Disconnect between intention and reality on diversity and inclusion, says survey

Less than one-third of executives believe their companies have made good progress in promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) relative to ethnicity, age, disability or sexual orientation, according to a survey published today by talent management firm Egon Zehnder.

It found that 96% of participants said that working in a diverse and inclusive environment is personally important to them. However, less than half said their company was making good progress in promoting diversity of perspectives and thinking, nationality, industry backgrounds or educational backgrounds.

More than 500 executives participated in the global leadership survey focusing on understanding attitudes and actions affecting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, less than half (48%) said working in a diverse environment was easy.

While most executives (80%) surveyed said their company actively promotes diversity, many organisations retain traditional rationales for promoting D&I, including access to top talent (63%) and equal opportunities and fair treatment (60%). More progressive rationales such as fostering a learning organisation, access to new markets and customer bases and innovations are a top reason for promoting D&I for less than half of companies, claims the survey.

Laurence Monnery, head of the diversity council at Egon Zehnder, said: "The study shows that the answer is not official measures such as workshops or quotas but is essentially a leadership challenge.

"The key lies in promoting inclusive leaders who can better embed diversity in their organisation, processes and culture."

Monnery added: "This is particularly important as leadership teams are often far from diverse themselves."

Damien O'Brien, CEO and Chairman of Egon Zehnder said: "Our study shows that leaders clearly understand that diversity and inclusion is not a necessary duty that should be driven by compliance and number-orientated strategies, but instead leverages their companies to perform at much higher levels."

Egon Zehnder's survey was conducted in the summer of 2012. Over 500 executives took part in the survey.