It really matters to me that people are given the opportunity to realise their potential. As business leaders it is our responsibility to ensure our employees can thrive - and this will only happen if everyone feels comfortable to bring their true selves to the workplace.
I see the publication of our first Diversity Pay Gap Report as an important milestone in developing the kind of fair and inclusive organisation that is necessary for this. We have created a report that goes beyond the legal requirement for a Gender Pay Gap analysis to also include a range of diversity characteristics - ethnicity, sexuality, education, disability and socio-economic status. It may make for uncomfortable reading, but it is this degree of transparency that will hold us accountable and help us evaluate where we are, acting as a compass to guide our direction and creating a baseline for measuring progress so we get to where we want to be.
Of course, you need up-to-date data to create a report such as this, and I am grateful to the 72 per cent of our employees who voluntarily shared their diversity characteristics with us. When gathering this data, we had to first decide which characteristics we were going to look at and be mindful of the sensitivities around this before building our workflow.
It was also important to have a communications plan clearly explaining why we were asking for the data, what we hoped to achieve with it and to reassure people about the security of it. The data analysis took place in October 2020 and we compared the diversity characteristics to the UK census of 2011 to understand how representative we were in the UK, where most of our staff are based. We also compared the results of our gender data to previous years’ findings.
There were some encouraging results. Our Gender Pay Gap had reduced by another 1.1 per cent. From an overall diversity standpoint, we achieved a good level of representation of the communities in which we are based throughout the UK. We also found that educational background did not correlate to pay grade and therefore opportunities at Advanced are not limited by an employee’s education level. This is mainly a result of our philosophy of hiring for potential, reducing unconscious bias by not looking at CVs early in the hiring process.
However, we did find some significant pay gaps, for example for those from an ethnic minority or lower socio-economic background, and we clearly want to get started on addressing these urgently. Now that we have this information, we can determine the steps to take and monitor our progress going forward.
Reporting is about numbers and facts, but it then serves to help us focus on the people behind the stats. When we look at the overlapping diversity characteristics, that layer one on top of the other to affect each individual, we get a fuller picture of the lived experience of our employees. The appointment of our new Senior Talent Partner for Diversity and Inclusion, Kimberley Fellows, is going to help us understand more about this complex area.
Alongside our Diversity Pay Gap Report we have taken other important actions to ensure our organisation is a welcoming place for all. We invited all employees to become Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Leaders, and those who came forward then created allyship groups / networks in some key areas: Black Lives Matter, Disability, LGBTQ+ Team Rainbow and Women’s Inclusion Networks all formed. We started with 59 D&I Leaders and we currently have 176 and rising!
We now also have board-level sponsors for each Network, which means when we decide we need to take action for improvement we can do so at pace. For example, in one Disability Network meeting we discussed Advanced becoming a Disability Confident Committed Employer and by the end of the session we had signed up!
Our Inclusion Networks provide a safe space and support – as well as a focus for change and fresh approaches. They help to educate us all and share greater understanding. The Chairs and other members of our Inclusion Networks have been invited to join me to speak at our monthly virtual Town Halls which go out to all employees worldwide. It is a chance to share personal experiences to increase business-wide empathy and awareness. We also want to extend our reach outside of the business, for example our D&I Networks are looking to support the work of local charities, and they represent us when speaking about these issues with the media.
Another part of our strategy for positive change was to introduce for this financial year our new Advanced Value – Different Together. We previously had five values that defined our ethos to work and guided our actions at Advanced (One Advanced; Delivering Excellence; Do the Right Thing; Be Fearless; Execute at Pace) – and every quarter employees nominated colleagues who exemplified them to receive awards. By adding this sixth Advanced Value we are putting inclusion at the very heart of our business and declaring that no matter who you are, where you’re from, how you think, or who you love – we will give you equal opportunity to thrive.
We are aware this is just the start and we have a long way to go. We have taken some positive steps but much needs to be done, and reducing the Diversity Pay Gap is one of our key objectives for this financial year. The data we have gathered will help us focus on areas that need the most attention. Developing a culture where every single employee can see themselves having an opportunity for career progression is fundamental to who we are as a business.