With the UK population becoming increasingly diverse, attention has intensified on how to reflect this in the make-up of the corporate workforce. Leigh Lafever-Ayer, HR director for UK & Ireland at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, says that progress seems glacially slow.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 36% of people in full-time employment are women, even though they make up 51% of the population, according to the 2011 census. Britain's ethnic minority population has also increased by nearly 40% between 2001 and 2009, but the corporate world has failed to reflect these changes in its workforce, with many industries struggling both to attract and retain applicants from diverse backgrounds.
Governments in the European Union - led by the UK - have combined to oppose the 40% quota of women on boards proposed by the European Commission.
The bottom-line benefits of recruiting a diverse workforce have been proven in tangible terms. However, government tactics such as quotas that forcibly encourage businesses to bring this about are viewed much less favourably.
Business or HR isssue?
At Enterprise, we don't like quotas either; we believe that diversity is a business issue, not a human resources issue. Our business model means that we predominantly promote from within, which forces us to place a high emphasis on diversity. If we want to have senior people from a broad range of backgrounds, we need to attract them as graduates and retain them for the long term. This has led us to focus our diversity efforts on innovation rather than compliance.
Diversity policies are not a magic wand and translating them into action is not a one-step process. For a number of years now we have had a three-tiered diversity training stra