Why the case for diversity and inclusion will continue to grow

Younger people are impatient for change when it comes to equality and issues like climate change. That means the case for diversity and inclusion will only grow.



An article earlier this week citing the associate director of communications firm Purpose Union caught my eye. Carum Basra said that ‘the goalposts have changed’ with regard to diversity and inclusion as millennials increasingly rise to the top of companies and Generation Z entering the workplace.

He pointed to research that the organisation had done which shows two thirds of millennials and Generation Z want to work for an organisation that actively promotes diversity and inclusion, with 58% favouring binding quotas to achieve race and gender targets. More than half want to see employers make commitments linking executive pay to positive outcomes on diversity, with the same proportion backing regulations that would curb carbon emissions.

It is certainly an observable truth that young people feel very strongly about equality issues and about climate change. They have grown up being told that time is running out for the planet. They’ve been on marches. Half of my household are vegans and the only young person who isn’t is likely to be converted some time very soon by his siblings. Witness, too, the uprising of girls in schools against harassment, violence and objectification. They have had enough.

My daughter says her goal in life is to be an activist. The teens have Black Lives Matter posters in their bedrooms, next to the BTS K-pop ones. Indeed BTS have recently made a public statement on anti-Asian racism. They want things to change.

Of course, young people have always wanted things to change, but awareness and connectivity about these issues begins much younger these days. I recently attended an event where one of the speakers spoke of how children’s rights would be the next big issue. That includes the right to have a voice and not to be treated as somehow inferior to adults. Lowering the legal age to vote is at the centre of this debate. Surely young people should have a voice in the things that are going to affect them the most, such as climate change policy. The same argument was also made, of course, about Brexit and the particular Brexit route we have gone down, whose consequences we are already seeing being played out in Northern Ireland.

Young people will also be at the sharp end of the demographic shifts that are coming as Baby Boomers retire and there are fewer people left to do the jobs and supply the services that support the economy.

They are also the most in tune with many of the digital changes that are happening and several are being promoted fast as a result, which doesn’t mean older people don’t have valuable skills and experience. Age diversity is a crucial part of the diversity mix, of course, and the best companies reflect that.

What is needed are more conversations between old and young, an end to ignorant comments depicting young people as ‘the snowflake generation’, for instance, and a real sense of dialogue.

The dynamics we see happening in our families and the impatience for change is what will be happening in the workplace.

Nevertheless, many of the issues young people feel strongly about are not new. They are things older generations have also fought and are, in many cases, still fighting. As we get older you see the same things coming around again and again, in slightly different guises. Maybe young people are a bit more impatient than we are or maybe we have channelled some of our impatience into them.

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