Diversity In The Workplace: What Recruiters Need To Know

Diversity in the workplace for recruiters

A recent Forbes Insights survey of more than 300 senior executives revealed that companies’ top two priorities for diversity and inclusion are; the recruitment of diverse employees (65%) and the retention of diverse talent (44%). Given these statistics, it stands to reason that top recruiters and agencies should not only be aware of their clients’ increasing diversity strategies but are in a unique position to advise on its growing importance.

The reason having a diverse workplace has become a global aspiration of modern organisations is not solely based on social morality and brand awareness, it is also based on evidence that it increases productivity and revenue. A 2015 Mckinsey study showed that:

“In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, Earnings Before Interest & Taxes (EBIT) rose by 3.5 percent.”

By having a plethora of cultures, experiences and different perspectives in the workplace, organisations are reaping the benefits in terms of creativity and productivity. To gain a broad understanding of the issues involved and how diversity is being implemented across the globe, let’s focus on what D & I means and which companies are leading the charge.

What Is Diversity & Inclusion In The Workplace?

Breaking it down, diversity refers to the mutual respect and appreciation of different groups of people including ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, education, religion and age. Inclusion is the process of creating a strategy that encourages all groups to have a voice and giving equal and ample opportunity for any individual to develop in the workplace.

Who Is Doing Diversity Well?

The National Football League (NFL)

The Rooney Rule was introduced in 2003 and aimed to increase racial diversity within the coaching ranks because, although 70% of players were black, only 6% of coaches were held by minorities. The rule stipulates that for any open position, the organisation has to interview at least one minority candidate. Despite taking some criticism, there’s no doubt that it has had a positive impact. By just 2006, the share of minority coaches had risen to 22%.

Perhaps the biggest success of the Rooney Rule is the fact that it has been adopted and evolved by many companies including Facebook, Pinterest and even the Pentagon.

British Airways (BA)

After conducting a survey in 2014, which revealed that 63% of women said they were deterred from becoming a pilot at a young age, British Airways launched the Future Pilot Programme – a cadet training facility aimed at bringing more female pilots and experienced employees into its ranks. As a result, in 2016, they recruited a record number of pilots.

Captain Stephen Riley commented, “We’re extremely proud that we have more female pilots than ever before, and we are continuing our recruitment campaign to encourage more women to apply to fly commercial aircraft.”

Although the number of female pilots in the UK is still low, at 6%, it does stand at double the global average of 3%. This campaign has also paved the way for other airlines to implement similar strategies such as Virgin Atlantic’s Future Flyers Programme, which launched earlier this year.

Female Pilot Diversity

Ernst & Young (EY)

EY are currently ranked no. 1 for Diversityinc.com’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, having appeared in the top 5 for the last 8 years. This award is primarily based on the ability to recruit, onboard, develop and retain talented individuals. Amongst other initiatives, EY became the first professional services firm to equalise paid parental leave. This means that both fathers and mothers are now eligible for up to 16 weeks of fully paid leave.

EY has also established the Neurodiversity Account Support program which aims to develop and provide employment opportunities to people who have neurological conditions such as Asperger’s and Tourette’s Syndrome, whilst at the same time improving client service delivery. There are currently 300 people in this function in US and EY and planning to expand it globally in 2017.


Like many of their social media and tech counterparts, Pinterest have been criticised for their lack of diversity, particularly within senior roles. So, in 2016, they decided to take the brave step in announcing their D&I goals. These included:

  • Increase hiring rates for full-time engineering roles to 30% female.
  • Increase hiring rates for full-time engineers to 8% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
  • Increase hiring rates for non-engineering roles to 12% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
  • Implement a Rooney Rule-type requirement where at least one person from an underrepresented background and one female candidate is interviewed for every open leadership position.

By laying bare their goals, achievements and shortcomings, they have held themselves accountable for improving diversity within the tech industry.

What Can Recruiters Learn?

Since 65% of senior executives believe the responsibility for implementing diversity and inclusion programs falls on HR, it should be a priority for recruiters to understand these issues, provide support and offer solutions to the problems faced in implementing and meeting D&I goals. By considering diversity and inclusion, recruiters can position themselves as trusted advisors and become more involved with their clients’ hiring process.

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