Mandatory diversity policies, in both private and public sector organisations, are needed to drive improvements in racial equality in the workplace, according to a review for a charity most famous for raising funds for a statue of nursing pioneer Mary Seacole.
Those behind the review warned that voluntary approaches had so far not provided the impact that was needed to bring about society-wide change.
“Inequality in the workplace is unacceptable, yet it remains a historically resilient feature of the British labour market”
The Mary Seacole Trust (MST) commissioned an independent review to examine recent findings from high-profile reports on race equality and inclusion in the workplace.
The review forms part of the charity’s programme to work to “move the needle” on the diversity in leadership agenda. It said the aim was to achieve improvements by bringing together both the private and public sectors to share ideas and solutions on the issue.
The review’s findings were based on independent analysis for the charity and published this week in a new report – titled Race Equality in the Workplace: A Review of Theory and Practice.
It saw a workforce policy expert, Dr Habib Naqvi, draw together key findings from existing reports. These included:
- Race at Work (Business in the Community)
- Equality, Diversity and Racism in the Workplace: A Qualitative Analysis of the Race at Work Survey; Race in the Workplace (The McGregor-Smith Review)
- A Report into the Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards (The Parker Review)
- Insecure Work and Ethnicity (TUC Report)
After reviewing the reports, Dr Naqvi, policy lead for the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard at NHS England, concluded that to help improve racial equality in the workplace, mandatory diversity policies in both private and public sector organisations were needed.
In addition, Dr Naqvi called for data-driven accountability to back up the policies and a development of a compassionate and learning culture.
In his report he stated: “The use of a mandated diversity policy with data-driven accountability is not only the way forward on this agenda, but is also a clear recognition that previous voluntary approaches have, in general, not provided the system-wide impact that we need.”
However, it noted that a “mandate and a contractual obligation will not be sufficient on its own to ensure that staff feel respected, valued, engaged, and supported”.
Therefore, the report highlighted that a “parallel and simultaneous focus needs to be given towards establishing and nourishing compassionate and learning cultures within organisations”.
Following his work on the review, Dr Naqvi has been appointed an Ambassador for the Mary Seacole Trust, the charity noted.
“There is clear recognition that voluntary approaches have not provided the society-wide impact that we need”
Dr Naqvi said: “Inequality in the workplace is unacceptable, yet it remains a historically resilient feature of the British labour market – the evidence is there.”
“This is a multi-factorial challenge that requires a multi-factorial response – real, evidence-based interventions, data-driven accountability for managers, and a change in organisational culture to ensure that all staff feel respected, valued, engaged and supported,” he added.
Karen Bonner, nurse and chair of the MST diversity in leadership project, said: “The message is clear and simple: greater diversity in your organisation leads to greater diversity of thought which, in turn, generates innovative approaches to achieving organisational success.”
“There is clear recognition that voluntary approaches have not provided the society-wide impact that we need on this important agenda,” added Ms Bonner who is divisional director of nursing at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
The charity grew out of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, which was behind fundraising efforts for the new statue honouring Crimean War heroine Mary Seacole, which was unveiled in 2016 in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
Among the charity’s stated aims are to “campaign for fairness and equality, promoting diverse leadership in private and public service, including, although not limited to, the NHS in the UK”.