Age, gender, sexual orientation, family commitments… our differences make the world go round, but our workplaces are in dire need of a revolution found our UK and US survey.

Age, gender, sexual orientation, family commitments… our differences make the world go round, but our workplaces are in dire need of a revolution – found our UK and US survey.

As recently as 2007, BP chief Lord Browne kept his personal life in the closet for fear of the homophobia in the business world. A brilliant man, with a brilliant 30-plus-year career behind him, he kept a huge and important part of his life secret because he felt it would harm his career. In the 21st century, diversity across the working world, particularly in senior roles, is pitifully inadequate.

This lack of diversity is holding the world of business back. It can also be hugely destructive – former Citigroup CFO Sallie Krawcheck cites lack of diversity and the associated ‘groupthink’ as one of the drivers behind the 2007 financial crisis. As our world changes, becoming ever faster and more interconnected, diversity is not simply about business advantage, it’s about survival, as so brilliantly described by Charlie Kim, Founder and CEO, Next Jump:

“The importance of diversity is directly correlated to the needs of the information age. During the manufacturing age, machines were the most important asset and the need was for human beings to conform and act in similar ways. Fast forward to the information age, where the single greatest asset is human capital, conformity is death. Diversity of human capital represents diversity of thought.”  

When we think diversity, we often think gender, race and sexuality. Important though these are, there’s more to it. Diversity is about celebrating the fullness of human skills, perspectives and experience. The Centre for Talent Innovation recognises two kinds of diversity – inherent (traits you were born with, such as sexuality or race) and acquired (how you act as a result of your experiences and learning, such as becoming a parent, or skills or perspectives developed through working in the business or not-for-profit sectors).

Here at Virgin Unite and in partnership with the B Team, we’ve been exploring how we can shift the conversation and drive change on diversity. As part of this we worked with YouGov in the UK and US to find out what workers between the ages of 18 and 65 felt about diversity in the workplace.

Here are our top findings:

  • Over 50% of US respondents believe that many working people face “limitations or discrimination at work” because of their difference.
  • Age and family commitments were the differences that most UK and US respondents said led to limitations and discrimination at work.
  • A lack of genuine commitment by corporate leadership was found to be the principle barrier to greater diversity in the workplace, but we all have a key role to play in making the shift.

If you think this is just a business issue, think again. According to our survey in both the US and UK, the majority of respondents felt that greater ambition in embracing diversity in the workplace would have a positive impact on society as a whole.

Take a look at the full results below and find out more in the B Team’s report, Diversity: Bringing the Business Case to Life.

Read more articles in our Future of Work series.