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Diversity, inclusion: where do companies stand?

Owing to fears of misunderstandings and even internal discrimination, companies tread lightly on the subjects of diversity and inclusion. However, spurred on by the manager and extended to the whole company, they are a guarantee of performance.

In January 2020, a video featuring two Slip Français employees rattles the social networks. On the theme "Viva Africa", a woman dressed as a boubou wears a black-rimmed face when one of her colleagues, dressed as a monkey, cries out. Hard blow for the French SME boosting the success of its products made in France. Its manager, Guillaume Gibault, will apologise for the behaviour 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.

In the press, the entrepreneur assures 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 is behind these words? "The first difficulty we face when we talk about diversity and inclusion is that in France and in Europe more generally, we don't know what it means," says Caroline Chavier, CEO of the recruitment firm The Allyance.

The expert replies: "Diversity is a question of 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 fulfilled and successful within the company. "Or, to use an often heard metaphor 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 a stand on.

A diversity of diversities

To begin with, it is important to be aware that diversity can take different forms. The best known is that of gender, defended through gender equality. But it would be very reductive to limit ourselves to this. Also worth noting: 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 being taken into account, particularly with regard to dress codes or grossophobia. As for religion, the subject is still far too taboo to be really tackled. For are all these diversities treated in the same way?

It appears that public policies and actions have centred on disabled workers and women, with a strong emphasis on legal obligations. The 6% disability rate in the workforce has prompted companies to make some efforts. Others have favoured paying a contribution to the Agefiph in order to stop worrying about these slightly "different" workers.

As for parity, it is being applied quite gradually. As a first step, the Copé-Zimmermann law voted in 2011 sets a 40% quota of women on boards of directors. This decision has been in effect since January 1st, 2017. Thereafter, the gender equality index becomes binding in March 2019. It is intended to suppress professional inequalities between women and men and only concerns companies with more than 1,000 employees. The worst performers must undergo a necessary correction, or pay a financial penalty. This principle has gradually been extended to all companies. "Concerning gender diversity, the lines are moving, agrees Isabelle Rouhan, president of the Colibri Talent cabinet. Better still, gender mix is easily quantified. Although in reality, the wage gap remains 24% overall. Nevertheless, figures are being provided 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 we have to measure diversity, whatever it is. And there is a need for cross-cutting indexes that are monitored over time.

Necessary measures

Be careful, this is not a question of quotas, but of clear indications between a situation as it stands and a desired situation. In other words, it is a question of looking at what exists, what we want to do and what could work. It is a benchmark that allows us to set up an action.

Four criteria are quite easy to obtain: gender, age, disability and nationality. Progress is measured in terms of recruitment, integration, professional development and remuneration 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 you can't know, for example, how many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender) individuals there are in the company. We find out 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! This is the reason why we shouldn't hesitate to be accompanied by associations that provide support for these populations," she suggests.

This is the case, for example, of L'Autre Cercle, which advocates the LGBT+ perspective in the workplace. 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 say that he is developing a diversity policy. But isn't it nevertheless discriminatory, without knowing it," says Catherine Tripon, spokesperson for L'Autre Cercle. In the communication documents, isn't it only about father and mother, husband and wife, etc.? "

The question of visibility arises: if no signal in his or her favour is activated, a gay or lesbian employee will never risk putting himself or herself forward. "Having a diversity policy, writing it and displaying 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 conjugality and parenthood, with associated rights that the employee may one day require. If the company does not express its impartiality, it is difficult to take the step.

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