FIRMS MUST IMPROVE THEIR SOCIAL CLASS MIX, NOT JUST ETHNIC AND GENDER
In 2014, what does a truly diverse workforce look like? And is it even visible to the naked eye, from a company’s gallery of staff photos?
In recent weeks, we’ve seen diversity hit the headlines, as household name brands try to improve the mix of staff that makes up their workforce. So far, the emphasis has been on ethnicity, gender and disability — but is there more to true diversity than meets the eye?
UPDATE 1: The government has just pledged £4m to boost diversity within the creative industries, funding internships for 300 young people from BAME backgrounds with 150 employers including Channel 4, ITV and the BBC.
UPDATE 2: Conservative MP Philip Davies has criticised the BBC’s “racist approach” to diversity, saying its new initiatives neglect white, working class youngsters.
First, the BBC director general Tony Hall announced plans to step up the corporations efforts to improve its record on diversity, by launching a range of initiatives including training internships and targets. The primary aim was to increase the numbers of BAME (British, Asian and minority ethnic) staff members working at the corporation.
Next, Google found its diversity record under scrutiny when it published stats showing only 17% of its global workforce is female and in the US, six out of ten ‘Googlers’ are white and three out of ten are Asian (just three per cent are Hispanic and two per cent are black).
But Graduate Fog thinks that singling out individual firms misses the point. Anyone working in TV or tech will tell you that the BBC and Google are no worse than their competitors — the problems employers have in hiring a good mix of staff are complex and endemic. Comedian Lenny Henry has previously called the entire TV industry’s record on ethnicity “appalling”, and insiders tell us all tech firms are as bad on diversity as Google — it’s just that Google was the first one to own up to it. (And in fairness, at least their spokesperson admitted: “We’re not where we want to be when it comes to diversity.”)
But will improving these crude stats really make these organisations any more diverse? What about social diversity? In 2014, it could be argued that a person’s economic family background can be just as powerful a factor in holding them back in life. Of course, it would be great to improve the numbers of ethnic minority, female and disabled staff at the BBC and Google. But if they’re all middle-class, privately educated or have had their parents fund their unpaid internships, how ‘diverse’ can those organisations really claim to be?
*SHOULD FIRMS IMPROVE THEIR SOCIAL CLASS MIX, NOT JUST ETHNIC AND GENDER?
Are big companies on the right track trying to improve the mix of genders, ethnic groups and disabilities in their workforce? Or should they make greater efforts to work on their social diversity too? For example, should they introduce targets for hiring a certain number of less privileged candidates each year, who grew up on council estates or attended comprehensive schools in the roughest areas? What is your idea of a truly diverse company?