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How to lead on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

The equality, diversity and inclusion ecosystem

At Equality Group, we often think about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) as a tree.

When EDI strategies work, the thick brown branches and bright green waxy leaves represent the positive outputs we see in our workplace. Inclusive and considered leadership; diverse, flourishing and fulfilled team; an educated and empathetic workforce; transparent communication across internal and external channels.

Meanwhile, the root system is the network of unseen structures that provide the nutrients and stability for the trunk, branches and leaves to flourish. The long-term EDI strategies; the data that’s collected and evaluated; the team training sessions; the inclusive hiring practices; the flexible working policies and culture; the check-ins over a cup of tea; the manager that asks for contributions from all their team members.

As a team of EDI consultants, we are most concerned with this root system - without it, a tree wouldn’t be able to grow or survive.

But, roots are buried deep under the surface and pulling them up is both difficult and disruptive. So like a gardener, we inspect what’s visible to check on a tree's health. If the leaves are yellow and the branches brittle, we know something is up under the surface.

Honordex: evaluating EDI performance for multiple stakeholders

Our in-house AI-powdered tool Honordex measures and analyses an organisation's EDI performance by assessing a range of publicly available data across 42 EDI metrics backed up with academic science.

All these indicators are increasingly important to a number of important stakeholders. Large institutional investors are focused on EDI of their managers, with a recent report from LGT Capital of 230 global investors showing that 63% would decline investing in a manager (General Partners) due to issues with EDI. 

Alongside this, younger employees in Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) have a greater interest in human rights, race and ethnicity issues, LGBTQ+ equality, and feminism than any of their predecessors. This generation is also more racially and ethnically diverse than other generations. Almost half of all Gen Z people belong to a minority group and it’s only natural that they want to see that diversity reflected in the employers they work for and the brands they support.

Transparent communication about EDI commitments, clearly stated flexible working and supportive people policies, a diverse leadership team, an inclusive team page, social media posts and reports - are all indicators of the inner working of an organisation.

It's important to note that alone these indicators are not enough to shift cultures, as they are all interlinked and support one another. For real change to happen, all of these different areas have to work together.

Honordex evaluates the cumulative effect of all these factors. Firms receive a score that breaks things down across different categories, highlighting both weaknesses and strengths, while also generating a total score. We then sort these scores into four categories - leader, leveller, learner and laggard. Leader is the highest score, while laggard is the lowest. You can read more about this in our annual Venture Capital and Private Equity Honordex report.

How to look after your roots and improve your EDI score 

One of Equality’s Group commitments this year is to improve the EDI score of the VC and PE sector by 10%. We want more EDI leaders to be established and more learners to blossom. 

At Equality Group we know that institutional investors and future talent are looking at this date. Healthy performance on EDI can be the difference between raising funds and attracting the best talent in the market. 

To help the industry get there, below are the different areas of our Honordex tool reviews and practical things your organisation can do to score highly and gain your LEADER badge.

Think of each section like a branch on the tree and each recommendation as a different way to look after your root system that supports the whole organism.

1. Transparency

Building trust is an essential part of equality, diversity and inclusion work. Trusting employees are more likely to stay at a company. Trusting clients and customers are more likely to do business.

Transparency, the act of doing something in an open, honest and visible way, is one way to build trusting relationships. 

To build transparency levels, Equality Group recommends that companies: 

  • Add a diversity statement to your website which is clearly visible and easy to access
  • Dedicate a section of your website to your EDI values and initiatives and make this clear on social media channels
  • Acknowledge more than three protected characteristics - such as gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation - across your statements and committments
  • Make public statements at conferences, events, and news reports about your support for EDI

2. Inclusive team

An inclusive team is one where everyone’s contributions are acknowledged and a wide range of employees are represented across the organisation. Feeling included and listened to leads to higher levels of performance and lower turnover rates.

To support and nurture an inclusive team, Equality Group recommends that companies:

  • Include images of a diverse group of employees (in terms of gender, race and other visible diversity characteristics) on your website
  • Give all team members equal emphasis on your company website (e.g. on the team's page)
  • Demonstrate accountability for diversity data by communicating the demographic composition of teams
  • Add representative images to your social media profiles and reports

3. Work/ life support

Work-life balance is an essential part of building an inclusive workplace. Flexibility is particularly important for parents or those with additional caring responsibilities. Creating environments where staff can switch off and decompress is essential for staff happiness and productivity levels.

Here are some of Equality Group's recommendations for building a supportive environment that prioritises work/life balance: 

  • Highlight flexible working policies for all employees clearly on your website
  • Acknowledge any parental leave policies you have in place
  • Indicate whether you have equal parental leave
  • List company policies and benefits for every employee clearly

4. Actions and data

To make tangible and impactful EDI progress, organisations need to measure what they are currently doing to understand the areas that need to be improved.

You can’t measure what you don’t manage. Firms need to start with a baseline, to understand what goals they need to set and how they will monitor progress. 

When it comes to data, these are the areas Equality Group encourages its business to focus on:

  • Review potential pay disparities by demographic diversity, across gender and race
  • Survey the experiences of inclusion and equity across the firm
  • Provide mentoring, coaching and sponsorship support for employees
  • Create EDI resources to share with your ecosystem

5. Leadership 

Effective change is led from the top. A diverse and inclusive leadership team that represents a range of viewpoints and identities has been shown to increase innovation, build trust and retain top talent.

To build a diverse leadership team, Equality Group recommends that your organisation:

  • Promote and/or hire a more demographically diverse leadership team
  • Communicate leadership's investment in diversity and inclusion initiatives through a clear statement expressing their support for EDI
  • Express support for diversity and inclusion through partnership(s) with EDI organisations, signing charters and receiving awards

EDI isn’t easy and it takes time, but it's worth it 

Implementing impactful equality, diversity and inclusion strategies is not easy. It takes a long-term commitment across a complex web of different interconnecting factors. 

Hiring and retaining diverse talent is only effective when a company has an inclusive culture. Cultures can only be inclusive if an organisation is transparent and communicates openly about the issues they face and how they plan to solve them. Equality, diversity and inclusion solutions are only successful when championed by senior leadership. Change can only be actioned if it is continually recorded and evaluated.

It’s only when all these levers work in tandem, that we start to see results sprouting from this hard work. 

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