Inclusion and diversity will be key to a fair recovery
March 08, 2021
This year’s International Women’s Day will see many parents breathe a sigh of relief as children across the country return to the classroom and this latest chapter of home-schooling comes to an end. However, the impacts of the pandemic on women may prove longer lasting. Our latest Women in Work report highlights that undoing the damage done by COVID-19 to women in work by 2030 will require gender equality to progress twice as fast as its historical rate.
This disproportionate impact of the pandemic on particular groups, including women and younger generations, was one of the key themes at our recent roundtable discussion. We brought together PwC alumni and former partners working in government and the public sector to discuss inclusion and diversity
The pandemic has brought into sharp relief the importance of considering a diversity of perspectives and people in decision-making, rather than relying on your lived experience. Be it juggling home-schooling with work commitments, starting out on your career working from your bedroom in a shared flat, managing on furlough or looking for a new job, we’ve all had different work challenges to contend with during the pandemic. For me this makes inclusion and diversity more important than ever when we consider the return to the workplace, any ‘catch up’ that’s needed after COVID-19, and ensuring a fair recovery - a focus of our Future of Government programme.
There are a number of things needed to make this a reality. First, making inclusion strategic, rather than the preserve of HR or CSR. Attendees at the roundtable spoke about there too often being a reliance on a small number of passionate people to champion inclusion and diversity, when it needs to be embedded in workforce culture. Authentic leadership and tone from the top is critical to embedding inclusion and diversity in broader strategy and creating an environment and culture where everyone feels valued and able to fully contribute.
Related to this, and particularly when it comes to designing public services, was the question of how to embed inclusion by default. Attendees spoke of how engaging effectively and widely has been key to designing inclusive policy and programmes. If you don’t have the representation of the people you’re trying to serve, it’s difficult to design effective services for them. Others shared how they were promoting inclusion and diversity through their supply chains.
A lesson we’ve learned at PwC is the importance of data and transparency. It allows you to identify where your challenges lie, set specific and reasonable challenges, and focus on your strongest levers for change. Lots of organisations want to jump to solutions, but you need to start with a diagnosis of your key challenges - recruitment, promotion, fair allocation of work, meetings culture - and identify your strongest levers to make impactful change.
If the past year has taught us anything it’s that life isn’t static, and neither is inclusion and diversity. It’s a continuous learning journey, both at a personal and organisational level. Organisations need to create safe spaces for conversation, so that people aren’t afraid to talk or use the ‘wrong’ language. Difference can be challenging, but improving the diversity of the workforce is critical to the success of any organisation. Building a culture of trust and inclusion in organisations - be it private or public sector - has an important role to play in addressing inequalities and helping to achieve a more inclusive society.