Diversity and Disillusion: underrepresented communities are tired of talking
Ramadan is over, which means that fasting Muslim people across the workforce can rest easier knowing that the question “Not even water?” will be set aside for another year.
But why, when we live in such a diverse country, are there still such basic cultural interrogations in the workplace? More inclusive employers sometimes build their cultural communications around a ‘diversity calendar’, which acknowledges – and perhaps even celebrates – events outside of ‘the mainstream’. While marking things like Ramadan, Holi, and Pride Month, for instance, might be a step in the right direction, there are more fundamental questions that organisations should really be asking themselves.
Is the environment we operate in sufficiently equitable and inclusive for all colleagues to be who they are every day and not just during festivities and high holidays?
And are underrepresented employees enthused by opportunities to discuss equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I)?
When we look across the UK workforce, data from our new Diversity & Confusion 2023 report suggests that the answer to these questions is often ‘no’. In fact, the research shows that most people from underrepresented communities now avoid discussions on topics that reflect their identities with colleagues.
As a professional field, ED&I is facing its period of ‘diversity and disillusion’. Our data shows, when it comes to talking about identity, under a third (32 per cent) of disabled employees, only a quarter (25 per cent) of LGBTQIA+ employees, and just over a quarter (28 per cent) of employees who identify themselves with a religion feel comfortable talking about disability, sexuality, and their faith respectively with colleagues. This, surely, presents a conundrum from leaders considering how to structurally gear ED&I into their workplaces. Clearly offloading the challenges of inclusion to underrepresented groups who all-too-often feel excluded isn’t working.
Ruth Hoyal, Insights & Strategy Director, The Unmistakables, shares her initial thoughts: “Data is one of the best ways to tackle disillusionment, and we’re currently observing that once the data is gathered, colleagues demand to know what will change as a result. For example, as diagnoses around autism and ADHD become more widely discussed, we’ll naturally see the recorded numbers of neurodivergent employees within the workplace increase. While knowledge is power in the first instance, standards and expectations are held high around what will change as a result.”
These challenges are explored in more detail in the Diversity & Confusion 2023 report, where we examine the facets of ED&I that can help drive organisational change and those that appear mostly to create frustration, anxiety, disillusionment, and even exclusion.