Workplace Diversity

Introducing The Issue 

Evidence strongly suggests that an inclusive workplace is a happier and more productive one. Further, in the UK it is illegal to discriminate on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including a lack of), sex and sexual orientation. Some say social class and body type should also be added. Is your company a diverse and inclusive one, at all levels?

Describe What You Currently Do 

Responsible 100 has developed a number of introductory questions for both managers and employees. Our short question sets enable these key stakeholders to explore this important responsibility issue, relevant to their organisation, and to begin to describe current practices and views. Please respond with as much relevant information as possible. Nothing you submit will be shared or published without your permission.

Benchmark Performance Statements

  • EXCELLENT - Diversity and inclusion are core to business philosophy. Concerted effort is made to create and support a diverse workforce through a holistic approach.
  • GOOD - Diversity and inclusion are important to the business. May have a system that supports these values but needs some more work to ensure that it is holistically integrated into the company.
  • OKAY - The business lacks formal policies or procedures for dealing with diversity and inclusion (may implement some on the fly but currently lacks a coherent and consistent structure).
  • POOR - No evidence of policies or practices regarding diversity and inclusion and/or performance is inadequate or actively against diversity. 

Responsible 100 creates and develops detailed benchmarks on each of the issues we explore. The above reveals only summaries of the current statements describing POOR, OKAY, GOOD and EXCELLENT performance standards. No policy nor practice examples are included here. The complete benchmarks are shared with organisations which, through offering answers to the above questions, help to shape and improve the benchmarks on an ongoing basis. Find out more about our benchmarks here.

Exploring The Issue

A diverse workplace is one in which a multitude of differences between employees are evident in respect of their age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion (see more on ‘protected characteristics below) and in terms of life experiences, attitudes and beliefs.

An inclusive workplace is one in which every employee feels respected and valued, without needing to change anything about themselves to fit in. When inclusion is successfully fostered in the workplace, employees feel confident to be themselves.

There are moral imperatives to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace - it is not fair to favour or promote employees on the basis of their individual characteristics and hold back others. There are also strong business imperatives to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace - there are swathes of research that indicate such organisations thrive in comparison to those which are not diverse and inclusive.

A healthy organisational culture requires inclusivity and making everyone welcome, regardless of any characteristics they might hold or aspects of their identity. Additionally benefits to businesses for having higher diversity include:

>> Better outcomes for innovation-focused tasks

>> A wider mix of talents, ideas and perspectives to draw on

>> A greater understanding of the values, expectations and preferences of customers and all their stakeholders

>> Access to a wider pool of labour from which to recruit and retain staff

>> Confidence within the staff that promotion is based on merit, which helps retain talent

Many individuals today face discrimination or barriers to professional success as a result of certain characteristics. Women are still underrepresented at the top of business, making up only 30.7% of FTSE 250 boards, while ‘disabled workers move out of work at nearly twice the rate of non-disabled workers’.

The Equality Act of 2010 is important to understand, as it protects individuals from harassment or discrimination based on 9 protected characteristics:

>> Age

>> Disability

>> Gender reassignment

>> Marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)

>> Pregnancy and maternity

>> Race (including ethnicity and nationality)

>> Religion or belief (including a lack of)

>> Sex

>> Sexual orientation

However, the legislation does not cover all aspects of diversity. UK law doesn’t address discrimination relating to class and socio-economic background, travelling lifestyle, weight, personality type, and much more. This means that it is up to businesses to sometimes go above and beyond the law, if possible, to ensure that people who are not protected by the law are not at a disadvantage in society.


Blind hiringA hiring practice where identifying markers that indicate gender, race etc., such as name and date of birth, are removed from applications to reduce the impact of bias.

Cisgender A person whose gender identity conforms to the gender they were assigned at birth, in contrast to a transgender or gender non-conforming individual.

Cognitive DiversityDiversity in which team members have different perspectives and different styles of processing knowledge.

Direct discriminationTreating one person worse than another because of a protected characteristic (known as direct discrimination).

Diversity 'Diversity in the workplace' implies creating an inclusive environment: one which recognises and embraces people’s differences; which encourages and provides opportunities for all to achieve their full potential; and which in turn allows the organisation to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Equality 'Equality' is about the opportunity for all, creating a fairer society where every individual can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination. In a workplace, this could mean providing equal parental leave and pay for men and women, and adoption leave.

Equity 'Equity' recognises that not everyone is starting from the same position and that treating individuals in the same way will not address this initial inequality. As such, it means that employees’ differences are acknowledged, and any special measures to accommodate these differences are in place to reach equality of outcome.

Gender expressionThis is how a person chooses to outwardly display their gender. Someone whose gender expression does not conform to traditional interpretations of gender is not necessarily transgender.

Gender identityA person’s 'gender identity' is their innate sense of their gender. This can differ from the gender they were assigned at birth, or may not conform to either male or female.

Harassment 'Harassment' includes unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or which creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone with a protected characteristic.

Inclusion ‘Inclusion’ occurs when every individual in the workplace feels valued, without needing to change anything about themselves to fit in. When inclusion is successfully fostered in the workplace, employees feel confident to be themselves and work in productive and healthy ways.

Indirect discriminationPutting in place a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one, when this cannot be objectively justified.

Intersectionality Overlapping or converging social identities experienced by an individual differentiate their experiences from those of an individual who has only one of those identities.

Microaggressions A statement, action, or incident is regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.

Privilege'Privilege' is an advantage or set of advantages attributed to an individual or group based on identity traits. An individual may be unaware of the privilege they experience, and may also experience discrimination based on other identity traits.

Protected characteristics'Protected characteristics', as covered by UK legislation, are race (including ethnicity and nationality), disability, gender reassignment, sex, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion and belief (including a lack of), sexual orientation and age.

Returnships High-level internships for experienced professionals who have taken career breaks, usually due to caring responsibilities.

Reverse mentoringSchemes where younger and less senior employees mentor older, more senior members of staff to share their experiences and increase communication and understanding among different groups.

Sequential interviewUsed as an alternative to panel interviews, a candidate is interviewed by several members of staff separately. This can help to avoid groupthink and maintain impartiality in the hiring process.

Structural InequalityA 'structural inequality' is the result of society's structure, rather than an individual’s actions or thoughts. So structural racism is not just an individual bias but takes place at an institutional level. These inequalities can be built into the economy, the education system, the law etc. and go beyond individuals’ best, conscious intentions.

Tokenism 'Tokenism' is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to include underrepresented groups to give the appearance of diversity and equality within a workforce, usually by including only one or two individuals from minority groups. This can be harmful because it increases the chances of those individuals being seen as wholly representative of certain groups, such as women or young people. This fails to recognise that these groups are not homogenous, or that the people involved are individuals. Additionally, it can put additional pressure on the tokenized person to prove that they, and by extension, everyone else in that group, can succeed in that role, so that in the future others can be given the same opportunity. This can be avoided by including more than one or two individuals from the same group.

Trans Stonewall defines 'trans' as an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) Transgender, Transsexual, Gender-queer (GQ), Gender-fluid, Non-binary, Gender-variant, Crossdresser, Genderless, Agender, Nongender, Third gender, Two-spirit, Bi-gender, Transman, Transwoman, Trans masculine, Trans feminine and Neutrois. Some non-western cultures recognise gender identities that do not fall within the woman-man binary.

Victimisation 'Victimisation' is treating someone unfavourably because they have taken (or might be taking) action under the Equality Act or supporting somebody who is doing so.

Links, News And Further Resources


UK Workforce Calls For More Action On Diversity and Inclusion - 14 September 2022

Culture Shift released a report on employee attitudes towards current business diversity and inclusion practices in the United Kingdom which found that 79% of employees believe that working at diverse companies increases happiness and 50% believe that businesses should be doing more to increase diversity.

Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace - 24 August 2022

CIPD article promoting and managing diversity beyond the minimum legal requirements outlined in the Equality Act of 2010. They also layout potential strategies that can be used by executives to encourage diversity and inclusion.

Workplace Equality Falling Behind in UK - 8 June 2022

 In a study of diversity and equality in 10 countries, the United Kingdom ranked last for recruiting people from diverse backgrounds and providing equal opportunities to all. A representative from the BEIS said that the government is planning to address and improve their ratings going forward.

CIPD Calls For Mandatory Ethnic Pay Gap Reporting By 2023 - 15 September 2021

In 2021, only 13 of the UK’s top 100 listed companies currently report their ethnicity pay gap, leading to calls for mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting to be introduced in the next two years. The CIPD is also calling on the government to require organisations to provide a supporting narrative to explain the nature and causation of pay gaps, and an action plan of initiatives to reduce and remove any such gaps.


Equality Act of 2010: Discrimination and Your Rights - 1 October 2010

Use this link to read up on the Equality Act of 2010 which protects workers from being discriminated against in the workplace by defining protected characteristics.


How to Get Serious About Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace - 13 September 2018

Imagine a workplace where people of all colours and races are able to climb every rung of the corporate ladder -- and where the lessons we learn about diversity at work actually transform the things we do, think and say outside the office. How do we get there? In this candid talk, inclusion advocate Janet Stovall shares a three-part action plan for creating workplaces where people feel safe and expect to be their unassimilated, authentic selves.

Profit Through Ethics Ltd

Responsible 100 is delivered by Profit Through Ethics Ltd, a business registered in England with company number 4769798.
All Rights Reserved.

Contact details

Phone: +44 (0)20 3372 4504
Contact Form