The role of trade unions with diversity and inclusion

Last week on behalf of the Alliance for Finance, Caroline Taylor, National officer at Community chaired the most recent seminar on Diversity and inclusion.

Caroline Taylor writes following the event.

Of course, the subject of diversity and inclusion is not a new challenge. In wider society as well as in employment generally, serious inequalities amongst different groups of people have always existed, causing a lack of opportunity, limiting talent and creativity and in turn an inability to unlock potential gains.

It is no secret that research points to correlations between diversity and inclusion and positive outcomes in innovation, problem solving and good workplace environments. These outcomes directly contribute to sustainable employers which act in a socially responsible way and are effective in society, are more attractive in the job market and create a better labour market and, for us, financial sector.

Employers in general, but also regulators and Trade Unions, need to have a shared interest in moving towards a more diverse and inclusive sector.

Initiatives such as the Women in Finance Charter, the Race at Work Charter and the Social Mobility Task Force, have largely tried to use peer pressure to force change by introducing targets and encouraging transparency. These have created some progress and allow employers to share experiences and successes too.

Despite having legislation in place, and after these initiatives and countless research papers, discussion reports and seminars such as this one, the discussion overall is still at an early stage.  When we talk about diversity and inclusion, we may immediately think of gender balance, and equal opportunities for different ethnicities. Yet there are a much larger range of inequalities, both across the ‘protected characteristics’ and also more socio-economic factors.  Let alone when there are two or more characteristics in play at the same time.

We also tend to have a focus on diversity, probably because it’s a much easier piece of the puzzle to build clear targets and measures achievements.  Inclusion is often a much more subjective issue and is invisible to those that enjoy it which we don’t tend to think about if there are no incidents that cause us to notice a problem.

Vernā Myers, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Netflix, is credited with coining the phrase “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

In terms of how to approach the problem, we are especially inexperienced.  Many people do not know how to approach a subject like diversity, inclusion or inequality.  Many people do not know how to have sensitive conversations around the subject, and many people would rather not have the conversation at all.  It is perhaps all too easy to create some targets, a diversity and inclusion manager and some inclusion networks and call it ‘job done’. However, that is no longer acceptable, as increasing pressure for change is becoming apparent from wider society, and people, customers and investors are all demanding more.

Organisations must now step up and deliver more in this area and Trade Unions have a vital role in supporting them to do just that.

If you missed this session a recording and transcript will be available on  the Alliance for Finance website.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.

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