3 May 2017

British businesses need to make faster progress on making workplaces more inclusive and must avoid letting diversity slip off the agenda.

Arguing that greater diversity in the workplace is not just a matter of fairness, but of hard-nosed business sense, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn wants companies to see it as a top strategic priority.

Speaking at a recent event in London, she said that diversity is going to become more important as the UK heads into "a perfect storm" of demographic and technological changes that will make talent the number one concern for employers.

Arguing that the definition of diversity in the workforce should extend beyond gender and ethnicity to social background, sexual orientation and age, Ms Fairbairn said that businesses need to use what they know works and make it the norm.

Whatever the impact of leaving the EU, there are likely to be fewer European migrants coming to work in the UK than in the past, she went on. With the UK’s domestic labour force shrinking as older people retire, it is going to get even harder to recruit the right people.

At times of great change, priorities compete and things can go backwards, Ms Fairbairn added.

However, she noted, the business case for diversity and inclusion is rock solid. Firms with the highest levels of gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform their rivals, while those companies with the highest levels of ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to do so.

"It is about building inclusive workplaces that harness the best innovation and productivity the British workforce can offer, because people feel accepted, supported and have opportunities to thrive," the CBI chief concluded.