Mercer joins EDGE initiative to improve diversity of workforce

22 January 2018

Consulting firm Mercer has joined a programme to improve the diversity of its workforce. The EDGE Assess certification aims to support companies with their efforts for diversification by independently analysing their efforts.

Diversity has become an increasingly important issue at companies seeking to attract talent from all backgrounds. Numerous studies have highlighted the broad positive effect of diversity on business performance, while governments have sought ways to improve representation of a wide array of difference across businesses.

However, businesses continue to fall prey to difficulties. Some of these are implicit biases which are hard to shift or are discriminatory practices that continue to be used covertly; while others are related to perceptions from staff of differences between what is on offer, such as various work-life balance offerings, and what may also be actively discouraged or discriminated against by those who use such programmes. A recent McKinsey & Company study of law firms, for instance, found that while women (and men) were offered various programmes, they believed that using them would negatively affect their career prospects.

Mercer gains EDGE Assess certification

In a bid to tackle various difficulties faced by employees seeking to navigate the visible and invisible limitations of environments controlled by employers, a number of pressure groups have resorted to issuing certification for employers with equality in their long-term plans. One example of this is the EDGE Assess Certification, which offers businesses across the globe with an assessment methodology that will allow businesses to ‘not only create an optimal workplace for women and men, but also benefit from it.’ The stamp of approval is applied to businesses to critically assess how to bridge the diversity gap. So far, more than 170 organisations, in over 48 countries and 23 industries, including consultancy firms, Capgemini, and Mercer, which joined most recently.

Fiona Dunsire, Mercer’s UK CEO, commented, “We are proud of the progress we have made on gender equality and obtaining this certification demonstrates our commitment to diversity. At Mercer, providing everyone with equal opportunity for development and advancement is paramount, and we are determined to do more to ensure all our employees thrive. Promoting gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it is also a good business strategy.”

Aniela Unguresan, Co-Founder EDFE Certified Foundation, added, “Mercer is a true example of authentic commitment and organisational alignment as highlighted in their own When Women Thrive research. It is clear from leaders and colleagues in the company who walk the talk and understand the link to business success and sustainable change.”



Women remain underrepresented in UK's hospitality industry leadership

12 April 2019

Female engagement at the top level of the UK hospitality industry is still lagging, with the vast majority of decision-making roles continue to be held by men. Only 7% of the industry’s FTSE 350 CEOs are women; however, the pay gap in hospitality and leisure is far better than in other industries, at a median of approximately 7%.

The hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) sector is one of the UK’s largest employers, with 3.2 million people working in its segments. Despite a poor 2018 in terms of tightening consumer spending, the industry is still one of the top sectors in terms of economic activity, hitting £130 billion last year – besting the UK’s automotive, pharmaceutical and aeronautical sectors’ combined activities.

While the industry is one of the country’s largest employers, it still faces considerable issues around diversity at the top. New analysis from PwC has explored the matter, as well what initiatives the industry has engaged to open up its top ranks to a more diverse background.

Female representation at board level for UK companies and HTLs

According to a survey of CEOs, Chairs or HR Directors of over 100 of the most significant leisure businesses across the UK, the hospitality industry has a relatively male-dominated top level. This lags behind the FTSE 100, where companies have female board level representation at 32.2%. Meanwhile, the figure for the combined executive committee and direct reports stands at 28%. This is well above FTSE 250 levels, where female board level representation stands at 22.4% and executive committee & direct reports stand at 27.8%.

For the hospitality industry as a whole, board level representation came in at 23.6%, with FTSE 350 for the industry performing slightly better at 25.1%, while non-listed companies performed considerably worse at 18.2%. The firm notes that the figures hide that while some companies are making strides to improve equality, others are not moving forward – with the positive result reflecting more often the good work of some, while others are not taking the issue seriously in their agenda setting.

Blind spot

The study states, however, that while the overall numbers are relatively strong, the industry has a number of acute weaknesses. These include CEO numbers, with only 7% of HTL FTSE 350 companies helmed by women and 11% of non-listed companies led by female CEOs. Meanwhile, female chairs at FTSE 350 companies for the sector stand at zero. In terms of wider diversity representation, only 1 in 33 leaders at industry companies is from a BAME background.

Pay gap for HTL and hospitality

The report noted discrepancies between FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 in terms of improving the number of women at executive level. The majority have met the Hampton-Alexander Review target of 33% women at board level, up from around 25% in 2016. However, the remaining ~40% are not on target, and are unlikely to meet the target by 2020. A similar trend is noted when it comes to executive committee and direct reporting numbers.

Jon Terry, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader at PwC, said, "To make real progress in diversity and inclusion, businesses need to elevate it onto the CEO’s agenda and align diversity & inclusion strategy to the fundamentals of the business."

Tracking progress FTSE 250 level

However, one area where hospitality travel and leisure companies are outperforming other companies in the wider UK economy, is the mean and median pay gap between men and women. PwC found that the median of the wider UK economy comes is approximately 14% – with upper quartile companies noted for a gap of low 20%, and lower quartile companies noted for differences of around 2%.

The median pay gap for HTL comes in at well below 7%, with the median close to parity. There are considerable differences, however, with hospitality at 7%, while travel comes in considerably higher, at 22%. The latter figure reflects fewer women in higher paid pilot and technical positions within the industry.