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Diversity, inclusion: where do companies stand?

Due to fears of misunderstandings and even internal discrimination, companies are slowly gaining ground on the subjects of diversity and inclusion. Yet, driven by the leader and extended throughout the company, they are a pledge of performance.

In January 2020, a video featuring two Slip Français employees rocked social networks. On the theme "Viva Africa", a woman wearing a boubou suit sports a black-rimmed face when one of her colleagues, dressed as a monkey, shouts out. Hard blow for the French SME which rides on the success of its products made in France. Its manager, Guillaume Gibault, will apologize for the attitude of his employees. But the question of sanctions for actions in the private sphere arises. And, to a lesser extent, that of diversity in the company.

According to the press, the entrepreneur asserts that this episode prompted him to approach the association SOS Racisme to draw the outlines of a more diverse and inclusive HR policy. But what are these words hiding? "The first difficulty we face when we talk about diversity and inclusion is that in France and in Europe as a whole, we don't know what it means," says Caroline Chavier, CEO of the recruitment firm The Allyance.

The expert offers an answer: "Diversity is how I can make sure that I have people in my company who are diverse. Inclusion is how I can ensure that these diverse people will be fully developed and successful within the company. "Or, to use a metaphor often heard on the subject, diversity is inviting people to the ball. Inclusion is inviting them to dance. While the first is a recruitment issue, the second addresses management issues. And the two together form a corporate issue that managers must really take on board.

A diversity... of diversities

To begin with, it is important to recognize that diversity can take many forms. The best known is that of gender, upheld through gender equality. But it would be very reductive to limit ourselves to this. Also noteworthy: generational diversity, diversity linked to social and cultural origin, diversity linked to disability and diversity linked to sexual orientation. Increasingly, the diversity of physical appearance is taken into account, particularly with regard to dress codes or grossophobia. As for religion, the subject is still far too taboo to be really discussed. For all these diversities are treated in the same way?

It turns out that public policies and actions have crystallized on disabled workers and women, to a large extent due to legal obligations. The 6% workforce share of workers with disabilities has prompted companies to make some efforts. Others have opted to pay a subscription to the Agefiph in order to stop worrying about these slightly "different" workers.

As for parity, it is gradually being enforced. Initially, the Copé-Zimmermann law voted in 2011 sets a 40% women's ratio on boards of directors. This decision has been applied since January 1, 2017. Subsequently, the gender equality index becomes mandatory in March 2019. It is intended to overcome professional inequalities between women and men and only concerns companies with more than 1,000 employees. The worst performers must comply with a necessary correction, or pay a financial penalty. This principle has gradually been extended to all companies. "Regarding gender diversity, the lines are moving, agrees Isabelle Rouhan, president of the firm Colibri Talent. Better still, gender diversity is easily quantified. Though in reality, the wage gap is still 24% overall. Nevertheless, we put figures on it, which is not the case with other types of diversity. "According to her, there will be no possible improvement in the situation without key elements. So you have to measure diversity, whatever it is. And we need indexes that are cross-cutting and tracked over time.

Necessary measures

Beware, it is not a question of quotas, but of precise indications between a situation in the state and a desired situation. In other words, it is a matter of looking at what exists, what we want to do and what could work. It is a reference mark which makes it possible to set up an action.

Four criteria are easy to capture: gender, age, disability and nationality. Progress is measured in terms of recruitment, integration, professional development and compensation policy. In each case, it is possible to compile statistics according to the populations concerned. You also have to look at the legal landscape," warns Caroline Chavier. Some aspects are hidden and we can't know, for example, how many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender) people there are in the company. We learn this during informal moments, in the course of a conversation, but the company cannot collect this kind of information about its teams. "The solution recommended by the expert? The implementation of anonymous questionnaires. "However, even the wording can be clumsy! That's why we shouldn't hesitate to be accompanied by associations that support these populations," she suggests.

This is the case, for example, of L'Autre Cercle, who advocates the position of LGBT+ in companies. Its strongest action? The creation of a charter that provides a formal framework by including the LGBT+ theme in a policy to promote diversity and prevent discrimination. One hundred and forty companies, associations and local authorities have signed it to date. "An employer may be tempted to claim that it is developing a diversity policy. But isn't it nevertheless discriminatory, without knowing it? raises Catherine Tripon, spokesperson for L'Autre Cercle. In communication documents, does it not only talk about father and mother, husband and wife, etc.? "

The question of visibility is raised: if no signal in his or her favor is activated, a gay or lesbian employee will never risk putting himself or herself forward. "Having a diversity policy, writing it and posting it, means that the employee can activate a right," continues Catherine Tripon. A sick child, a company party where spouses are invited, the need to set aside days for a wedding or a Pacs... so many moments in everyday life that go hand in hand with acquired rights for employees. These are questions of matrimony and parenthood, with associated rights that the employee may one day need. If the company does not express its neutrality, it is difficult to take the step.

"Short-, medium- and long-term visible benefits".

Caroline Courtin, Head of Diversity and Inclusion - CSR HR at BNP Paribas.

How is the Diversity and Inclusion policy defined at BNP Paribas?

All aspects of diversity are treated equally. But these policies are not decided on their own within the company. This is why we make sure that employee networks are integrated into all the discussions on these subjects. This is a daily task whose benefits are visible in the short, medium and long term.

The group is quite active, particularly in favor of LGBT+ employees. How is this done?

One of the founding acts was the signature of the charter of L'Autre Cercle in 2015. This reasserted that homophobia and transphobia have no place at BNP Paribas and that the group would do its utmost to ensure that all LGBT+ employees - and their loved ones - are included. This means, for example, being able to talk freely and safely on Monday mornings about their weekend with their partner, even if they are of the same sex. The Pride and Allies network (open to heterosexual allies) is very important in this awareness-raising mechanism. We also organize events dedicated to parenthood. The most recent of these events was an opportunity to discuss the subject of coming out as a family.

Can you mention some revealing developments?

We have been measuring these points since 2010 through our annual employee survey. Three of the five questions that have improved the most in 10 years are related to diversity and inclusion. Among the key indicators, the rate of employees with disabilities was less than 2.5% in 2010. It rose to 4.74% last year.

Are these measures accessible to VSEs and SMEs?

These subjects can be brought forward by a Human Resources Director or by the company director. It is necessary to define a policy, ensure that it is implemented and that strong positions are taken and expressed. Awareness-raising and training actions around stereotypes and diversity can be organized. I encourage companies to work in coalitions, such as the Stop sexism initiative. It is possible to draw inspiration from practices implemented in other companies.

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