A couple of weeks ago, I attended The Diversity Conference Scotland. It was a Glasgow-based event, in association with The Herald, Standard Life Aberdeen and Gen Analytics. Certainly, issues of gender have been a hot topic in business editorial, so I was keen to see what the line up of speakers had to say on the matter – as well as issues of sex, race and disability diversity.
The day was opened by Jamie Hepburn, MSP, who made the point that diversity is about valuing the differences we can bring to the workplace and that the conference should help to inspire and support employers in order to help individuals achieve their full potential.
The line up of speakers was incredibly inspiring. Marie Macklin of the Halo Project spoke with passion and joy at the work the company was doing to rejuvenate impoverished and divided communities. Many in the room were impressed with her no-nonsense attitude when it came to being a “woman in business”.
There were several panel discussions, which gave way to questions from the audience and conversations at our tables. Many of us could hardly believe the statistics we had heard about ethnic minority and disability unemployment rates or the ongoing gender pay gap. Some of the statistics unveiled gave way to hearty debate in the room.
A lot of the diversity issues raised – from LGBTQI acceptance to finding talent from ethnic minority backgrounds were as applicable to the big, international corporations as they were to Scottish SMEs. The challenge is simply putting what we have learned into action in order to create a workplace that welcomes and values all.
Businesses were challenged to create environments wherein every employee is free to be themselves. Lynne Connolly, Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Standard Life Aberdeen, argued that change cannot stem from just one business; we should share best practice in order to seek out diverse talent and retain them within the workplace.
Because that’s what it boils down to in many cases of diversity – you can often feel worthless if your job search is fruitless or if an employer fails to uphold the standard of fairness and inclusion that you had hoped for.
It’s about setting down the legislation and acting on it. We shouldn’t include diversity initiatives because we feel we have to – we should want to include everyone. We should want to have as wide a talent pool as possible. After all, it has been proven that the more diverse a business is, the more productive and successful it is.
Diversity is not another office buzzword; it’s not a trendy cause. It’s something that can have real and meaningful impact on workplaces and communities as a whole.