Diversity: dividends and challenges
Dr Caroline Williams, Director of Open Programmes at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School, says:
“The business benefits of diversity are well documented. More importantly, a diverse workplace is a future-proofed workplace.”1
Recent data from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) shows that 47% of employers are now struggling to fill vacancies. This is up slightly from the previous quarter, which was 45%. And almost three-quarters (72%) are hoping to recruit in the next three months.2 So, seeking out and supporting a diverse workforce will become increasingly important in the challenge to recruit and retain talent.
However, Dr Williams says: “When we talk about diversity, the picture is greater than ‘just’ gender and ethnicity. Socioeconomic, disability and neuro-variance inclusion also add crucial dimensions to business performance.”
Building a more diverse workforce also brings specific challenges. For example, how best to support the health and wellbeing needs of individual team members. It also shines a spotlight on the impact of existing inequalities. The burden of many diseases and health issues is not borne equally.
Women are at greater risk of developing auto-immune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.3 And while they have a lower risk of heart disease than men, if they do have a heart attack the odds of it being misdiagnosed are 50% higher.4
Ethnicity also influences our health. White Britons have the highest overall risk of developing cancer but the risks around specific cancers vary. People of Asian ethnicity have the greatest risk of thyroid cancers. Asian men are at increased risk of Hodgkin lymphoma and Black men are at the most risk of prostate cancer.5
People with South Asian or African Caribbean background have twice the risk of developing type-2 diabetes before the age of 80 than White Europeans.6 A study based on more than a million UK patient records shows that South Asians are at greater risk of having a heart attack (67%) or stroke (29%). For Black people, the increased risk is 51% and 24% respectively.7
Even COVID-19 discriminates against some groups. Data shows that Pakistani and Bangladeshi people are at significantly higher risk of serious infection and death from COVID-19 than other ethnic groups.8 Research suggests a number of factors are involved. These include social inequality, genetics and lifestyle behaviours. And this is true of almost all disease.
Ethnicity also impacts mental health. There’s evidence that Black men are at higher risk of psychotic disorders. And older South Asian women are an at-risk group for suicide.9 There are also significant differences around interventions and treatment.
HR and Wellbeing teams need to make sure their organisation’s health and wellbeing offerings match their team's needs.
“It’s important to park any preconceived ideas that we all have broadly similar health and wellbeing challenges — one-size fits all just isn’t the case, so we must really take the time to analyse and understand the data we have on our people.
”Use workforce data, surveys and conversations with staff to map the demographics of your workforce. Pinpoint any health and wellbeing trends or gaps. This will also help to identify the needs and challenges around specific minority groups and highlight opportunities to signpost existing support more effectively.”
1 University of Oxford. Published: 2022. Accessed: 2022. https://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/oxford-answers/why-inclusion-and-diversity-are-key-business-growth
2 CIPD. Published: 2022. Accessed: 2022. https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/labour-market-outlook-summer-2022_tcm18-106241.pdf(PDF,0.5MB)
3 National Center for Biotechnology Information – The Prevalence of Autoimmune Disorders in Women: A Narrative Review. Published: 2020. Accessed: 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7292717/
4 British Heart Foundation. Published: 2019. Accessed: 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7292717/
5 British Journal of Cancer – Differences in cancer incidence by broad ethnic group in England, 2013-2017. Published: 2022. Accessed. 2022. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41416-022-01718-5
6 British Heart Foundation. Published: 2021. Accessed: 2022. https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/research-successes/ethnicity-and-heart-disease
7 BMC Medicine. Published: 2022. Accessed: 2022. https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-022-02337-w
8 Gov.uk. Published: 2022. Accessed: 2022. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-ethnicity-subgroup-interpreting-differential-health-outcomes-among-minority-ethnic-groups-in-wave-1-and-2-24-march-2021/covid-19-ethnicity-subgroup-interpreting-differential-health-outcomes-among-minority-ethnic-groups-in-wave-1-and-2-24-march-2021
9 Mental Health Foundation. Published: 2021. Accessed: 2022. https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-022-02337-w
10 Free to Soar: Race & Wellbeing in Organisations, Edited by Binna Kandola, Pearn Kandola Publishing. 2020 £11.99 (pb) 44 pp. ISBN 9781527267725
11 City Mental Health Alliance. Published: 2021. Accessed: 2022. https://citymha.org.uk/Resources/News-and-Views/915-/mental-health-and-race-at-work
12 CIPD. Published: 2022. Accessed: 2022. https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/labour-market-outlook-summer-2022_tcm18-106241.pdf(PDF,0.5MB)
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