‘diversity reports’ which cover wider information than just gender.
FTSE 100 boards lack diversity, with too few BAME Directors – DiversityQ
Focus on disability
While 2020 was a year of seismic importance for the racial equality and anti-racist movements, this year could be just as crucial for disability equality. With so many of us working from home and facing a range of mental, physical and emotional challenges brought about by the pandemic, 2020 saw an increase in the importance of wellness. This shift has led to a rise in people’s expectations about what organisations can and should accommodate, especially if remote working is to continue in the foreseeable future. Employees will now want organisations to be more adaptive to the needs of people with different abilities.
Alongside this, it is also likely that in the wake of lockdown, more career opportunities open up to people who need to stay closer to home for their health.
In response to these shifts, organisations will need a better focus on accessible systems both internally and for their customers. Company managers will need to learn more about how to support people with disabilities and take into consideration that the ‘ideal employee’ might now be a person who works remotely for health, wellbeing or practicality purposes.
In 2021, employee wellbeing will continue to increase in importance, particularly while the global health crisis is still ongoing. Employees expect managers to value them as people with personal lives and mental health needs. They expect a work-life balance and emotional support from compassionate and empathetic leaders. Inclusive leadership will be the most important leadership skill of the decade. As the move to remote working opens up new career paths, employees will be free to leave employers that can’t provide it and find other leaders or businesses who will.
The latest lockdown will only increase the value of inclusive leadership, as employees struggle with balancing caring responsibilities with work. There will be no room for managers who can’t support this.
It’s time to re-think leadership education
Dedicated diversity leadership
If you haven’t already got a head of diversity & inclusion, organisations should consider employing one, quickly. I’m not talking about giving ‘diversity’ as a side project to someone in your business, but dedicated diversity leadership. Ideally, this head will report to a senior leader or directly to the CEO. To build momentum and achieve change, someone needs to be responsible for diversity in your business. And that someone should be an adaptive leader with organisational change management skills and the ability to influence culture and respond quickly to customer expectations.
Employees are looking to learn
Many of us are waking up to the impact of allyship. That is, the idea that those in positions of power, ‘in-groups’ or privilege, can and should support those who are not so advantaged.
We recognise that as individuals we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the experiences of others and to ‘vote with our feet’ against organisations who don’t meet our ethnical, or sustainable expectations. Employees will be looking to learn and educate themselves. Tech organisations who want to provide more than just a job can take advantage of this. They can use work to provide employees access to this learning by encouraging colleagues to share experiences, and help others to understand actions they can take to be allies.
These are just a few predictions, but 2021 will have a lot more to offer us. Some say that we’ve made nine years of technological advancement in nine months. We have certainly seen similarly fast-paced change in the diversity and inclusion world, and it will be interesting to see what 2021 brings.