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More employees are demanding diversity at work. Where do European companies stand?

Top team diversity is strongly correlated with profitability, studies show.
Top team diversity is strongly correlated with profitability, studies show.   -   Copyright  Canva

By Kirstie McDermott

Younger workers today are setting a higher bar, both for themselves and the companies they are willing to work for.

For 50 per cent of employees, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted their expectations for their employers, according to a 2021 Gartner study.

Most particularly, younger workers in the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts now expect the companies and institutions they work for to engage on contentious issues of fairness and equity.

These employees want to ensure that their employers have policies around equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) baked in.

With Millennials expected to make up 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025, and Gen Z workers representing 30 per cent of the workforce by 2030, companies need to step up.

Diverse organisations matter

Gallup, the analytics and advisory company, recently asked more than 13,000 employees what mattered most to them when deciding whether to accept a new job offered by a new employer: 42 per cent of respondents said they wanted the organisation to be “diverse and inclusive of all types of people”.

Where once the focus of such interest might have been around gender equality, much of the recent employee interest in diversity measures in the workplace can be seen as a result of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis two years ago, and the international Black Lives Matter protests that followed.

Both shone a spotlight for workers on the importance of advocating for racial equality across society.

However, when the World Economic Forum (WEF) met at Davos earlier this year, leaders warned that the racial equity movement has lost momentum, while progress on LGBTQI+ rights “remains sharply divided and polarised by country”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also estimates that 1.3 billion people, or 17 per cent of the global population, are living with disabilities.

Within this context, WEF says the private sector is increasingly becoming a key agent in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion action, and must prioritise D&I initiatives on the CEO agenda and embed them into core business.

Diversity contributes to success

Of course, companies aren’t doing this work out of altruism; their bottom line benefits from it. According to a study from Workbuzz, D&I is a clear driver of organisational success.

Top team diversity is strongly correlated with profitability, and inclusive leaders can drive a 17 per cent increase in team performance as well as a 29 per cent increase in team collaboration.

Additionally, the study found that organisations that focus on disability engagement are growing sales 2.9 times faster, and profits 4.1 times faster than their competitors.

The study also points out that for companies, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and no “final state” to aim for; it should be a continuous journey.

Which European companies are diversity leaders?

PwC’s European Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarking Survey points out that while 76 per cent of European organisations have publicly declared their commitment to D&I, only around 2 per cent of them have programmes in place that reach the highest level of maturity PwC has benchmarked as essential.

But many companies in the space are making inroads.

Digital challenger Starling Bank began its D&I journey in 2017 when it signed the Women in Finance Charter. Since then, the bank has increased the number of women in senior roles from 27 per cent to 40 per cent.

Today, 43 per cent of its total workforce, 39 per cent of the executive team, 39 per cent of the board, and 41 per cent of senior managers are women.

Check out open jobs at Starling Bank here.

An impressive array of D&I initiatives makes Goldman Sachs stand out from the crowd.

The multinational bank’s website states: “The people we need can be found only by looking across the full spectrum of race, color, religion, creed, sex, age, national origin, citizenship status, disability, qualified veteran status, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity”.

It has won a number of awards, including the Euromoney Awards for Excellence – World’s Best Bank for Diversity and Inclusion.

View current opportunities at Goldman Sachs here.

Despite the rocky year it has experienced with a drop in valuation and layoffs, Klarna, the Swedish fintech unicorn that provides online financial services, has also gained a reputation for its ambitious D&I goals.

With 78 nationalities represented at the company, and a 40 per cent female employee ratio (which is far higher than other fintechs), the company is actively implementing structures to encourage a robust and inclusive culture.

Its internal diversity and inclusion group, BeYou, offers coding events for non-binary and minority employees and organises LGBTQ+ partnerships.

Discover open roles on Klarna’s Job Board.

Shopify, the ecommerce platform, has a global diversity and belonging strategy, created after consulting 250 employees in 13 countries around the world.

The company has self-directed learning pathways on anti-bias, discrimination and microaggressions, empathy and allyship for all employees, and anti-bias training is delivered to senior leaders too.

For its current vacancies, visit the Shopify Job Board.

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