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HR must not rush D&I strategies

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Businesses must build on the momentum of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to combat racism and promote diversity, says broadcaster and BBC director of creative diversity, June Sarpong.

Speaking at the Diversity & Inclusion Sessions: a cross-sector approach in unprecedented times event by The Whitehall & Industry Group, Sarpong said employers and HR teams must promote being actively anti-racist to cultivate diversity in the workplace.

In February 2021, People Like Us research found two-thirds (67%) of London professionals feel that diversity and inclusion (D&I) has become a higher priority for their company since the BLM came into the spotlight last year. Yet workers outside the capital were three times more likely to say that their workplace had done nothing in response to the BLM movement.

While D&I strategies can challenge unconscious bias in the workplace, Sarpong warned if HR teams rush their introduction, they risk having a negative impact on the workforce instead of a positive one.

She said: “Businesses should first test out models of D&I strategies on smaller scales to check if they will have an impact, if successful, they can then be scaled up across the wider business.   

“Sometimes with HR, there’s too much of a rush to bring in policies and programmes and this can damage the good D&I strategies can have on a business.”


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Sarpong also spoke about how businesses with workforces which are equal parts men and women makes for higher collective intelligence, which in turn makes for better practice in general. 

She said: "In a study conducted by professor John Malone, he found if a business has more women in it, the group as a whole would perform better.

"That's not to say you need more women than men in a team, but instead, the closer you can get to gender parity the better it is for the overall performance of the business." 

Sarpong added that she believes diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones, which is why every type of woman, no matter their ethnicity, sexual preference or body ableness should not be excluded from workforces.   

"When we're looking at gender, we can't just focus on one kind of woman.

"We have to make sure that we are taking an intersectional approach and that all women are given a seat at the table."