The Shifting Sands of Measuring Equality

The terms of the public debate around equality and diversity are shifting and academics need to follow closely, study and publish on what is perceived to be “fair” and acceptable.

Most will recognise that we are moving from a focus on equality and diversity in the workplace, around the specifics of employment to a wider concept of fair outcomes, equality of treatment and opportunity.  The new world of big data and public data transparency is providing new opportunities to study the real outcomes of interventions.

Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equalities and Human rights Commission in the UK and now a leading consultant and non executive director in business mapped some of these changes in a keynote presentation at the first Global Equality and Diversity conference two years ago.

David Cameron’s repositioning of the Conservative Party onto the “transparency agenda” in July 2015 took much of the corporate world by surprise.    It also took many universities by surprise as they too are large corporate employers and have to publish their own version of Gender Pay and other studies of student and employee outcomes. The Teaching Excellence Framework and the study of Student Destinations are all manifestations of the new wider reach of equality and diversity measurement.

Only two weeks ago the Fawcett society estimated that 54% of companies affected by the new Gender Pay reporting had made no start on work that has to be complete by April 2017.   The reason suggested is that these companies thought they were covered by the work they already did non “equal pay”. They thought they were legally covered and had not understood the huge step change that is about to hold a mirror to all kinds of companies and organisations.   The huge row about the Oscars nominations is a taster of what can face organisations who statistics are out there for analysis and also how quick the public can be to judge.

On November 23rd the Noon Centre for Equality and Diversity through business at the University of East London, of which I am acting Director, will be hosting  the Third Global Equality and Diversity Conference and Awards in London.  We have specifically brought together a mix of academics and some of the leading practitioners from the National Equality Standards developed with the UK department of Business and Enterprise and the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion.

It is also being streamed live and made available on demand and you can sign up for online licences to view and use the material produced at the conference.

By Dr Jana Javornik
Acting Director, The Noon Centre for Equality and Diversity in Business, University of East London