PracticeAccounting FirmsDiversity focus: it’s not who you are…

Diversity focus: it's not who you are...

Will diversity suffer from the credit crunch? If you have got the talent it shouldn't matter

During periods of extreme market turmoil, there’s no doubt that priorities
change. So, for companies concentrating on survival, does this mean the end of
the diversity focus, that first gained momentum in the UK as the FTSE soared and
the economy boomed?

Certainly, the credit crunch is already having an impact in strange ways.
Over the last three years Joslin Rowe, the recruitment consultancy, has been
analysing anonymous diversity monitoring forms, which job seekers have the
option of filling in when they register for work. It soon became clear that, as
the City moved away from its traditional white, heterosexual male image, the
proportion of gay and lesbian workers happy to identify their sexuality began to

This summer, however, progress dramatically stalled and the number of LGB
respondents suddenly dropped by around 23,000. Anecdotal evidence suggested
people just didn’t feel secure enough to identify themselves as gay at the
moment, even anonymously. This seemed particularly evident when we analysed the
age of the respondents.

Mature attitude

Of men who identified themselves as gay, 40.6% were under 30 whilst 59.4%
were over 30. More of the older generation were happy to identify themselves as

It would seem once City workers reached a certain level in an organisation,
they felt confident enough to do so. But fewer young gay people were prepared to
identify themselves as such. During this time of redundancies, the credit crunch
has made people feel less secure ­ hence the falling numbers.

This reaction is not uncommon. Many employees, who feel they are from a
vulnerable group ­ such as part timers, older workers, maternity leavers, or
those with a disability, are all extremely concerned about the ramifications of
the credit crunch.

They’re wondering, however diverse the company ethos, will it ultimately mean
less money and flexibility to accommodate lifestyle needs? Will commercial
demands and rationalisation ultimately have to take precedence?

Of course, there’s no suggestion that companies are suddenly going to
discriminate against these groups and there is, of course, a raft of legislation
in place as a protection, but the very real fear remains among this audience
that the post credit crunch world will need to be a leaner, more ruthless place
to ensure organisational survival.

Interestingly the massive outcry around inflated City bonuses should do much
to counter this concern.
Many firms are viewing the credit crunch as an opportunity to grab market share
and to do this, they know that they need to attract and retain the very best

In the last month, there’s been a huge demand for compensation and benefit
specialists to re-examine remuneration packages to ensure they’re attractive but
not financially crippling to the firms that offer them.

And with voices clamouring for a cap on bonuses, other benefits will
undoubtedly start to gain precedence.

This is good news for women, who are traditionally under-represented in the
top jobs. According to a CIPD report, called Women in the Boardroom, many of the
female executives interviewed said the traditional rewards and trappings of a
higher career status, such as huge bonuses, money and bigger cars, were geared
towards a male perspective of success. What they wanted was more time and
greater flexibility.

Something that may be more, rather than less, likely in the post hyper-bonus

Another outcome of the credit crunch should actually have a very positive
influence on diversity. Over the last 4 months, the market has swung from
employee driven (with more jobs than applicants) to employer focused.

With so many candidates, and the need to justify every single hire, interview
processes are taking almost twice as long and are involving many more hiring
managers and sign off stages. This means the best person has to be hired and
that it’s all about skill and ability – not extraneous factors, like race or

This is particularly timely, as Joslin Rowe research in 2006 found that
although a woman was about 17% more likely to secure an interview than a man,
the male candidate was more likely to be hired. This is likely to correct itself
under a more intensive interview scrutiny.

Much of this is crystal ball stuff ­ but in a tough market, people make the
difference. Making sure you have the best people on board, from the widest pool
of talent, will be crucial.

Nabila Sadiq is managing director of Joslin Rowe. Joslin Rowe is
a diversity assured recruitment agency as accredited by IODA.

Public sector and not-for-profit makes perfect sense

The public sector and not for profit sectors are enjoying a renaissance as
private companies stumble and falter in the current economic climate. In the
last few months, the Martin Ward Anderson accountancy team has seen a renewed
interest in public sector vacancies, with more finance professionals
demonstrating a desire to be part of something bigger and the opportunity to
make a difference to the society they live in – whilst applying their commercial
finance skills.

Many public sector organisations are considered more attractive than industry
or practice because of their competitive packages, often including family
friendly working practices such as longer holidays, flexible working hours as
well as final salary pension schemes. More often than not, the public sector
recruitment team have more roles for part time roles/4 day a week roles than
practice, commerce and financial services, which is particularly attractive for
accountancy professionals with young children.

As a result, Martin Ward Anderson register a high proportion of women
returning to work from maternity leave and working mothers. Interestingly,
government figures show that women now hold 34% of board level public
appointments in the public sector , compared to just 11% within the FTSE. Public
sector targets and quotas often receive unjustifiable negative attention, but in
a population that is nearly 50/50 male and female, a target of a 40% female
board by 2011 is increasingly accepted as a fair and positive development – and
an attractive proposition for female job seekers.

Gareth Bacon, public sector and not for profit recruitment manager,
Martin Ward Anderson

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