'Clumsy' diversity efforts are 'ineffective and counterproductive,' Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch claims

20 March 2024, 06:32

Kemi Badenoch
Kemi Badenoch. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Kemi Badenoch has said that business' diversity and inclusion efforts are often "ineffective and counterproductive".

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The Business Secretary was discussing the results of a study that showed that companies want "to do the right thing", but are introducing diversity measures without enough evidence.

The Inclusion at Work panel spoke to more than 100 people in 55 organisations, and looked at the latest UK business practices on diversity and inclusion.

Writing in the Telegraph, Ms Badenoch said education, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives should bring people together, rather than make them feel alienated, and said that some "clumsy diversity drives are no substitute for proper action".

"The new report shows that, while millions are being spent on these initiatives, many popular EDI practices - such as diversity training - have little to no tangible impact in increasing diversity or reducing prejudice," Ms Badenoch said.

Read more: 'This is trivia': Kemi Badenoch hits out at continued furore over Tory donor 'racism' row

Read more: Tories 'need to stop messing around and get behind the Prime Minister,' Business Secretary tells LBC

Kemi Badenoch
Kemi Badenoch. Picture: Getty

"In fact, many practices have not only been proven to be ineffective, they have also been counterproductive.

"Performative gestures such as compulsory pronouns and rainbow lanyards are often a sign that organisations are struggling to demonstrate how they are being inclusive."

Ms Badenoch said that some companies were "inadvertently" breaking the law by censoring expression of some beliefs or favouring certain groups over others.

"Sadly, even a prestigious and respected institution such as the Royal Air Force (RAF) was recently found to have discriminated against white men in trying to improve diversity," she wrote.

Kemi Badenoch
Kemi Badenoch. Picture: Alamy

"No group should ever be worse off because of companies' diversity policies - whether that be black women, or white men."

The panel, which included private and public sector leaders, set out a framework for employers and gave a series of recommendations for ministers.

It said that some of those they spoke to cited examples of what "good" practices might look like, but the collection of robust data was "rare" and measurable impact was "scarce".

"The evidence suggests that many organisations' D&I approaches are driven by pre-existing notions, assumptions, and pressures rather than empirical evidence," the report noted.

Kemi Badenoch dismisses Frank Hester's 'racism row', calling it 'trivia'

It also found that employers face barriers such as a lack of accessible data on D&I measures as well as broad or subjective definitions of terms like "inclusion".

Ms Badenoch said: "Discussions around diversity and inclusion at work are often bogged down by performative gestures.

"This report by the Inclusion at Work Panel is a powerful new tool for organisations.

"I sincerely hope that businesses will take time to read this report so that it becomes an important step in helping them achieve more inclusive and productive workplaces."

Ms Badenoch told LBC on Monday that the furore over alleged racist comments made by Tory donor Frank Hester were "trivia".

“We need to get to a place where we stop chasing people around and looking everywhere for the racism," she said.

"Everybody is accusing, and counter-accusing around racism,” she continued.

"We need to move away from these things and actually focus on what matters to people."

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