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Finding the right fit


Published: 12 Jul 2022

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How can you know that an employer or business is genuinely diverse and inclusive? We speak to Liz Bingham, businesswoman and diversity and inclusion expert, about how job-hunters can establish whether employers really share their values, and how employers show their support for LGBTQ+ employees in particular.

During June, companies make the rainbow flag their social media profile picture to celebrate Pride month. In October, when Black History Month is observed, organisations release statements celebrating racial diversity. Additionally, many firms list diversity and inclusion as one of their core values.

When businesses clearly communicate that they support a diverse and inclusive workplace, people from under-represented or historically marginalised groups feel able to be themselves at work and know they can get support when needed. But companies also need to be authentic in what they do - and not just what they say - about diversity and inclusion.

Students, early career starters and graduates increasingly want to work for firms with values that align with their own. For example, 43% would turn down a job offer if the prospective employer’s D&I policies were not made clear*. Another survey**, found that 81% do not think companies are doing enough to ensure they are recruiting a diverse workforce. So how can you know a company is ‘walking the walk’ and not just ‘talking the talk’ when it comes to demonstrating a sincere commitment to diversity and inclusion?

From making provisions for neurodiverse employees, to creating networks for underrepresented groups - such as Black people and members of the LGBT community - many companies are taking steps to be genuinely diverse and inclusive. Companies are increasingly investing in D&I managers or teams whose sole role is to make inclusion a company priority, and the vast majority have D&I policies that include actively hiring people from lower income backgrounds.

How can you know an employer is truly inclusive?

Here are Liz's tips on how you can find out how truly inclusive an employer is:

Go online

“Like anything these days, finding a genuinely inclusive employer starts with doing your research. Look at the organisation’s website, the LinkedIn profiles of its senior staff – as well as the person who is going to be interviewing you or is named as the recipient for CVs and cover letters,” Bingham says.

“Doing that will give you an idea of how inclusive they are – especially if they’ve won any awards for D&I work, have any “champions” on staff, or have signed up to any charters or codes committing them to being as inclusive as possible.”

For example, the Charter for Black Talent in Finance and the Professions, is an initiative aimed at increasing the number of talented Black professionals in senior positions through meaningful action rather than aspirational statements. This could include committing to selecting Black candidates in tie-breaker situations for jobs.

“After that, I’d recommend having a look on Google,” Bingham adds. “What’s in the public domain, such as news articles and press coverage, can give you a real idea of how inclusive an organisation is beyond what it says on its website and social media channels – it’ll give you a picture of what it’s really like and whether what it says about inclusion and what it does about inclusion are aligned."

Ask the right questions at interview or assessment days

It’s always worth having questions to ask a recruiter or potential employer at job interviews or assessment days, and it provides an opportunity to find out more about the company’s commitment to D&I. For example, you could ask them about the networks at the company for different groups of people, how training and promotion opportunities are made available, and what kind of flexible working is possible. This will help you find out more about practical D&I measures and the company’s broader commitment to D&I.

“How people respond to questions like that will give you an idea of the true culture of the organisation – if they talk eloquently and confidently on these issues, or what they’re doing to improve or further improve these areas, you know they’re genuinely committed to being an inclusive business – and that they understand the benefits of doing so from a human, cultural and business perspective”.

Look at the top of the organisation

“A genuinely inclusive employer will be able to show that they have people from a broad range of backgrounds on their senior leadership team - such as the CEO, Financial Director or Marketing Director - as well as a true diversity of thought and perspective when it comes to decision making and taking,” Bingham explains.

“Being able to talk about and showcase the breadth of backgrounds – ethnic, socio-economic, and so on – amongst employees is an excellent starting point, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Looking at an organisation’s senior leadership team will show whether it has a true culture of ‘in and up’ – attracting and recruiting people from as broad a range of backgrounds as possible, and supporting them to go as far as they possibly can in the business."

Support from employers for the LGBTQ+ community

Alongside her OBE, Bingham has been named as one of the 100 most powerful women in Britain and ranked number 31 in the World Pride Power List of Influential LGBT people worldwide. She believes employers have become more inclusive of the LGBT community during the course of her career, and highlights the kinds of actions that demonstrate to LGBT employees how supportive an employer is of the community.

Visibility of LGBT role models at work and support from senior staff is crucial. For example, when senior staff are open about their sexuality, whether in media interviews or on the company website, this gives others more confidence to be themselves at work. Employers also demonstrate inclusion when they ask people from the LGBTQ+ community about their partners and spouses in the same way they used to ask about heterosexual partners and spouses. “This may seem a small thing, but using normalising language and having a normalising attitude and approach to something like this does have a cultural impact and it also gives people more confidence to be themselves at work, which we know makes them happier, more productive and more likely to stay with an organisation for longer,” Bingham says.

“This is important for people who aren’t just from the LGBT community, but for anyone from an under-represented group in society. Having role models encourages people to think ‘I could do that’ – especially if these role models have a high profile in their industry or profession. It means that the story of how they got to where they are is public, which can provide a roadmap and hopefully some inspiration for people who follow them.”

“Every single one of us is different from each other and I think businesses need to understand and embrace that – fully – so that people’s differences become assets to the business, its culture and ultimately its success,” Bingham says.

While there’s still work to be done for all under-represented or marginalised communities no one employer will get everything right, these are the signs that should reassure you as a candidate that employers are willing to improve and ‘walk the walk’ of diversity and inclusion.

What next?

1. Do a thorough internet search of a company: its own website, LinkedIn profiles of senior staff, and search for staff, client or customer views about the organisation.

2. Look up the person who is the named recipient for CVs and applications or the person who will interview you.

3. Look at how diversity and inclusion is apparent among senior staff members.

4. Research the kinds of codes and charters that employers have signed up to – these demonstrate that they are doing more than paying lip service to D&I.

5. Ask questions at interview or assessment days about D&I policies and how they are reflected in the make-up of the workforce, for example.

About Liz Bingham

Liz Bingham is a businesswoman and diversity and inclusion expert, who spent more than 30 years at EY as Managing Partner of the UK and Ireland Board, developing the firm’s employer brand and D&I policy. Now Senior Independent Director at the trade body R3, Liz Bingham has been honoured by the Queen with an OBE for her services to equality in the workplace. She firmly believes genuine inclusion must be demonstrated at the very top of any organisation.

*‘D&I in a post-pandemic world: How are UK workers feeling?’, report from recruitment consultancy, Michael Page.

**‘Beyond the Buzzword: Defining and attracting top graduate talent’, Recruiter Milkround