Companies ramp up diversity focus – with the number of D&I initiatives doubling in the past year

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Companies ramp up diversity focus – with the number of D&I initiatives doubling in the past yearTwice as many professionals (64%) stated that they are aware of their employer’s diversity & inclusion initiatives, compared to 2019.

In the face of mandatory remote working, active participation in diversity & inclusion initiatives has grown by +10% in lockdown – with more than a third of professionals now participating in employer-led working groups.

Interestingly, 15% of respondents who previously had not been actively involved in D&I initiatives stated that this was something they now intended to get involved with following the resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in Summer 2020.

The findings come from a survey of 7,500 professionals across the UK & Ireland by leading recruiter Robert Walters – and comes ahead of the launch of the Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Strategy Report – which will be one of the most significant survey-led insight into D&I progression in the workplace in the past two years.

In what has been a positive result in employers’ efforts, the report findings highlight that two-thirds of professionals (61%) feel that their organisation ‘celebrates people’s differences’ – with +10% more women feeling confident to negotiate salary, and pay satisfaction amongst black professionals increasing by +10% in the past year.

Louise Campbell – Managing Director of Robert Walters Ireland comments:

D&I has rightly been a prime concern for leadership teams, who now actively understand how critical an effective D&I policy is for success. But this is an intersectional and complex matter – and the nuances of D&I mean that some conversations are, in some respects, still in their infancy.

Whilst we celebrate any steps forward that have been made – and our report shares best practice examples that everyone  can learn from - our year-on-year findings indicate that there is still some way to go to close the diversity & inclusion gap.

As the option to return to the office draws closer, employers must not take their foot off the pedal in regard to inclusion – where our findings indicate that remote working has had the potential to further marginalise under-represented and minority professionals who didn’t feel the same level of connectivity to the workplace pre-lockdown.”


Despite organisations stepping-up their efforts around D&I in 2020, the impact of Covid-19 has been widespread and varying amongst individuals – with early studies all showing that under-represented and minority groups have been the most negatively impacted.

Whilst the full impact yet to be determined, experts predict that the Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to push back any progression made around diversity & inclusion in the workplace by as much as 5-10 years.

  • Disabled professionals: With Ireland having one of the highest inactivity rates for persons with disabilities in the EU, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission warns that there is a real risk that discrimination against disabled workers may become even more widespread in the coming period of economic turbulence. In addition, the rising costs of living with a disability due to expenditure on PPE and shielding measures could further exclude persons with disabilities from the labour market – placing them at an increased risk of poverty and social exclusion.
  • Women in work: According to a report from McKinsey – women are 1.8 times more likely to lose their job as a result of the pandemic, compared to men – due to varying factors such as women being disproportionately represented in vulnerable industries such as leisure, hospitality and retail, as well the heightened burden of childcare during lockdown – which is disproportionately carried by women.
  • Impact to non-national minorities: According to National Economic & Social Council, migrant-background families have a lower level of income than Irish-born families and so were more likely to feel the financial effects of the Covid-19 lockdown more strongly. In addition, non-Irish nationals are over-represented in sectors severely affected by Covid-19 – such as accommodation and food – and so will have been at higher risk of unemployment.
  • The age factor: According to industry figures, the long stretch of lockdown has already had a negative impact on youth employment – with popular graduate and training schemes from large corporations on hold. Added to that, some 10,6000 jobs for 15-24 year-olds are at risk in the hospitality sector in just Dublin alone – highlighting the potential long-term social and economic effects of the pandemic.

Nic Hammarling – Partner & Diversity & Inclusion specialist at Pearn Kandola comments:

“Whilst analysis into this is still early, both Covid-19 and lockdown have had some serious D&I implications at both a macro & societal level - from a rise in anti-Chinese prejudice we’ve witnessed across the globe to childcare being disproportionately dispersed amongst socio-economic groups and across gender.

“Making genuine progress on diversity and inclusion is about turning multiple cogs at the same time. It is about tackling the barriers to diverse recruitment, whilst also tracking progression from entry-level roles. It is about tackling bias in appraisal and bonus decisions whilst also addressing the importance of managers understanding the personal circumstances of their team members. It is about tackling pay disparity whilst also ensuring everyone has good access to the resources available.

“It is positive to see that participation amongst employees is growing, but we must not slow down in our research, understanding and action.”

The Robert Walters’ Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Strategy Report publishes on 26 April 2021 – and features insight from leading D&I organisations including  Qlearsite, Pearn Kandola, BYP Network, The Kaleidoscope Group and Inclusive Group. To request your copy of the report click here.