There is no doubt that diversity in the workplace is a perpetual theme within HR circles. It is now widely accepted that greater diversity categorically does have a positive impact on core organisational outcomes, yet sometimes it seems that little progress is ever made – we certainly haven’t cracked the problem.

The research most often cited as evidence to support diversity was provided by separate studies by consultants Catalyst and McKinsey, both published in 2007. These studies compared the financial performance of organisations according to the gender diversity at senior levels – and both found that greater diversity had a positive impact on business profitability.

In light of this, in recent years there has been a myriad of initiatives by organisations to boost gender diversity at senior level with targets, quotas, positive discrimination, and talent pipelining projects all heralded as ‘the answer’ to under-representation. However, despite these attempts, the figures remain grim, with females accounting for just 23 per cent of total board directors in the UK a mere five FTSE 100 companies are headed by women.

Blame is laid at the feet of established patriarchal business cultures, governments, parents, schools, employers, industry, HR, childcare providers, or women themselves.  Some argue that women choose to be under-represented at senior level. Meanwhile, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reveals that women who make it to the top levels of management are getting paid up to 45% less than their male counterparts.

Furthermore, the latest report from the UN’s International Labour Organization has found that, More than 45 years after legislation was put in place in the UK to remove sexism at work, women across the world earn just 77 per cent of that paid to men – a figure that has improved by only three per cent in the past 20 years. The report also predicts that if the income of female workers continues to grow at the current rate, it will be another 70 years before we even sniff equality. On this note, should we just chuck the towel in, accept that gender inequality is ingrained in society for the foreseeable future, and move on?

Maybe we just need to take a different approach. It could be that we are so used to looking at the ‘big picture’; we are failing to see the smaller details. We can’t give up, but we cannot treat the symptoms until we determine the cause. And we need to begin by looking closer to home.

As a trade body representing professional recruitment  businesses, APSCo has announced a partnership with Women in Recruitment (WIR) in an initiative that will give professional recruiters the ability to make the most of the female talent in their businesses.

It has come to light that the talent pipeline in many recruitment organisations continues to ‘leak’ women – often at a time when they can add most value to the business. This programme is designed to provide training, professional development and networking opportunities for women in recruitment as well as toolkits for business leaders to encourage best practice. If we can educate the professional recruitment sector to get its own house in order, then recruitment firms will be in a great position to advise their clients on related best practice. It won’t single-handedly solve the problem – but it’s a step in the right direction.

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