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Top employers prioritise gender diversity

High-performing organisations see the recruitment and progression of women as a business-critical priority, according to Top Employers Institute data

Its survey of the 90 companies certified this year as top employers in the UK found that diversity has moved up the agenda in terms of people-related priorities. Diversity ranked 12th as a priority last year and seventh this year.

The organisation found that 90% of these employers are already undertaking official programmes to ensure gender equality, making gender the highest ranking among the diversity initiatives surveyed. Diversity was seen as a key business imperative by almost as many (89%).

Speaking to HR magazine, UK country manager at Top Employers Institute Phil Sproston said that other organisations will follow the example set by these employers. “They are the outliers, and will inspire others to do more and do better on diversity. If we look at what has happened with performance management, there has been a complete 360 shift, and there is now a similar shift with diversity," he said.

Employers now see diversity as a business issue rather than just a moral one, he added: “All of our top employers absolutely understand that hiring more women, LGBT+ and BME people isn’t just a nice thing to do, it is imperative to business – and that if they do these things it will drive profitability."

There is still a fundamental lack of data around women at work, Sproston added: “Caroline Criado-Perez’s book Invisible Women showed that there is a complete lack of research and data when it comes to women, and proves that the workplace is still an unequal playing field. The employers who are getting it right are looking at gender diversity and making a strategic, systematic decision to improve things, through bringing in mentoring and development schemes, through looking at their hiring processes... and they are measuring and collecting that data.”

Sproston said that while allies are important, the priority should still be getting more women into board positions: “If you have more women in senior positions, they will fundamentally understand why there needs to be more flexible working options available and will therefore be more likely to bring those changes into the workplace."

In terms of how other employers can improve things, Sproston said that there needs to be a formalised strategy: “It’s not enough to simply use the right language. You need to have more women at C-level. From the board, to looking at the kinds of advertisements on your recruitment site, visibility is hugely important.”