SMEs need to push harder on diversity and inclusion, say staff

A survey of SME respondents reveals a lack of action among firms to pursue diversity and inclusion

Employee confidence about their organisation’s commitment to workplace diversity and inclusion is low, with a new UK study revealing that over half of respondents believe their company still has work to do.

Out of the 1,001 employees surveyed by software insights firm, GetApp, 19% say there isn’t a diversity and inclusion policy in place within their company. Out of this, just 8% say their firm plans on “implementing one in the near future,” while 11% say there aren’t any plans to do it.

With SMEs accounting for 99.9% of the UK’s business population, the following research reveals that SMEs, the lifeblood of the UK’s business economy, need more diverse leadership teams and must use social movements to implement contributing initiatives that create impact. But many are failing to do so.

SMEs need more diversity and inclusion in their workforce

A sizeable minority of respondents reported low workforce diversity in their organisations, with 19% revealing that “not many employees come from racially diverse backgrounds”. In comparison, 14% say that no employees come from diverse backgrounds.

Out of those that did report some workforce diversity (45%), the most common forms of diversity included age and generation diversity ( 61%), followed by gender diversity (53%) and ethnic diversity (50%).

Truly diverse leadership is also lacking in SMEs, with 37% of employees calling their leadership team “a bit diverse” and 32% saying it is not diverse at all.

Regarding career progression and gender diversity, 40% believe their company is not transparent on pay raises and promotions, and 20% believe men are paid more than women. A further 15% believe men have more growth opportunities within their company.

Respondents also reported discrimination in the workplace, with 23% having either been personally discriminated against or know someone who has. The most common form of discrimination at 29% was racial discrimination, followed by age and generation-based discrimination at 27% and gender discrimination at 23%.

Of this, 28% said they filed a complaint that managers didn’t take seriously, showing a concerning lack of safeguarding for victims of discrimination in SMEs.

A failure to support social movements

While a significant proportion of respondents (57%) believe it is “very important” to work for businesses that support social movements such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ rights, 15% said it is not at all important, of which the majority were male between the ages of 55-60.

Three-quarters of employees involved in the survey said that diversity is important to them; however, 5% didn’t. Out of this group, a majority were also men between the age of 55-60.

This shows that SMEs must focus on educating and getting buy-in from older male employees on diversity and inclusion topics as allyship will help these measures become effective.

The survey also found that after the Black Lives Matter movement, 44% of respondents said no conversations or meetings took place, with a further 20% revealing that their company hasn’t yet delivered on its initiatives.

Sonia Navarrete, content analyst at GetApp UK, comments: “The results of the recent GetApp’s study of SME employees reveal inequalities and disparities present within many UK businesses.

“The survey also disclosed some concerning mentalities when it comes to the importance of diversity and equality, with almost a third of SME employees believing it is not very important to support social movements such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ rights, and 15% believe it is not at all important.”

In this article, you learned that:

  • SMEs need to engage older male workers in diversity and inclusion initiatives, including supporting social movements.
  • Managers may need to work on taking discrimination reports more seriously.
  • The survey reveals that men agree to some extent that there are better growth opportunities for them compared to women in UK SMEs.
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