Companies need to broaden language on diversity, says EY

A disproportionate focus on gender in the diversity debate means other areas risk falling behind, says Liz Bingham, EY's managing partner for talent in the UK and Ireland.

Bingham told HR magazine the word diversity for many people only means gender. "We need to stop talking about diversity and start a conversation around difference," she said. "There is a risk that we will think we have won too early on this issue and stop making progress in the areas of race, religion and social background. 

"Even the word diversity appears to have become synonymous with gender. During a recent meeting with my counterparts from the Middle East and China, I was told that ‘diversity’ simply doesn’t translate in many languages and that its meaning has become linked with the representation of women on boards."

Bingham claimed that companies focus on gender because it is an area where it is relatively easy to demonstrate progress. "It is easy to measure success in gender equality. HR systems will pick up straight away if someone is a man or a woman. Other areas of difference are harder to identify so employers have to work harder to measure them. There is a risk that the other areas will be forgotten among all the talk on gender diversity," she said. 

Hiring managers must be aware of their inherent biases when recruiting and working closely with recruitment companies is also crucial to neutralise this. "Individuals all have inbuilt biases," Bingham said. "It's about being conscious of this and being able to cope with them. If recruitment companies make sure that shortlists for roles are as diverse as possible this will also help."