Hot topic: Diversity quotas

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PwC has announced plans to ban all-male shortlists to boost the number of senior women

The BBC then revealed a ban on all-white shortlists for jobs above a certain grade, as only 6% of senior positions are held by BAME individuals, with ITN following suit. So is it time to introduce quotas in all areas or are there more effective ways to increase diversity?

Frank Douglas, CEO of Caerus Executive, says:

India has what is considered the first quota policy. It was created in 1950 to deal with the inequalities suffered by the ‘scheduled tribes’, with a focus on the Dalits. Since its creation the number of Dalits in senior civil service positions has risen from approximately 1.6% to 12%

(they make up 16% of the population). France and Brazil have introduced ‘quotas’ in their university systems, while Norway has created quotas for women on boards.

This brings us to the UK, where women, disabled and BAME individuals are underrepresented in most senior roles. We have had the Parker, Davis, McGregor-Smith and ‘Snowy Peaks’ Reviews, but none have significantly moved the dial.

We are in 2018 and I don’t think society can wait another five to 10 years to fix inequality. Therefore, while quotas should be a last resort, I believe we are at the point where they can no longer be left off the table. It is time to recognise that the ‘voluntary’ approach is a slow burn; do we want to still be having this discussion in 10 years? If the answer is no then we should be considering the ‘nuclear option’ regarding diversity.

Angela O’Connor, CEO and founder of The HR Lounge, says:

Headlines suggesting bans on all-male or all-white shortlists can be misleading. Both PwC and the BBC are looking at their recruitment as part of a wider approach to improving diversity. They will have looked at talent pools and queried why, if there are people from underrepresented groups available, they are not making it onto shortlists. There are some important distinctions to make here. Is the gap around applications? Does the problem lie with headhunters? Or are people simply not applying?

There are several possible causes for a lack of diversity in senior roles. It could stem from the organisation’s reputation, lack of specificity of the role requirements, less than imaginative headhunters, or biased selection panels. Just as the reasons for the gap are varied, so are the solutions. The issue needs to be based on a proper analysis of the problems rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to diversity.

Whatever process is used, it has to have the principle of selection based on merit alone at its core. A number of organisations have found that using this approach means they have been able to fundamentally improve the representation of women and BAME individuals in senior positions.

Check back tomorrow for part two

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