As we all know, the events of 2020 proved to be a catalyst for increased conversation around diversity, inclusion and equity; new commitments being made by companies around the world; and promises to take real action in the year ahead.
We hope that 2021 will therefore be a year full of positive change, as organisations hopefully follow through on the commitments they publicly made last year. It may not be the start to 2021 that many hoped for, with COVID-19 still affecting all aspects of our work and personal lives, but it has been promising to see some companies making progress already and keeping D&I high on the agenda.
As we near the end of January, we wanted to round up some of the news and developments around diversity and inclusion that we have seen so far. We are delighted to see the below organisations starting the year as they mean to go on, and encourage others to take inspiration from this and make D&I a priority in 2021.
- Netflix released its first inclusion report, which showed that the company has increased its recruitment of women and minorities over the past three years. The report demonstrates that Netflix is doing better than most other tech companies, although Head of D&I Verna Myers acknowledges that “it’s not perfect”. Netflix’s transparency in sharing its data and progress so openly is very encouraging, suggesting that it is a company genuinely committed to driving change.
- Sky has set new diversity and representation targets. Its goal is for 20% of employees at Sky in the UK and Ireland to be from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds by 2025, with at least a quarter of these to be Black. Sky has the same target for its leadership team. This follows on from its commitment last year to invest £10m a year for the next three years to improve representation and progression of minority groups.
- Unilever has said it will spend £1.8bn annually with suppliers owned by underrepresented groups by 2025. This will include companies owned and managed by women, minority ethnic groups, people with disabilities and the LGBTQI+ community. This is part of a wider inclusivity drive at Unilever, which also plans to increase the number of advertisements that feature or are created by people from diverse groups. Unilever said this would “help tackle the prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising, and promote a more inclusive representation of people”.
- Hogan Lovells has told its lawyers that time spent on D&I activities can count towards their billing targets. Associates globally can now set aside up to 50 billable hours for activities such as organising D&I events, mentoring and sponsoring underrepresented colleagues, and participating in client-related D&I activities. The firm said: “The introduction of D&I billable hour credit is part of our global strategy to create and maintain a diverse and inclusive working environment throughout our firm, and at the highest ranks. It also enables us to achieve our global minority and LGBT+ goals, and measure engagement at a substantive level. We recognise that diversity of all kinds creates better teams, and better serves our clients.”This is a great step forward within the legal sector and we hope to see other law firms following suit.
- The Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) has launched a new initiative to promote D&I across Scotland’s construction sector, with targeted support offered to SMEs. The 12-month programme will give firms the tool and skills they need to establish or enhance their offering to staff. At Diversity Network we have highlighted the D&I challenges and opportunities in construction at previous events, so we’re pleased to see that more support is becoming available to help firms in the sector to improve, and to help them close the well-publicised skills gap through greater diversity.
- American Water, the largest publicly traded US water and wastewater utility company, hosted its second annual Inclusion Day this January. This aims to explore how the company can continue to foster open, fair, inclusive and respectful ways of working together, and “demonstrates the company’s commitment to cultivating a workplace where differences are accepted”, said Chief Inclusion Officer Valoria Armstrong. Inclusion Day included discussions led by American Water’s supplier diversity, benefits, learning and development, and talent acquisition teams, and information on how employees can get involved with Employee Business Resource Groups and act as allies.
- Eli Lilly & Co has announced it is investing $300m in a new venture capital firm that will fund minority-owned, early-stage healthcare companies. Joshua Smiley, the company’s CFO and executive sponsor for Eli Lilly’s African American Employee Resource Group, said: “We know everybody in biotech VC, and nobody is focused on trying to direct capital to underserved populations. There’s not a lot of diversity in the venture funding community, and that cascades down to an underrepresentation of Black founders.”
In addition, many companies have started the year by announcing new appointments of D&I directors and heads – and in a significant number of cases, this is the first time the companies have even had this role. It would be good to see the presence of a senior D&I individual on an organisation’s leadership team become the norm, and viewed as equally important a position as others at this senior level.
We look forward to seeing more action and progress from companies across all sectors this year, as they implement their D&I strategies and strive to meet their commitments.
At Diversity Network, we are passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion, and creating a better workplace for all. We aim to shine a light on the most exciting changes in business towards parity through a valuable mix of case studies, online events, debates, interviews and insights from industry professionals on the front line of change.