“The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundations be laid.”

Thomas à Kempis


Positive policies are the firm foundations of an inclusive business.  Policies serve a vital purpose in supporting and protecting an  organisation and its people. They create boundaries for acceptable  behaviour within the workplace, and serve as a guideline for best  practice in particular work situations. They are part of the essential  infrastructure that articulates the overall inclusion and diversity  values of the company. At the same time, more progressive policies  can enable your business to stand out from the crowd as an inclusive  leader. If you want your business to be a place where diverse talent  can thrive for the long term, then you need to go beyond the statutory  minimum. Thoughtful and generous policies, contextualised for  locations and cultures, will go a long way in reflecting what you  value and the behaviour you want to encourage.

Declare Equality  

The first foundation stone to lay is your equal opportunity statement.  This is one of the core ways you communicate that you value  inclusion and diversity at your company. The wording can be used  across all your employment materials, including: job descriptions;  employee handbooks; your digital channels, and anywhere you want  to communicate your inclusive values. A good example of a clear  equal opportunity statement is Survey Monkey, which has one of  the most diverse boards in technology, including entrepreneur and elite tennis player Serena Williams and Sheryl Sandberg, the COO  of Facebook. They take a short and simple non-legalistic approach  and mention two key words: ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusive’: "SurveyMonkey is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are  committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees.” However, it is important to keep in mind that recent research has  shown that EEO statements in isolation can backfire. Without clear commitment and action, these words can very quickly become  empty, tokenistic and disingenuous. 

Demonstrate Care

The next part of the foundations are your anti-discrimination and  anti-harassment policies. These are critical for ensuring fair and  equitable behaviour, which is still lacking at many corporates.  According to a study conducted by the Kapor Center for Social  Impact in 2017, 53 percent of women in technology experience  harassment at work, compared to 16 percent of men. At the same  time, men of colour are 40 percent more likely to leave a firm due  to unfair treatment. Negative experiences and unfair treatment are  significantly related to turnover in companies and employee burnout.  They contribute to the lack of diversity by creating a revolving door for underrepresented groups. Effective anti-discrimination policies  show that a company cares about the priorities and wellbeing of  everyone at their firm. A study by Boston Consulting Group in 2018  of more than 16,500 employees worldwide, demonstrated that  effectively worded and transparent anti-discriminatory policies  are one of the most necessary and effective ways of establishing  inclusion and diversity in the workplace. In fact, it was ranked as  the number one most effective diversity initiative by everyone in the  organisation, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, as shown  in the table below.

Global Context 

Despite positive progress on anti-discrimination in many parts of  the world, we are nowhere near an equitable or global approach. The  LGBTQ+ community is especially vulnerable to discrimination and  violence in many countries. Same-sex acts are illegal in 71 countries  and 2.8 billion people live in countries where consensual same-sex  acts are a crime.

Even between more progressive nations, such as the UK and the  US, there is a wide disparity. Of the top UK firms listed in the FTSE  100, 80 percent make no mention of transgender staff in their  non-discrimination policies. In addition, 47 percent of these firms  fail to reference protection policies for gay, lesbian or bisexual  employees.84 Today in the US, 75 percent of companies have non discrimination policies that explicitly reference gender identity,  and 93 percent have policies that cover sexual orientation.

Economic Outperformance 

There is a significant body of research linking policies aimed at  achieving equality to positive economic outcomes. Open for Business  has produced several reports showing that open, inclusive and  diverse societies experience more economic growth and that  discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity  can damage long-term economic prospects. A global analysis of  cities conducted in 2019, showed that higher LGBTQ+ inclusion is  correlated with higher city GDP per capita. The regression line  suggests a stronger uplift in the move from very low to medium  inclusion scores (from dangerous or hostile, to tolerance not inclusion).  An outlier in the graph below is Singapore, a city with high GDP  per capita but a medium inclusion score. It is still a country which  has no specific laws banning workplace harassment.

Similar findings came out of a World Bank report in 2020. The  research showed that reforming discriminatory laws against women  is associated with a smaller gender pay gap, higher levels of female  entrepreneurship and better access to finance for women (figure  1.2). Furthermore, raising the retirement age of women to match  that of men is correlated with an increased female labour supply,  which facilitates larger pensions and better financial security for  women of retirement age and their families. Their analysis shows  that where the law ensures greater equality of economic opportunity  between women and men, female labour force participation is  higher. Notably, this result remains after taking into account  important factors including income levels, fertility rates, and female  education. The countries that scored the highest were Belgium,  Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.


“Inclusive and diverse societies experience more economic growth.”