Transformational approaches to workplace inclusion.

Gender and (not or) ethnic equality.
by Dumi Senda, Talent Manager & Media Lead
11 Aug 2017

In the past few weeks workplace inclusion, or the lack of it, has taken centre stage in public discourse. Driving the debate is the view that not enough is being done by corporations to entrench workplace inclusion, despite notable strides to make society more equitable.

Discourse on diversity and inclusion appears to broadly take an ‘either-or’ approach to gender and ethnic inclusion in the workplace. The effect of the ‘race to the bottom’ is that instead of viewing inclusion holistically, employers often veer one way or the other. This binary conceals failures in upholding workplace inclusion in areas of sexual orientation, culture, and class.

Anyone who has ‘gotten their hands dirty’ in the fight against workplace discrimination will attest to the fact that there are no easy solutions. However, key stakeholders can view the current ‘spat’ as an opportunity for transformation, and not a cause to mend the ‘denial fences’.

At SEO London, our experience shows that transformational approaches, drawing on a holistic view of diversity, are necessary to achieve meaningful workplace inclusion.

“We have been operating in the D&I space for 17 years in London, and see the matter globally through our sister organisations in New York, Ghana, Vietnam and China”, as our CEO Andrew Fairbairn has pointed out.

At SEO London, we believe that to tackle inequality in the workplace, “We have to learn to sing!” as Andrew poetically puts it, implying that groups with different ideas of what diversity and inclusion entail must learn to ‘voice’ their concerns without disregarding others.

To be gender-diverse does not entail being ethnically (or sexually, culturally, etc.) un-diverse or vice-versa. A holistic view of workplace inclusion must regard gender, ethnic, cultural, sexual orientation and class inclusion as mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive.

The recent fallout over the ‘gender pay gap’ at the BBC is illustrative of the limited scope of the debate on workplace inclusion; while rightly highlighting the ‘gulf’ between top male and female earners, the complete absence of people of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) background in the twenty-top earners list is either overlooked or understated.

Attempting to narrow the gender and BME pay gap through remuneration parity is a good start. However, this should be complemented with initiatives that ‘go to the root’ of inequality. SEO London epitomises the transformative approach by supporting talented students from ethnic minority or low socio-economic backgrounds to attain top career opportunities in leading firms.

Since its inception in 2000, SEO London has helped over 5,000 candidates to secure top internships and graduate roles supported by over 50 sponsor-firms across eight leading industries. Its various programmes help candidates from under-served groups to realise their career potential through extensive training, mentoring, networking opportunities and acquiring job offers. Our interventions go beyond programme-specific candidacy, giving individuals career-long support.

Simultaneously, SEO London helps sponsor firms to achieve deeper workplace diversity and inclusion.

If you are a candidate, sponsor firm employee, alumni or supporter and you would like to blog for us, please contact us at info@seo-london.org expressing your interest.