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Jo Geraghty

Director

Unintended discrimination

Date added: 19th Feb 2016
Category: Culture of Diversity

The greater the diversity, the more likely we are to challenge people as individuals rather than make sweeping assumptions.

When we talk about company culture and employee engagement, about leadership and creating strong organisations which deliver great customer experiences; one of the topics which comes up on a regular basis is that of diversity. In a nutshell, diversity strengthens boardrooms and leadership throughout the organisation, enables businesses to better reflect their customer base and delivers a range of backgrounds and experiences which helps to drive innovation.

As the diversity imperative has risen up the corporate agenda it has pushed the topic of discrimination into the background. But that doesn’t mean that discrimination has been eliminated from business. Outward, deliberate discrimination may be largely on its way out as organisations step up to the new cultural imperative, but every now and then we are reminded of the need to be vigilant as a case of unintended discrimination comes to light.

One such example arose recently in a letter from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) to its members. Highlighting the forthcoming raft of technological changes facing the profession the letter suggests that for some these changes “may be a challenge that they relish, and an opportunity to grow and expand” but that for others “especially the 58% of practitioners who are over 50, it may be too much to contemplate and it may be the impetus to handing on to the next generation.”

So much of unintended discrimination comes about when we assume lack of capability rather than encouraging people to show what they are capable of and to give of their best. And here we are back to diversity; the greater the diversity, the more likely we are to challenge people as individuals rather than make sweeping assumptions.

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