In modern workplaces, a diverse workforce is recognised as a driver of success in business – be it age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity, the more diverse the workforce, the more innovative and successful the business.
Large private companies across all sectors, but especially in the financial and public sector organisations, will often have specific diversity and equal opportunities officers. However, all HR practitioners will view diversity as a big part of their job, and indeed will be expected to monitor and lead in this area.
Working closely with the HR team and with line managers, a professional in this field will research best practice in equal opportunities, social inclusion and diversity and make sure that it is delivered. This might include:
- running training sessions
- designing internal communications
- ensuring compliance with legislation
- raising awareness of equality issues
A professional in this area will also be expected to liaise with any relevant employee groups that may exist within the organisation such as a Muslim society or a women's network. This area offers extremely important and rewarding work, but you need to be thick-skinned. You’re bound to find conflicting views in an area where the buck stops with you.
A human resources qualification available from the CIPD would offer the most direct route but areas such as psychology, sociology and business studies can also provide a way in. Many courses will have an element of diversity and equality awareness involved in some way, so if you’ve got the gift of the gab (an important skill for the role!) then you might be able to successfully argue the relevance of your qualification.
Very strong communication skills, and an ability to multitask. Computer literacy and numeracy skills will also be needed, as compiling reports and documents is an important part of the job. Any HR experience will provide a useful way in to this area, but try to find work or work experience with a company or public sector body that has a specific diversity/equality department.
The CIPD is a good source of in-depth information about the sector. For information on equality legislation see the Equality and Human Rights commission website.