Leadership is Failing at Diversity and Inclusion - But Why?

Updated: Sep 13

Does a diverse leadership really matter? Conversations about diversity and inclusion have intensified over the past few years yet new data suggests that the top UK firms are failing at diversity and inclusion.

Businesses are increasingly speaking of issues concerning diversity and inclusion, yet actions to put real actions in place around making leadership inclusive are lacking.

Interestingly, the Parker Review in 2017, set a four year target for firms FTSE 100 firms to appoint at least one board level director from a Black or minority background, by 2021,

The data from Parker Review, suggested that Boards were somewhat apprehensive about talking about race. Be that as it may, is it reason enough to not put into place strategic plans to increase the levels of diversity?

In many companies, it fails to exist at all. All this begs the question.... Why are so many companies failing at diversity and inclusion?

Authenticity and Willingness to Engage

The relevance of diversity and inclusion and, in particular, authenticity actions around conversations that develop real inclusion, is inadequate amongst leadership.

There is a lack of authenticity, evidenced by the reports highlighted above. Even without reporting, it is clear that by merely looking at the leadership across the FTSE 100, that there is an obvious absence of visible minority ethnic groups and women.

Talking about race, gender and disability supports wider engagement with diverse communities and employees. It helps to promote and develop the actions necessary to build inclusive responses. It supports a better understanding of the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.

And... It doesn't stop there!

There exists a wide spectrum of difference that comes under the banner of diversity, which includes a wide range of social, lifestyle and cultural distinctions that make up employees.

Understanding, and recognising this, is important for addressing any imbalances, not only across the employee base, but also in relation to your customers.

An important question for leaders to ask, is whether the current leadership is inclusive and promoting diversity in a real, and engaging way.

The perpetual state of homogeneity tells us that perhaps initiatives purporting to advance inclusion, are very often spurious acts, designed to maintain the status quo.

Why is an inclusive leadership important?

Whilst many leaders 'talk up' the virtues of inclusion, they themselves, fail to see the value of inclusive leadership.

They fail to utilise the processes and frameworks necessary, to add significant value to developing equitable processes and workplaces.

Having a diverse leadership can promote your business in the following ways:

1 Develops relationships with a wider range of people

2 Promotes your business services better across communities

3 Helps to develop products and services to suit different needs

4 Expands and develops your reach on social media

5 Helps to attract the best in class talent

A business that promotes diversity and inclusion, and has a healthy mix of diversity at leadership levels, is far more likely to be able to engage better with employees, customers and other stakeholders.

It helps to better connect with a wider range of people, increases creativity and promotes innovation and flexibility.

Diversity supports better engagement with employees and customers

An inclusive leadership, is better able to understand diverse needs, and as such, is better able to engage with diverse groups of people, in a natural, unforced way.

This helps to connect with, and promote to, a wider audience.

Creating inclusive content for social media, and marketing to diverse groups, helps a business to connect with people across a wide range of backgrounds.

This improves the diversity of your audience, leading to more hits on your website and increased interest in the company brand, its products and its services.

It also helps to promote an inclusive brand image that helps to attract diverse talent.

Inclusive content and marketing campaigns, are by no means a quick fix 'get out' opportunity. They are, however, activities that help to back up authenticity and connect with a wider audience.

Developing inclusive content, without actually being inclusive, tends to backfire, often in a very public way.

Leadership Recruitment and Retention

In order to attract candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds, it is imperative that a business values inclusion. No one wants to be the only one!

There is an obvious reticence amongst some leaders in the FTSE 100 to support diversity and inclusion within leadership. This serves only to promote the exclusion of others within the workplace.

This hesitation towards inclusion, has compounded the failures of these organisations. It represents a failure to take diversity and inclusion seriously enough, to implement organisational process and cultural change.