• NMG Staff

Diversity, inclusion: where do companies stand?

This article was originally published Agathe Jaffredo et Céline Tridon.

Out of fear of misunderstandings, or even internal discrimination, companies are slowly making progress on the subjects of diversity and inclusion. However, driven by the manager and extended to the whole company, they are a pledge of performance.

In January 2020, a video featuring two Slip Français employees shocks the internet. On the theme "Viva Africa", a woman dressed as a boubou wears a black-rimmed face when one of her colleagues, disguised as a monkey, screams. Hard blow for the French SME which is relying on the success of its products made in France. Its manager, Guillaume Gibault, will apologise for the attitude of his employees. But the matter 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 claims 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 hidden behind these words? "The first difficulty we face when we talk about diversity and inclusion is that in France and much more generally in Europe, we don't know what it means," says Caroline Chavier, CEO of the recruitment firm The Allyance.

The expert provides an answer: "Diversity is the way 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 both of them form a corporate issue that managers must really take on board.

Diversity... of diversities

To begin with, it is worth noting that diversity can take many different forms. The best known is that of gender, promoted through gender equality. But it would be very simplistic to focus only on 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 worked on. For are all these diversities treated in the same way?

It turns out that public policies and actions have focused on disabled workers and women, with a great deal of legal obligations. The 6% quota of disabled workers in the workforce has prompted companies to make some efforts. Others have chosen to pay a contribution to Agefiph to stop worrying about these slightly "different" workers.

As for parity, it is being implemented very gradually. As a first step, the Copé-Zimmermann law voted in 2011 sets a 40% quota for women on boards of directors. This decision has been in effect since January 1, 2017. Subsequently, the gender equality index becomes mandatory in March 2019. It is intended to eradicate 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 fine. This principle has gradually been expanded to all companies. "Concerning gender diversity, the lines are shifting," agrees Isabelle Rouhan, president of the Colibri Talent cabinet. Better still, gender mix is easily quantified. Even if, in reality, the wage gap remains at 24% overall. Nevertheless, figures are put 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-sectional indexes that are monitored over time.

Necessary measures

Be warned, 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 easy to collect: 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) people 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 why we should not hesitate to be accompanied by associations that support these populations," she suggests.

This is the case, for example, of L'Autre Cercle, which advocates the position of LGBT+ in companies. Its strongest action? The creation of a charter that sets out 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 inclined 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, does it not only talk about father and mother, husband and wife, etc.? "

The visibility issue arises: if no signal in his or her favour is activated, a gay or lesbian employee will never run the risk of 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 issues of conjugality and parenthood, with associated rights that the employee may one day need. If the company does not express its impartiality, it is difficult to take the step.

"Visible benefits in the short, medium and long term".

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 alone in the company. This is why we make sure that employee networks are included in all discussions on these subjects. This is a daily task, the benefits of which are visible in the short, medium and long term.

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

One of the founding acts was the signing of the charter of L'Autre Cercle in 2015. This reiterated 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 families - 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 organise events dedicated to parenthood. The latest of these events was a chance to discuss the subject of coming out as a family.

Can you mention some revealing developments?

We have been measuring these 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 approaches available to VSEs and SMEs?

These subjects can be brought forward by an HR 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 organised. I urge 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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