Seven in ten businesses need to do more to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace

Only 28% of adults think UK businesses do enough to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, and this falls to just 11% among young workers (aged under 25), according to new research from Thoughtworks.

At a time when businesses are reassessing the relative merits of office, hybrid and home working arrangements following the end of Covid restrictions, Thoughtworks commissioned research to explore how people rated British businesses for supporting diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace.

The national survey asked a representative sample of 2,000 adults whether they thought British businesses were doing enough on DEI, which groups needed to be better supported, and in which industry sectors the most and least progress had been made.

Key findings:

  • Disability topped the poll. Two in five respondents (40%) believed British business decision makers needed to do more to improve inclusion, equity and diversity programmes to support employees with disabilities.
  • Social mobility was also seen as a key area for improvement, with many people believing that businesses needed to do more to help people from lower income families (39%) and socially deprived areas (31%).
  • Meanwhile, age discrimination in the workplace was a concern for 30% of respondents – this was felt most strongly among those aged 55 or over (36%).
  • Following the significant rise of nursery closures during lockdown – and its impact on home working for those people with young children – 28% of survey respondents want to see businesses do more to improve DEI policies towards young families. A further 27% felt further progress could be made to better support single parents and those that were pregnant (16%).
  • Gender discrimination was a concern for around a quarter of British workers. Tellingly, women were almost twice as likely than men (31% vs 17%) to cite the need for businesses to do more in this area to improve their inclusive, diversity and equity policies.
  • Despite the success of June’s Pride Month in celebrating advancements, 20% of survey respondents still believe UK businesses need to do more to improve their DEI programmes to better support colleagues from the LGBTQ+ community. Younger workers were significantly more likely to say that businesses needed to improve their inclusion and diversity policies for this community (31% for under 35s vs. 12% for the over 55s).
  • Nationally, 17% of people thought businesses still needed to further improve equity and inclusion on race and ethnicity issues and this was of primary importance (29%) for younger workers (aged under 25) and, regionally, was a viewpoint most strongly held in London (25%).

Reviewing the research findings by specific industries, sport (24%) the arts (music and film) (24%) and retail (22%) were the sectors where people believed organisations had made the most progress in advancing inclusion, equity and diversity for their employees. The tech sector ranked 8th and banking 11th – whilst motoring and agricultural sectors came last. Overall, 35% of respondents believed insufficient progress had been made in all the industry sectors listed.

“For many businesses, the future of work has been centred on location – the relative merits of home, office or new hybrid models. However, it’s clear that it is more about how people work – and here the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion become pivotal considerations. Our study suggests British workers believe there is still a long way to go for most businesses – and the scale of groups and issues that need to be better understood is significant. Business leaders need to embrace a strategic response to this, to adopt processes that allow them to embed DEI issues in their culture and daily decision-making. This is why, at Thoughtworks, we are establishing a DEI Council that we believe could become a benchmark for best practice in the tech sector and beyond.” Commented Amy Lynch, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Thoughtworks UK