Diversity and inclusion at work

Feb 10, 2020
Olivia McEvoy outlines the diversity and inclusion issues at play in companies across the island of Ireland.

As part of EY’s commitment to building a better working world, the firm conducts an annual survey to benchmark diversity and inclusion activity in organisations across the island of Ireland. The third survey reflects the experience of more than 150 C-suite leaders, human resource directors and diversity and inclusion leads. The respondents were drawn from both indigenous Irish and global organisations of varying sizes across a range of diverse sectors. This article outlines how organisations view and position diversity and inclusion.

Smart working

It is encouraging to note that appetite for diversity and inclusion remains constant. 100% of businesses say it is vital to business performance, and 82% recognise the impact of diversity of thought on decision and risk excellence. Indeed, there is no shortage of appreciation of the connection with diversity and inclusion and more significant customer and employee engagement, productivity, innovation and creativity, as well as talent acquisition and retention.

With 95% of survey respondents aware of the pending Gender Pay Gap legislation, which is scheduled to take effect in 2020, significant numbers (71%) are also embracing a critical means of addressing the gender pay gap: a smart working culture. Smart working is a set of practices that add greater flexibility to work methods through innovative solutions and is measured by the achievement of results regardless of where and how employees perform their work.

Flexible location, schedule, hours worked, and shared responsibility are some of the markers of smart working. Some organisations refer to smart working as agile, flexible, new ways of working or modern ways of working. The Gender Pay Gap legislation will also provide welcomed impetus and transparency, albeit 60% of organisations already publicly communicate information about their diversity and inclusion goals and targets.

Absence of accountability

However, there is still a ‘diversity and inclusion disconnection’ between what organisations are saying and what they are doing in this space. Leadership behaviour is the cornerstone of an inclusive environment and enables a culture of psychological safety, but just over half (53%) take responsibility to call out inappropriate behaviour and language.

Leadership accountability is one of the most significant game-changers in achieving meaningful transformation, but a critically low 24% of leaders have diversity and inclusion goals or targets tied to their performance metrics and reward. Measuring the impact of diversity and inclusion on performance is instrumental but a rarity (16%) in organisations. Investment is also inextricably linked to enhanced organisational reputation, decision-making and talent attraction, but a third (31%) of organisations invest nothing and 43% spend less than €25,000. The majority of actual investment is a combination of events (63.8%), networks and network membership fees (52.2% and 40.6% respectively) and sponsorship (30.4%) rather than in the more strategic and systemic changes needed to develop the processes, capability and behaviours required to achieve lasting change.

Delivering on diversity

With ‘business as usual’ often enough to overwhelm, it is easy to get distracted and presume that if someone else in the organisation is talking about diversity and inclusion, that is enough. Indeed, lots of talk about it leads us to believe that the diversity and inclusion box is being ticked. But box-ticking is not enough. Talking is not enough. We need to adopt a transformational approach that embeds diversity and inclusion as part of our systems, structures and, ultimately, our culture if we want to realise meaningful change; and we must be bold personal agents of that change.
As evidenced in the EY Ireland 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Survey report, there is some progress in some areas but regression in others – and certainly nothing like the ‘gear change’ called for in previous years.

Rather than make exaggerated claims or aspire to progress, we need to be able to proclaim positive outcomes and actual results and deliver on diversity and inclusion.

Everybody in?

Olivia McEvoy is Director of Diversity & Inclusion in People Advisory Services at EY Ireland.


EY is launching its fourth annual Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) survey of organisations across the island of Ireland and we would be very grateful for your participation. The survey will remain open until 19 February 19th. Take the survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/EYDiversityInclusionSurveyIreland2020