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UK businesses spend more than £6 billion on diversity and inclusion initiatives each year. In the wake of #MeToo, George Floyd and BLM, you might imagine there’d be something to show for them. Yet according to research carried out by data company Dynata, they’re not working.

The research was commissioned for the latest edition of Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work by Sue Unerman and Kathryn Jacob. In a set of results which will be dispiriting for any HR manager, it found that 1 in 3 people in the UK had felt excluded or marginalised because of their identity, beliefs or personal circumstances. Consistent with this, 1 in 3 women expecting their first child had felt excluded.

Feelings of exclusion were even worse for:

  • 18 to 24-year-olds (54%)
  • Mums returning from maternity leave (46%)
  • BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) workers (more than a third)
  • Workers registered as disabled (52%)
  • Neurodivergent workers (50%)

“Diversity is not a problem to fix,” read the foreword to the 2020 edition of Belonging. “Diversity is the solution.” But as the book went on to explore, some initiatives launched with the best of intentions have led to a sort of ‘diversity fatigue’. Others have ended up being led by minority groups, a dual burden when “you’re already working hard to speak up for your own identity.”

How do D&I initiatives get back on track? Unerman and Jacob suggest:

  • Everyone needs to be involved
  • Those in power need to want change to happen, and for that change to be credible and lasting
  • Every organisation must set clear targets using real data
  • Practical programmes must support diverse groups
  • We need to progress beyond ’diversity’ – that is, a celebration of difference – to belonging, which is something everyone should feel is a key challenge for operators looking to rebuild and recover following the last two years. We therefore see this move as positive for both businesses and workers in the sector.

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