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It has long been established that the case for diversity in business is two fold. First, it’s the right thing to do: all organisations should afford the same opportunities to all their staff, irrespective of their sex, gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, belief, physical abilities or age. And secondly, according to Marketwatch (August 2020), organisations which embrace diversity, equality and inclusion actually perform better than the competition.

In times of economic downturn, diversity initiatives are often the first to suffer. Companies under financial strain are frequently tempted to batten down the hatches and focus on their core activities and in so doing they’re relegating equality and diversity from an essential pillar of their business to something that is merely “nice to have”.

While I understand that, on the one hand, cutting diversity budgets might appear to be a short-term solution to financial concerns, the damage to staff morale, recruitment and public perception is likely to do more harm than good.


More jobseekers than ever before–even if they do not identify with a minority group–review a prospective employer’s diversity policies before deciding to apply for a job, while existing staff–perhaps attracted by a company’s progressive stance on equality and diversity–will be dismayed if they perceive that their workplace is cutting corners. Similarly, clients and customers who are part of a minority are unlikely to be impressed with diversity taking a back seat at the first sign of economic pressures.

This is why, after much consideration, I have chosen not to shelve plans for publication of the 2020 Global Diversity List. This prestigious listing features individuals and corporate network groups that, even during these challenging times, remain committed by word and deed to establishing a fair and equitable playing field for everyone within their organisation based on their ability rather than any accident of birth.

People work better when they can be themselves, and witnessing your employer deprioritising staff wellbeing is not only dispiriting but bad for business: if a member of staff sees evidence that their workplace is becoming less welcoming they are likely to become demoralised and a demoralised workforce is a less productive one, cancelling out any perceived benefits from the rationalisation of diversity budgets.


It is with this in mind that I maintain that the Global Diversity List is now more important than ever. With people uncertain about their futures, their finances and perhaps the health of themselves and their loved ones, it is incumbent upon business to be mindful of their employees’ mental health and sense of security and to do everything they can to put a metaphorical arm around their shoulders.

There is no escaping the fact that these are uncertain times and that for our economy to recover we will all need to pull together. This will involve determination, skill and–in the case of the Global Diversity List–an acknowledgement of those who remain determined to support all their staff all of the time. After all, we are living through the most significant and disruptive national crisis since 1945 and it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that those at the greatest disadvantage in the workplace are not further disadvantaged by disregarding essential diversity policies.


Linda Riley,
Founder, Global Diversity List

Cover of The Guardian GDL Supplement


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