When it comes to diversity and equality, don't fake it till you make it, says Tea Colaianni

23 November 2022 by
When it comes to diversity and equality, don't fake it till you make it, says Tea Colaianni

Authenticity and honesty are key when presenting facts and figures about the diversity and equality of your business, says Tea Colaianni

Our latest annual report in partnership with the MBS Group found that it would take around a decade to achieve gender parity at board and executive level in hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) businesses. The report also revealed that more than half of HTL businesses in the UK still have no ethnic diversity at board level.

It is great to see that diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is becoming more of a focus for many, but our annual report clearly shows there is still a lot of work to be done. For a lot of HTL businesses this can be hampered by uncertainty about how and where to start or how to keep moving forward. So with that in mind, how do you position yourself as an inclusive brand?

Present an authentic reality

Today, authenticity is critical to brand perception. Consumers can spot fakes and ‘purpose-washing' a mile off, whether that relates to green agendas or DE&I. Recent Harris poll research showed that 72% of consumers think that companies and brands overstate their sustainability efforts, so ensuring your DE&I efforts are both authentic and transparent are essential to being perceived as an inclusive brand.

Are you open about your brand's current level of DE&I and any future targets? Do you report on progress regularly? Are your policies and results readily accessible to those who may be interested? It is better to present an authentic reality and celebrate the real steps taken than to overinflate progress. After all, if every HTL business took the same small step forward we'd achieve more for the industry and its employees overall than if a single business made ground-breaking progress on its own.

Maintaining momentum

When talking to any audience about DE&I, we often use the phrase ‘it's a journey', because ultimately the road isn't straight and the path isn't set in stone. For example, women in the HTL sector were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with more women leaving HTL roles during this time than men. This, in turn, has a knock-on effect on the future talent pool for board and executive roles as their experience leaves the sector with them. Put simply, a plan you make now may not be as effective in two years' time – the reality for different genders and ethnicities will change over time, and even progress made affects what remains to be done. Knowing that DE&I is ongoing and ever evolving will ensure it remains a prominent part of company culture and activity is always a driver for change.

Embed DE&I into brand communication

A brand's communication is everything from its emails, newsletters, social media, adverts and PR to website copy, job adverts and application packs. It's consumer-facing and ‘future talent'-facing too. It goes beyond what you are saying to how you say it – the actual mechanics. Ask yourself, do you have auto readers on your website copy? Do images have alternative text descriptions? Do videos have subtitles? Also think about interview processes. For example, are locations accessible and are they inclusive to those with disabilities or dyslexia or hearing or sight impairments?

Everything you do communicates something about your brand, so DE&I needs to be as embedded in your actions as it is in your culture.

Together, we can take down barriers and break down ceilings if we continue to invest in nurturing the rich, diverse talent pipeline that makes our industry so unique, and if we continue to highlight best inclusive practices across our industry and bring people together to create safe spaces for awareness, challenge and constructive dialogue.

Ultimately, we believe in the power of collaborating to achieve progress faster, and to co-create solutions that work for our industry in accelerating a diverse talent pipeline – building an industry that is inclusive for all.

Tea Colaianni is the founder and chair of WiHTL and Diversity in Retail

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