Why Certain Industries Still Lag Behind On D&I
While many industries have made great changes and steps forward in the way they handle diversity, equality, and inclusion, certain notable examples continue to be dominated by an old establishment. Among these industries are Law, Finance, and Business which, in some cases, have embraced diversity at the junior end but still struggle to bring real equality to their leadership. Why is that though, and what more can be done to support these sectors to embrace the positive impact of diversity?
The root of the lack of progress in many of these sectors can usually be traced back to an establishment that remains very resistant to change. In law, these are the partners of the firm, who are statistically less diverse than the rest of the firm, showing exactly where the biggest barrier to progression lies. While in other industries, the existing leadership has heard the business case for diversity and listened, in these, it has not. These same statistics make for even worse reading when it comes to minority groups such as the LGBTQI+ and ethnic minorities. As the groups for whom representation has come most recently, it comes as little surprise that the entrenched establishments of certain fields struggle doubly to embrace their representation.
The question then becomes, how have these particular segments of society managed to avoid the processes that all others have gone through? The answer for that is a much more complex one, as it includes leadership which has not had to answer for its shortcomings, a lack of real desire to change, and a misunderstanding of the business case for diversity. While in most industries, a leadership team has to answer to some other body, whether it’s a regulatory body, a professional body, or shareholders. However, when a firm is owned by its senior figures without much oversight, it is their views that hold the power. This then plays into the lack of desire for change, as the apathy from higher up becomes the default state of mind for the whole organisation, with dissent becoming even more difficult with the more control the leaders have on the organisation. With this can sometimes come a willful misunderstanding of the business case for diversity, wherein the leaders are so entrenched in their beliefs they act against the best interest of their business.
In order to lessen this gap in the industries that are affected, we can either build the change from the ground up, or direct education towards those in positions of power. The fields are now becoming more open to diversity at the junior end, with much diversity-focused law and business entry schemes. However, the education aimed at the leaders of those industry leaders is struggling to make a full impact. It is in this space that the next great effort can be made. Education should engage the people it is targeting, and so far attempts to educate the few who control power in these fields have not worked. It might therefore be time to amend the teaching methods to better suit their audience, bringing new knowledge in a way that they will understand. The few leaders who have made it to the highest echelons in this field are key in this as the people who can educate through their own example. They can also support diverse junior staff through their journey, sharing their experiences and helping to make the industries into better places. Allies are also key, being able to use their positions to build a wider base of support for DE&I initiatives. All in all, it will be a shared and precise effort that will bring these fields up to the level of the others, something that they will all see the benefit of in the long run.