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There has been little or no improvement in diversity or inclusion at work despite increased focus on this area over the past two years  – new research reveals

by uma


Despite more than £6 billion being spent on Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, the workplace is still full of inequality, prejudice, discrimination, marginalisation and harassment.

London, 10 May 2022: More than £6bn ($7.5bn) is spent on diversity and inclusion initiatives every year. There is very little evidence, however, that this expenditure in fact leads to increased diversity, especially at the top of business.

Newly published research (carried out in two phases, in early 2020 and then in late 2021)  shows that – despite the huge focus on this area that followed the murder of George Floyd and the BLM protests – the workplace is still full of inequality and unfairness, prejudice and discrimination.

Almost one in three people in the UK have felt excluded or marginalized at work because of their beliefs, personal circumstances or identity.

However, this rises to:

  • 54% of 18–24-year-olds,
  • 46% of mums returning from maternity leave,
  • over a third of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic),
  • 52% of people who are registered disabled,
  • and 50% who are neurodivergent.

One in three women expecting their first child have felt excluded in the UK.

Disappointingly many of these numbers have risen despite significantly increased spending by corporations on DE&I. 

The shocking lack of progress is revealed in Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work, which will be published in paperback by Bloomsbury on May 12 2022. The research was carried out specifically for the book by Dynata.

Sue Unerman, co-author of Belonging said: “One in three people in the UK still don’t feel as though they belong at their workplace.  In the UK workforce that means 11 million people.   This book is about addressing those issues head-on in a new way, not just by throwing money at the problem – which we can see doesn’t work – but creating  change collectively throughout the organization that you work for.”

Kathryn Jacob, co-author of Belonging said: “It is now time for action.”

The research further reveals:

  • Only half the UK workforce think that the leader of their company takes personal responsibility for diversity.
  • A third of people in the workplace find office banter uncomfortable. This rises to half of 18–24-year-olds in the UK; 37% of LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer, and plus – other sexual communities) in the UK; and 38% BAME UK.
  • One in three people feel that they can’t bring their whole self to work and that they cannot be truly open about themselves. And more women than men feel this is the case.
  • Shockingly, one in four people have experienced bias, harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work. This rises to 39% of 18–24-year-olds (where there’s a sharp rise), 37% BAME, 49% disabled, 62% neurodiverse, 43% of people diagnosed with mental illness, % of LGBTQ+ and 59% of women expecting their first child.
  • One in three people have witnessed harassment, with similar levels across gender. It’s higher levels here: 52% under 24, 45% BAME, 59% disabled, 62% neurodiverse, 43% diagnosed with mental illness.

Is there any good news?

Overall, 57% of the workforce feel comfortable at the moment to challenge this behaviour.  This has grown slightly in the UK, but not enough, there is much more to do.

Book Description

Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work  (published in paperback by Bloomsbury on May 12 2022) is a ground-breaking investigation into diversity and equality in the workplace, arguing that everyone needs to be an active participant in the conversation if any meaningful progress is to take place. It has been described by Esquire as “the most important business book of the year”.

About the Authors

Sue Unerman is Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom, the largest media agency in the UK with over 200 clients. She is also the co-author of the bestselling book, The Glass Wall.

Kathryn Jacob OBE is CEO of Pearl and Dean, a cinema advertising company and co-author of the bestselling book, The Glass Wall.

Mark Edwards is a coach who trains businesses in diversity and inclusion, emotional intelligence and leadership. He is also the author of The Tao of Bowie.