There has been little or no improvement in diversity or inclusion at work despite increased focus on this area over the past two years  – new research reveals.

Despite more than £6 billion being spent on Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, the workplace is still full of inequality, prejudice, discrimination, marginalisation and harassment.

More than £6bn ($7.5bn) is spent on diversity and inclusion initiatives every year. There is very little evidence, however, that this expenditure in fact leads to increased diversity, especially at the top of business.

Newly published research (carried out in two phases, in early 2020 and then in late 2021)  shows that – despite the huge focus on this area that followed the murder of George Floyd and the BLM protests – the workplace is still full of inequality and unfairness, prejudice and discrimination.

Almost one in three people in the UK have felt excluded or marginalized at work because of their beliefs, personal circumstances or identity.

However, this rises to:

•          54% of 18–24-year-olds,

•          46% of mums returning from maternity leave,

•          over a third of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic),

•          52% of people who are registered disabled,

•          and 50% who are neurodivergent.

One in three women expecting their first child have felt excluded in the UK.

Disappointingly many of these numbers have risen despite significantly increased spending by corporations on DE&I.

A deep dive into the marketing and pr sector is troubling. 

As far as the proportion who have felt excluded is concerned this has risen between 2020 and 2021 from a third, to 41%. 

The research further reveals:

  • Only half the UK workforce think that the leader of their company takes personal responsibility for diversity.  Its also true that half the marketing and pr workforce believe this too.  However, this is a decrease from the statistics in 2020 when nearly two thirds had this belief.
  • A third of people in the workplace find office banter uncomfortable. This rises to half of 18–24-year-olds in the UK; 37% of LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer, and plus – other sexual communities) in the UK; and 38% BAME UK.  51% of our sector think this, and this too has worsened in the last year from under a third in 2020.
  • One in three people feel that they can’t bring their whole self to work and that they cannot be truly open about themselves. And more women than men feel this is the case. And it stands true for our sector.
  • Shockingly, one in four people have experienced bias, harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work. This rises to 39% of 18–24-year-olds (where there’s a sharp rise), 37% BAME, 49% disabled, 62%

neurodiverse, 43% of people diagnosed with mental illness, % of LGBTQ+ and 59% of women expecting their first child.  The percentage of people in our sector who have personally experienced bias, harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work has risen from 42% to over 60%.

  • One in three people have witnessed harassment, with similar levels across gender. It’s higher levels here: 52% under 24, 45% BAME, 59% disabled, 62% neurodiverse, 43% diagnosed with mental illness and 57% of the marketing and workforce.

Is there any good news?

Overall, 57% of the workforce feel comfortable at the moment to challenge this behaviour.  This has grown slightly in the UK overall, and its good news for our sector where two thirds of workers in pr and marketing now feel safe to challenge. However there is much more to do.

The shocking lack of progress is revealed in Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work, which was published in paperback by Bloomsbury on May 12 2022. The research was carried out specifically for the book by Dynata.

One in three people in the UK still don’t feel as though they belong at their workplace, and 37% of those who work in marketing and pr.   This book is about addressing those issues head-on in a new way, not just by throwing money at the problem – which we can see doesn’t work – but creating change collectively throughout the organization that you work for.

It is now time for action.  This is crucial in our sector where everyone is facing a talent crisis.  This research re-inforces the importance of a new approach, such as that led by the Advertising Association’s Talent Taskforce.

Book Description

Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work  (published in paperback by Bloomsbury on May 12 2022) is a ground-breaking investigation into diversity and equality in the workplace, arguing that everyone needs to be an active participant in the conversation if any meaningful progress is to take place. It has been described by Esquire as “the most important business book of the year”.

About the Authors

Sue Unerman is Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom, the largest media agency in the UK with over 200 clients. She is also the co-author of the bestselling book, The Glass Wall.

Kathryn Jacob OBE is CEO of Pearl and Dean, a cinema advertising company and co-author of the bestselling book, The Glass Wall.

Mark Edwards is a coach who trains businesses in diversity and inclusion, emotional intelligence and leadership. He is also the author of The Tao of Bowie.

(The research uses UK national figures and UK and USA marketing and pr figures for sample size robustness)

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