Companies_that_Embrace_Diversity_Perform_BetterPart 1 of 2 in a series

Let’s make 2015 the year to focus on diversity

Diversity is clearly a topic at the forefront of the national conversation. The news of 2014 prominently featured coverage of issues related to racial, gender, and sexual equality. Federal agencies responsible for ensuring civil liberties and curbing instances of discrimination became more aggressive in their oversight and remedial actions. And yet, despite all the talk, prejudices actually seemed to increase. Race relations in the United States grew more strained, evident in headlines out of Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere in the nation.

A 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey found that one-in-three Brits admitted having racist tendencies on some level — a five percent increase since 2001. Researchers in the United Kingdom believe little headway is really being made.

Diversity encompasses more than race

The issues affecting today’s workers, however, extend far beyond race. Religious discrimination complaints in the workplace have more than doubled over the last 15 years and appear to be growing faster than other types of complaints. Cases involving age discrimination rose by 45 percent. Women, who make up nearly half of the American workforce, still make only 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. And today, only 18 states and the District of Columbia explicitly protect LGBT talent. The overwhelming conclusion drawn by the EEOC, labor agencies, the United Nations and civil liberties organizations is that discrimination soared between 2010 and 2014.

Congress has not moved to amend Title VII to expressly prohibit LGBT discrimination. However, in a December 15 memo U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the prohibition on gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

“After considering the text of Title VII, the relevant Supreme Court case law interpreting the statute, and the developing jurisprudence in this area, I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” he wrote.

Regardless of pending legislation, Supreme Court rulings or specific actions undertaken by Congress, employers should not wait for express provisions to be written into Title VII to include LGBT as a protected class.

“Instead, employers can, and should, do right by all of their employees by adopting progressive anti-discrimination policies that make it clear that they are employers of inclusion for all employees, even if Title VII, on its face, still permits discrimination against some,” said labor attorney John Hyman in Workforce magazine.

“At a critical time for our nation’s economy,” the White House noted in July, “we need all of our workers to be focused on making the most of their talent, skill, and ingenuity, rather than worrying about losing their job due to discrimination. The economy functions best when workers are matched to the jobs with the best fit, maximizing their productivity, increasing wages and helping the bottom line for businesses. Discrimination is not just wrong, it also can keep qualified workers from maximizing their potential to contribute to the strengthening of our economy.”

Zenith Talent wants to make 2015 the year of diversity, with a focus on areas outside of race alone. In this series, we’re going to look at the ongoing challenges facing women and older talent in the labor force, and the opportunities that await companies who seize on the under-utilized potential of these workers. We understand the difference that diversity makes in the workforce.

The state of gender equality

According to Mercer’s 2013 Human Capital Report, women around the world remain significantly underrepresented at all levels in the workforce. They trail men in overall participation. Current global hiring, retention and promotion rates fall short of the numbers needed to create and sustain gender equality over the next ten years. And although data point to more women transitioning into leadership roles in the coming decade, the United States is conspicuously excluded from these encouraging projections.

Championing gender diversity should be a greater focus for organizations everywhere. As the Mercer study noted: “Given the size of the untapped female workforce and the pivotal role that women play in society as providers, caregivers, decision makers, and consumers, the extent of their participation in the workforce has major implications for the economic and social development of communities and nations.”

  • Economists have calculated that eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates will bolster the gross domestic product (GDP) around the world: in the United States by 5 percent, in Japan by 9 percent, in the UAE by 12 percent and in Egypt by 34 percent.
  • Women are more likely than men to invest larger portions of their incomes in the education and health of their children, ensuring the development of stronger future talent.
  • Gender-balanced workplaces generate higher levels of efficiency savings, employee engagement, productivity, financial performance, and better meet the needs of diverse suppliers and customers.
  • Companies that actively promote women outperform their competitors, with overall profits 34 percent higher.

Taking action

“President Barack Obama’s labor and employment legislative agenda may have been a big dud,” labor attorney John Hyman also noted, “but that has not stopped the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Labor Department from picking up the torch and running with it.”

There’s more than enough evidence, anecdotal and quantifiable, to demonstrate that diverse companies perform better, yet with regulators taking a more active stance in enforcing equality, workplace diversity is likely to become a much bigger aspect within HR’s 2015 business plans.

Diversity has long been a hallmark of staffing providers, and large companies seeking a more inclusive, multicultural and integrated team of talent turn to staffing professionals for these needs. A 2013 Staffing Industry Analysts survey found that 66 percent of large companies that use staffing services emphasized a focus on diversity firms. As the doors to global communities open, witnessing unprecedented levels of mobility and integration, more employers are reaching out to elite staffing partners who can help them find the diverse talent they need now.

How staffing curators empower gender equality

It’s virtually impossible to think of staffing agencies without considering diversity. Not only do staffing professionals actively cultivate diverse workers, many of them began their businesses to support diversity. It’s not just a philosophy they embrace, it’s an integral component in their operating models. According to American Express OPEN’s 2014 State of Women-Owned Business Report, staffing and HR firms make up the second highest concentration of women-run business services distributed across all industry segments. Let’s look at some of the ways elite staffing curators help nurture and develop this high-performing talent.

Flexible arrangements that fit the needs of diverse talent: Workplace flexibility isn’t merely a motivating factor for professionals considering contingent work, it’s particularly important for women who must balance multiple roles at home and on the job. Staffing professionals understand the importance of flexible arrangements and the power they have to influence attraction, promotion and retention.

Access to diversity groups: Because diversity initiatives are important to hiring managers and MSPs, staffing suppliers have developed proactive strategies for sourcing and recruiting qualified candidates across a variety of backgrounds. They consistently seek out and work with a wide range of diversity organizations to better understand the unique attributes of each group. This allows staffing professionals to directly link their members and other constituents to exclusive employment opportunities within client and MSP programs. In this way, staffing curators help bridge the gender gap, strengthening the ability of employers to tap into a broader talent pool that meets all objectives and mandated set-aside goals.

Pay equity: The overarching goal of staffing professionals is provide the best candidates at the most competitive rates. Unlike the clients they support, staffing firms must find a variety of top talent across countless industries and job categories — an effort that includes recruiting for niche skills, unique qualifications, specialized backgrounds and more. They cast as wide a net as possible, bringing in workers from broad and disparate cultures. The pay rates staffing professionals offer are based exclusively on qualifications, experience and optimal matches to the job requisitions they receive, regardless of gender. In this way, pay parity becomes a reality for women who find employment through staffing firms.

Walking the walk: The diverse nature of varied hiring initiatives across numerous clients makes staffing curators inherent experts on diversity:

  • They implicitly understand the demographic changes that occur in the overall workforce, as well as with specific client industries.
  • Because they recruit based on skills and qualifications, staffing curators have developed talent pools that incorporate workers of all categories — diversity for staffing professionals is not a term limited in meaning to “minority.”
  • Staffing recruiters are experts at effectively interviewing diverse groups of candidates — they do it every day.
  • They develop recruiting and retention strategies that encompass talent across a broad spectrum of market spaces, operating models, job categories, skills, and business cultures — their attention to crafting universally efficient policies leads to the rise of gender friendly environments and cultural sensitivity.
  • Their wide yet targeted recruiting campaigns allow staffing professionals to form meaningful networks and strategic alliances with groups, associations, communities and organizations focused on the empowerment and fair treatment of women in the workforce.
  • The goal of every successful staffing professional is to locate the highest caliber worker who presents an ideal fit to a client’s need. To deliver, elite recruiters scrutinize every aspect of the job order, as well as every unique characteristic and skill possessed by their talent. It’s a process that takes everything into consideration, and where unique experiences influence the ultimate recommendation. In that way, no candidate is marginalized; and every worker has an opportunity to succeed.

Top performing companies have long realized the benefits of diversity, understanding that the definition of workplace diversity goes well beyond considerations of race, gender and ethnicity. A truly diverse workforce cultivates creativity, productivity and innovation by bringing together talent from disparate backgrounds and experiences, who coalesce yet retain their individual identities.

Read more: Duggar Family Faces Backlash After Success In Repealing LGBT Protections