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Majority of professionals say they experience ‘discriminatory or exclusionary’ workplace behaviour

New research from The Young Foundation, conducted on behalf of 12 professional membership and regulatory bodies, reveals that while equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives are increasingly commonplace, there is growing scepticism among professionals that these are ‘box-ticking’ exercises.

The report, Beyond Buzzwords, cautions that unless change is urgently prioritised, recent progress risks unravelling.

The research incorporates insights from more than 7,000 professionals across accountancy, engineering, health and safety, facilities management, human resources, insurance, law, management, procurement and public relations.

It finds nearly three-quarters of respondents had experienced barriers to career progression (73 per cent) or some form of ‘discriminatory or exclusionary’ behaviour in their workplace since the start of 2019 (72 per cent). Negative experiences were even more pronounced among those with multiple marginalised characteristics.

Lead researcher, Alice Bell said: “For many years, the professions have shown real commitment in taking action on EDI. Yet we need to drive greater change, with organisations pushing forward higher standards.

“The findings highlight the critical role of professional and regulatory bodies as agents of change. The organisations driving this research together represent more than 750,000 UK workers, and they possess the influence, expertise and networks to raise standards and drive progress on EDI through training, guidelines and support for members.”

Key concerns emerging from the research include:

  • Widespread scepticism that ambitious EDI goals are being translated into meaningful actions, with a perception that rhetoric and box-ticking exercises bring few tangible improvements. As a result, support for EDI efforts seems to be waning.
  • Access and entry routes into many professions that remain challenging for people from minority backgrounds, with systemic barriers related to affordability of qualifications, accessibility issues, and lack of role models. This contradicts notions that professional success is based on merit.
  • Many professionals feeling excluded from informal networks and opportunities to develop. More than half (53 per cent) have considered leaving their employer or profession due to EDI concerns, related to feeling undervalued or having limited scope to progress.

However, the research shows that tailored solutions can have significant impacts. It reveals a range of initiatives viewed as effective when well-executed: from normalising flexible working and creating accessible learning resources, to targeted development programmes and removing biases in hiring.

To drive change, the report proposes professional and regulatory bodies can raise the bar for accountable, ethical professions with respect to EDI. It also includes further recommendations, categorised by audience, for organisations involved in this research, policymakers, employers, and individual professionals.

Commenting on the report, IWFM CEO Linda Hausmanis said: “Inclusion in the workplace is a fundamental necessity for the growth, progress and success of organisations and Beyond Buzzwords is a crucial piece of work affecting a critical sector at a pivotal time.

“After beginning our EDI journey in 2021, three reasons underpinned IWFM’s involvement with this project; first WFM has both a diversity challenge and a talent gap and tackling one will help the other; second as standard setter for the profession to understand how we can make the biggest impact; and third, like the lynchpin profession we support, to help address a wider challenge that we cannot do alone.

“We accept its recommendations in full and will shortly publish an updated EDI statement underpinned by an action plan to implement them.”

To read the report click here.

Eptura 2023 Workplace Index 

Over the past year, Eptura has used proprietary data and commissioned research to explore how business leaders can balance opposing demands.

In this final summary report on the state of the workplace in 2023, the global worktech leader looks at the key insights that will shape the world of work in 2024 and beyond.

For the Q4 edition of the 2023 Workplace Index, Eptura updated its proprietary data across four demands:

  • Freedom and Connection
  • Value creation and Cost Control
  • Flexibility and Certainty
  • CO2 Targets and Costs

To download the report click here.

About Sarah OBeirne

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