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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The world of work would be better if… Equality support was more than lip service

The instalment in a series of blogs from HappyMaven HR & Communications Advisor, Jacob Bean, exploring how the world of work could change for the better...

With recent years being defined by social movements and civil unrest, it is of no surprise that it has influenced businesses. Data from the Global Peace Index highlights that in the period from 2011 to 2019, the number of riots, general strikes and anti-government demonstrations around the world increased by 244 per cent. (1). Included in this data are social justice movements and activism, with recent examples including Black Lives Matter protesting the killing and unjust systemic treatment of black people, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and various women’s rights and pro-choice protests globally.

Research from Deloitte’s Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z survey shows that young people are taking action with the intent of driving change. With ~30% of respondents attending political events or meetings regarding local affairs, ~36% volunteering to charities and non-profits, and ~30% participating in demonstrations, protests and marches. Young people also act with their spending, company’s COVID-19 responses were the reason for a third to start or deepen consumer relationships, and the reason for a quarter to lessen such relationships (2).

"Young people are taking action with the intent of driving change."

Perhaps a slightly cynical view, and not to discredit bringing attention to and increasing awareness of social justice issues, but companies whose support and action goes as far as changing a logo are doing so merely because it’s good for business. When a logo featuring a rainbow is used and social media posts are made during July, followed by promptly removing the logo on August 1st and not speaking on the topic for another 11 months, what else is it? Shown by spending habits and behaviour, customers respond better to and engage more with companies in which they are morally and ethically aligned with, these actions are simply better for business. The term ‘rainbow capitalism’ is often used in this critical context and means the targeted inclusion of LGBTQ+ movements and iconography in capitalism and consumerism.

There are other processes at play such as virtue signalling and pink washing, where publicly positions and views are presented with the intent to show good ethical and moral character, and where support is given to LGBTQ+ issues to distract from other ethical and moral violations. A key example of this is in Amazon’s ‘fulfilment centres’, where pride flags are flown above very questionable worker conditions (3) and violations.

Such company actions aren’t limited to pride, with many supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in early 2020, but still having terrible diversity among decision making teams, limited opportunities for POCs and exclusive hiring practices. While this issue can’t be addressed overnight, research by McKinsey highlights that a significant portion of companies have made little to no diversity gains over the last 5 years (4).

At HappyMaven we work with companies to help them make sustainable commitments and investments into equality, diversity and inclusion. Ensuring that policy and practice align to actively reach and support disenfranchised employee groups. Rather than adopting performative actions we work to develop workplace cultures where the aspirational external communications is reflected in the internal working practices.

Time and time again, the business and human case for diverse and inclusive workplaces is proven to have a positive relationship with performance, productivity and profit – so let's get ready to commit more than just lip service.

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