According to a recent McKinsey report, 23 per cent of women were considering leaving the workforce during lockdown in order to dedicate their time to childcare and home-schooling duties, versus just 13 per cent of men.
When you combine this with the global conversation surrounding equitable treatment brought about by the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests, it only seems wise that the regulator is ramping up its efforts – as well as increasingly looking inwards to assess its own role in addressing inequalities within the financial industry.
Same storm, different boats
We saw the stark disparity in homeworking arrangements during the height of the pandemic.
The graduate working from a cramped bedroom in shared accommodation versus executives with comfortable home offices.
That issue will not disappear as the sector moves away from full-time remote work and towards a hybrid approach.
Working parents might revel in their newfound ability to fit the school run in around work commitments. New starters, on the other hand, may well prefer the social and training opportunities the office environment provides.
Businesses will need to address these realities in their reopening plans. Ultimately, a flexible approach that offers the same access and opportunities to all is required if a firm is keen to create a truly open and inclusive culture and promote diversity of thought.
This approach is not a purely altruistic one.
Hybrid working also opens up numerous opportunities for businesses seeking new talent.
As an obvious example, removing the need to commute five days a week may well attract applications from other areas of the country, or could encourage skilled workers back into the workforce – meaning a larger talent pool and more varied skillsets for businesses to choose from.
There’s also the well-worn argument that increased diversity and inclusion, particularly at board level, has a direct and positive impact on commercial performance – often hailed as a clear business case for investing in EDI.
This is generally put down to the fact that greater diversity reduces stale groupthink and allows for more robust challenge, leading to better decision-making.
While the tangibility of the link between diversity and profit is disputed in some academic circles, it is certainly true that there is a strong social case for EDI regardless of the commercial benefits.
Providing greater opportunities for all is the right thing to do, and clients and employees alike increasingly have certain expectations of the firms they do business with – and will often vote with their feet if those are not met. Businesses lagging behind do risk being left at a competitive disadvantage.