Number of employer-led Diversity & Inclusion initiatives DOUBLED during lockdown

April 12, 2021

Twice as many professionals (64%) stated that they are aware of their employer’s diversity & inclusion initiatives, compared to 2019. 

In the face of mandatory remote working, active participation in diversity & inclusion initiatives has grown by +10% in lockdown – with more than a third of professionals now participating in employer-led working groups. 

Interestingly, 15% of respondents who previously had not been actively involved in D&I initiatives stated that this was something they now intended to get involved with following the resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in Summer 2020. 

The findings come from a survey of 7,500 professionals across the UK & Ireland by leading recruiter Robert Walters – and comes ahead of the launch of the Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Strategy Report – which will be one of the most significant survey-led insight into D&I progression in the workplace in the past two years. 

In what has been a positive result in employers’ efforts, the report findings highlight that two-thirds of professionals (61%) feel that their organisation ‘celebrates people’s differences’ – with +10% more women feeling confident to negotiate salary, and pay satisfaction amongst black professionals increasing by +10% in the past year. 

Chris Hickey – UK & Ireland CEO at Robert Walters comments:

“D&I has rightly been a prime concern for leadership teams, who now actively understand how critical an effective D&I policy is for success. But this is an intersectional and complex matter – and the nuances of D&I mean that some conversations are, in some respects, still in their infancy. 

“Whilst we celebrate any steps forward that have been made – and our report shares best practice examples that everyone  can learn from – our year-on-year findings indicate that there is still some way to go to close the diversity & inclusion gap. 

“As the option to return to the office draws closer, employers must not take their foot off the pedal in regard to inclusion – where our findings indicate that remote working has had the potential to further marginalise under-represented and minority professionals who didn’t feel the same level of connectivity to the workplace pre-lockdown.” 


Despite organisations stepping-up their efforts around D&I in 2020, the impact of Covid-19 has been widespread and varying amongst individuals – with early studies all showing that under-represented and minority groups have been the most negatively impacted. 

Whilst the full impact yet to be determined, experts predict that the Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to push back any progression made around diversity & inclusion in the workplace by as much as 5-10 years.  

  • Disabled professionals: With disabled workers earning a fifth less than non-disabled and  less likely to be in employed than their non-disabled peers – the Trades Union Congress warns that the disability pay and employment gaps will almost certainly increase again as the economic impact of Covid-19 hits. Studies highlighted by the TUC show that in previous recessions disabled workers are the first to lose their jobs, and the last to be re-employed.  
  • Women in work: According to a report from McKinsey – women are 1.8 times more likely to lose their job as a result of the pandemic, compared to men – due to varying factors such as women being disproportionately represented in vulnerable industries such as leisure, hospitality and retail, as well the heightened burden of childcare during lockdown – which is disproportionately carried by women. 
  • Impact to ethnic minorities: According to The Runnymede Trust, people from Bangladeshi (43%) and Black African groups (38%) were most likely to report loss of income since Covid-19, compared with 22% of white people. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that, compared with white British men, Bangladeshi men were four times more likely, Pakistani men three times more likely, and Black men twice as likely to have jobs in industries forced to close during lockdown. 
  • The age factor: According to the Resolution Foundation, younger and older workers have experienced the brunt of the hit to jobs and pay – with the very youngest in the most challenging position. One-third of 18-24-year-old employees (excluding students) have lost jobs or been furloughed, compared to one-in-six prime-age adults. Similarly, 35 per cent of 18-24-year-old employees are earning less than they did prior to the outbreak, and 30 per cent of those in their early 60s – compared to 23 per cent of 25-49-year-olds.

Nic Hammarling – Partner & Diversity & Inclusion specialist at Pearn Kandola comments: 

“Whilst analysis into this is still early, both Covid-19 and lockdown have had some serious D&I implications at both a macro & societal level – from a rise in anti-Chinese prejudice we’ve witnessed across the globe to childcare being disproportionately dispersed amongst socio-economic groups and across gender. 

“The temporary suspension of the UK gender pay reporting and the long term hiatus following the consultation on ethnic pay reporting has a profound impact on not just how businesses behave but society too – as people pay attention and respond to what the government is  taking seriously. 

“Making genuine progress on diversity and inclusion is about turning multiple cogs at the same time. It is about tackling the barriers to diverse recruitment, whilst also tracking progression from entry-level roles. It is about tackling bias in appraisal and bonus decisions whilst also addressing the importance of managers understanding the personal circumstances of their team members. It is about tackling pay disparity whilst also ensuring everyone has good access to the resources available. 

“It is positive to see that participation amongst employees is growing, but we must not slow down in our research, understanding and action.”

The Robert Walters’ Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Strategy Reportpublishes on 26 April 2021 – and features insight from the country’s leading D&I organisations including  QlearsitePearn KandolaBYP NetworkThe Kaleidoscope Group and Inclusive Group. To request your copy of the report click here.

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