Diversity policies must avoid benefiting those who already enjoy privileges

The author is a senior economist at the OECD

The ten years before the pandemic brought significant advances to diversity in the workplace, but not all groups benefited equally.

Almost all countries in the OECD country group have closed the gender and age gap in employment. At the same time, the acceptance of LGBT+ people has also increased. Corporate policies increasingly focus on immigration and ethnic minorities.

So far, women have been the biggest target of the diversification policy.recently OECD-wide survey Among human resources professionals, one in ten companies stated that they have set a goal to interview a minimum number of applicants from underrepresented groups-their main targets are women (76%), people with disabilities (39) , Ethnic minorities (30) and immigrants (19). Evidence from the United States shows that this kind of affirmative action has the greatest positive impact on white women, while the impact on black men, black women, or Hispanics is much smaller.

However, despite the progress made by many groups, this decade has not brought significant progress for those who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage.

Preliminary evidence shows Income inequality Affected by the epidemic further intensified. However, even taking into account pre-pandemic levels, the data shows that children from poor families may need five generations to reach an average income. However, the socio-economic background is rarely considered in corporate diversification efforts.

It is useful to acknowledge that although more inclusion of diverse groups will bring social benefits, the diversified business case of individual companies is not so obvious.

Although the impact of diversity on company performance is often studied—especially in terms of immigration and ethnic diversity—the extent to which it actually improves the company’s bottom line, reliable empirical evidence is mixed.

It is said that a more diverse workforce can cultivate different perspectives and ideas, and enhance the ability to innovate and solve problems. On the other hand, there is a potential risk of reduced productivity due to communication difficulties.

For example, in 2017 Learn, The output and productivity of teams of participants from different countries are lower than those of teams with more homogeneous countries of origin.

Diversity is a multidimensional conceptHowever, it contains many different groups and their intersectionality. This makes it extremely difficult to quantify its impact.

For example, two people of different origins or races but with privileged backgrounds may not have different opinions and ideas. On the other hand, different viewpoints may be more distinctive among the same ethnic groups who grew up in different socioeconomic environments.

One might say that addressing other types of disadvantages will reduce socioeconomic disadvantages, making this consideration unnecessary. However, this may not be the case.

The easiest way for a company to diversify is to “skim fat” across different groups. 2020 literature review OECD Research Recommendations that focus on policies that focus on ethnic minorities, and do not pay attention to socioeconomic disadvantages, tend to benefit the wealthy individuals in the group.

Similarly, an evaluation of the gender quota on the company’s board of directors shows that No effect Regarding improving the status of lower-level women.

Therefore, policies must avoid risks that primarily benefit those who are already relatively privileged.

There is also a clear lack of attention to socio-economic disadvantages in anti-discrimination legislation. Although almost all OECD countries prohibit discrimination based on gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation, and religion, less than half of the countries include socio-economic reasons.

Geography is also very important. E.g, OECD’s new job It shows that the concentration of immigrant children in schools has been increasing, and it is often related to lower educational outcomes.

Although our country has become more diverse, many schools and communities are not like that—especially in terms of socioeconomic background. This means that the natural contact between groups with different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds is less than people think.

Companies need to develop different recruitment channels for different communities, educational backgrounds and most existing employees.

However, this is not always straightforward, so public policies need to support companies, especially smaller companies, in their efforts to achieve true diversification of the workforce. For example, this can be achieved by providing diversity consultants-as previously done in Belgium and currently in Estonia.

It is time for companies to show that diversity is not a superficial issue. The touchstone of diversity policies will be whether they really reduce socioeconomic disadvantages, especially among disadvantaged groups.

Thomas Liebig is a senior economist at the OECD

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