Diversity and Inclusion: Not Just Buzz Words

Martin Newman
March 9, 2022
10 min read
Subscribe to newsletter

Diversity is often interpreted too narrowly. Many perceive it to be only about gender or ethnicity. While those are very much part of the requirements for being a diverse organisation, it is broader than that and affects a number of other communities. It is too often approached like many other industry buzz words such as social responsibility, with a focus on ticking a box. Proving to shareholders that it’s an ‘issue’ that has been addressed.

Addressing the challenge of being a more diverse business cannot be met by quotas. Nor can it be achieved by adding a few lines to the annual report. The workforce should be representative of society in all areas, including gender expression, age, ethnicity, religion, disability, hidden disabilities, and sexuality. Then you can feel confident that your business is diverse and more likely to reflect the customer base you’re actually selling to.

There are around 14 Million consumers in the UK with some form of disability. And their needs are really poorly catered for by the majority of consumer-facing businesses. Imagine if every board of directors had a member of the board with a disability, be that overt, or a hidden disability, there is a strong likelihood that the business would do things differently and ensure it met the needs of this community more effectively. That in turn is a significant commercial opportunity as the purple pound is a £250bn+ market.

Being a diverse and inclusive business is both a moral and a commercial imperative.

There are many benefits of diversity from an internal perspective:

  • Variety of different perspectives
  • Increased creativity
  • More innovations
  • Faster problem-solving
  • Better decision making
  • Increased profits
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Better company reputation
  • Improved hiring results

All of the above adds up to significant opportunities.

To begin moving the needle on diversity and inclusion, we need to first work to reduce the potential for unconscious bias. There are 16 unconscious biases, the following are just a few of the more obvious ones:


  • Allyship – appoint allies who can ensure that anyone from a diverse community is getting visibility within the business and equal access to opportunities to thrive
  • Highlight diversity on your own website
  • Target diverse job boards when recruiting
  • Have a diverse interview panel to ensure you avoid unconscious bias
  • Remove personal details from CVs for initial screening so that you judge people purely on what they’ve achieved rather than who they are, where they live, and so on


Johnson & Johnson ensure that all of their team create an inclusive environment.
Their vision for diversity and inclusion is such that it is at the heart of how they will achieve competitive advantage. So, while some other brands are simply trying to meet their gender ‘quota’ Johnson & Johnson see it as the core of their strategy for business success.

They have created mentoring programmes and a ‘Diversity University’, which is an online resource that helps their colleagues understand the benefits of working collaboratively.

They have a Chief Diversity Officer who reports directly to the CEO and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, meaning that this agenda is being driven from the very top of the organisation and reflects how seriously they take diversity and inclusion.

Their focus on this has seen them attain various awards and recognition including from the U.S. Veterans Magazine as the “Best of the Best” for the progress they’ve made with their efforts in diversity, in addition to being on the Working Mother 100 Best list for the past 28 years.

Diageo is another. Their motto: “Celebrating life, every day, everywhere and for everyone” suggests that they value everyone irrespective of their background, disabilities, religion, sexuality or ethnicity. It engenders a sense of both diversity and inclusion.

Long before #blacklivesmatter became a movement, Diageo had set up support groups for employees of Asian and African heritage to support BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) colleagues.

They also run a Rainbow Network for LGBT+ employees. They are an organisation that walk the talk when it comes to diversity.

With a strong female representation of around 44% of the boardroom and 40% of the executive committee, it has set a similar target for female representation of 40% on its global leadership team (a group of people who sit below the board and executive team) by 2025.

Their efforts around diversity have also been recognised when in 2018 Diageo was named the leading FTSE 100 company for its representation of women on boards and in 2019, were ranked 2nd in the Thomson Reuters D&I Index. They are also a Disability Confident company. This is a government scheme designed to encourage employers to recruit and retain disabled people and those with health conditions.

In 2018, Diageo’s gender pay gap sat at 5.4% in favour of women.

Whichever business you look at as a case study, and that has a diverse and inclusive business is in the main, is more commercially successful than those who don’t. They also have better cultures and the two go hand-in-hand with creating an environment that people aspire to work in.