Diversity and inclusion: CEO survey reveals a huge gap between perception and reality

87 per cent of CEOs surveyed globally said they were promoting talent diversity and inclusiveness within their own organisation, but just two thirds of ‘young leaders’ agreed this was the case. Here's how to plug the diversity and inclusion gap.

PwC’s latest CEO survey reveals a significant disparity between perceptions of diversity and inclusiveness across different levels of seniority. While the majority of CEOs surveyed (87 per cent) said they were promoting talent diversity and inclusiveness within their own organisation, just two thirds of ‘young leaders’ agreed this was the case.

This suggests a block in insight being shared throughout companies, with D&I strategies either failing to cascade down from the top, or feedback on the feasibility of said initiatives not trickling up from the ground.

According to HR and diversity expert, the Clear Company‘s Kate Headley, business leaders must seek advice from internal networks to ensure that diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies are engaging and effective.

“It’s promising that 87 per cent of leaders have reported that they are actively promoting D&I within their businesses, and these figures are reflective of what we are experiencing in our consultancy work. Business leaders are generally no longer asking ‘Why?’ they should get on top of the diversity agenda, but ‘How?’ they should go about doing so, which represents a real step-change in attitudes at the top,” she says.

“However, the disparity between CEO perceptions and those of their more junior counterparts points to a clear disconnect. Somewhere along the line it seems that messages are being lost. Effective inclusion strategies rely on multi-way communications across every level of the business and externally. This is true not only at implementation stage, but also when it comes to measuring success.”

It is crucial that senior leaders collect insight from their networks, including diverse stakeholders, to ascertain what steps are needed to push the agenda forwards – and that any initiatives are subsequently continually evaluated, Headley adds.

“PwC’s figures may also suggest a difference in expectations between the professional ‘generations’ – what a CEO could perceive to be ‘enough’ at strategic level may not always hit the bar in the eyes of the wider workforce. Thankfully, this is a relatively easy hurdle to overcome,” Headley adds.

Diversity in the workplace means building an environment based on inclusivity, trust, compassion, and respect. It also means creating a workplace that offers opportunities for career advancement to all. Businesses are increasingly advocating the fact that diversity isn’t just the right thing to do. It can be transformative, driving new ways of thinking, and new approaches to solving problems for customers and society.

“Success lies in the art of communication. By putting processes in place to engage and consult with existing and potential employees around D&I, CEOs and HR leads can best ensure that good intentions translate to measurable outcomes,” says Headley. “Organisations that get this right can then act as a beacon of best practice to the one in 10 CEOs which PwC’s survey found are not yet promoting D&I within their business.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.