Diverse Ethics

Search the new
Diverse Ethics Portal:

Thursday, 27th February 2020


Prof Binna Kandola OBE, partner at Pearn Kandola talks to Dr. Atul Shah of Diverse Ethics about his research and experience of diversity training and coaching

Much like the mermaid and the unicorn, the business case for diversity is a mythical creature. Many of the arguments that have been put up may be well meaning but are not necessarily well thought through, often lacking data and sometimes even logic. Diversity has stalled. To get it moving again, we believe we need clarity about why it is important and honesty about what is blocking its progress.

We apply psychological principles – to understand biases in people and organisational processes. We have got people to appreciate that there is diversity – and a recognition that people are part of the problem. Organisations need to transform their culture. Culture is determined by the people, and if behaviour changes, then culture changes.

There is an argument for diversity and it is quite simple and enduring - its about talent. It is about ensuring that talent is attracted, recruited, developed, retained and promoted. It is about ensuring that we make decisions based on merit to ensure that the best people are appointed and promoted. Whether we like it or not, we have preconceptions about the concepts of 'talent' and 'best' that lead us to discriminate unfairly, and discrimination not only blights individuals lives, it limits organisational effectiveness.

Training BME people about positive action and mentoring has limitations – we had a focus group in a government dept, where the BME professionals said that they do not want any additional training – "it is the other people who need to be trained in recognising our skills and giving us the opportunities," they said. It is therefore possible that decision makers and influencers are the problem, and they need to change for the organisation to embrace diversity positively.

The truth is we all have biases and, unless we are able to discuss this, we will continually be thwarted in our desire to achieve diversity and inclusion in our workplaces. Despite the fact that we are all biased, it is a subject that is very difficult to raise in an open blame-free way in organisations today. We are so conscious of the need to appear fair that we hide our prejudices, sometimes even from ourselves.

The good news is that we are capable of changing our attitudes and our biases. Some of the changes we can make are not that difficult to carry out. We do a lot of training for leaders and managers, and focus on unconscious bias, getting people to accept who they are and understand their biases. In one of our surveys, we found 60% of managers said that they have unconscious bias, but then a significant percentage of these said that it does not influence their decision making. It was also surprising to see that 40% did not think they were biased in any way. We can only remove prejudice if people acknowledge it.

Ethics and values are critical, and the behaviour of the leadership will influence the culture of the organisation. Organisations come to us, because they like our scientific approach to bias and prejudice. There is a genuine desire to progress the diversity conversation in their own organisations. There is a realisation among leaders that unless they start looking at themselves, there will be little progress. Top management of organisations are engaged and intrigued by the concepts we have developed. We have worked with BBC, PWC, Ernst & Young, BP.

Prof Binna Kandola's book, The value of difference:eliminating bias in organisations, is available here

Article added on 8th July 2010 at 3:09pm
Related Articles | Related Resources | Related Links

Email Twitter Facebook Linked In MySpace Digg

Related Articles

COMPREHENSIVE DIVERSITY - An excellent and comprehensive survey of diversity in the workplace and the challenges ahead.

LEADERS JUMP ON BOARD - Top BME professionals meet the Appointments Commission to get on to Public Boards

UNDERSTANDING EAST AND WEST - This inspiring video shows how different the world-views are of the east and hence why there is such a gap between the cultures.

LEADERS CAN INSPIRE EACH OTHER - Diverse Ethics can bring different groups together to share best practice and get inspired.

DIVERSE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY - Communications are critical to marketing success, but all too often, they are approached in the same way by the same people.

STRATEGIC GUIDANCE - For large organisations, strategy is key and Diverse Ethics brings unique advice which is priceless.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT - For public bodies and large companies, it is critical to engage with local communities in their operating regions. However, very few know how to go about it.

HR INDUSTRY SHOULD NOT BE EXCLUSIVE - Atul Shah writes for Personnel Today about the diversity challenges for the CIPD.

CALL TO ACTION - A unique event in the City of London demonstrates the strength of Hindu values in modern society

BIO-DIVERSE LEADERSHIP - Dr. Atul Shah interviews award-winning writer and film-maker Dr. Michael Tobias, who is a tireless campaigner for the protection of wilderness.

BE CAREFUL - For victims, complaining about racism can be very difficult - this article introduces the sensitivities and complexities of racial discrimination.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PUBLIC BOARD MEMBER - What is involved in joining a public board and what can you get out of it?

Diverse Leadership - Leaders have a major impact on the culture of work in an organisation. And this can impact how you fit in and perform.

INTEGRITY - Any good book on leadership will say that a central quality of success is honesty and integrity.

HOW YOU CAN GROW THROUGH MENTORING - In the changing landscape of work, mentoring is key to personal development and progression. Also, ethnic minorities have particular problems and issues which require specific guidance.

STOP TICKING BOXES - All too often, employers are afraid of diversity, and make cosmetic changes. These efforts will not be sustainable.

INSTITUTIONAL RACISM - When the structures of an organisation are inherently discriminatory, we have racism that is institutionalised. It can only be removed by dismantling prejudicial structures.

DO NOT BE DIVIDED AND RULED - Membership of ethnic minorities among professional bodies in the UK is way above their relative population.

MAKE VALUES INCLUSIVE - Many organisations today have values statements, but they often look and sound the same. Rarely is cultural diversity embedded in these statements.

Related Resources

RFO Report - a report on the state of British workplaces

FAIR ACCESS TO PROFESSIONS - This is an exhaustive cabinet office research report on fair access to the professions in Britain.

EQUALITY ACT 2010 - This is a very useful practical guide on the implications of the Act.

Diane Bebbington - A research report by Leadership Foundation on Diversity and Equality in Higher Education in the UK

WORK FOUNDATION - An excellent survey of best practice and research on diversity, with recommendations for culture change and practical strategies.