Doing the impossible: An encouraging report to measure ethnicity and origin in D&I

Measuring the progress and success of D&I has become an obsession among some stakeholders.  Some even think that monitoring number is a key to facilitating change. At the same time, many believe that counting men and women, or the generations, is the only hard metric that exists. A new report from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) provides new insight into the feasibility of measuring ethnicity and/or origin.

Any effective D&I change strategy starts with a robust ‘as is’ analysis, including demographics across entities and levels, insights into corporate and leadership culture, and details about inclusion in processes, structures, collaboration etc. For a long time, race, ethnicity, origin or cultural background was believed not to be measurable beyond nationality or proxi indicators that are mostly biased (names, birth places, languages). The latest ENAR report of its 6th Equal@work meeting on equality data collection in employment and the workplace provides an overview of data collection practices put in place by employers. It also includes a number of principles and a few recommendations for equality data collection in employment. On element of the report provides is a useful check list which ensures that employers will be on the safe side of data protection legislation when collecting equality data.

The latest report is the continuation of a series of projects in which ENAR was involved to examine data collection in areas where this had been controversially discussed for many years. The notion that it was ‘impossible’ persisted even among experts despite an encouragement in the respective EU Directive (200/43/EC) and public practices that have been existing for decades, including the self-identification of ethnic minorities as part of the UK census. Hence, it is most helpful that ENAR’s report lays out fundamental principles to keep in mind:

  • The freedom to self-identify, a voluntary character and informed consent
  • Community consultation and participation
  • Anonymity
  • Well-thought technological choices

The respect of the legal framework(s) goes must be taken for granted anyway. In addition to these foundational elements, the report has identified key principles from good practices in the public and private sector, including

  • Clarity of the objectives of the data collection
  • Creation of confidence and common understanding (of, e.g. goals and methodologies)
  • Promotion of skills and competence

While the report refers to a proactive Diversity Management and to the benefits of consciously including ethnic minorities in this journey, a certain emphasis is put on the prevention (or uncovering) of discrimination. According to the report, equality data can provide powerful tools against discrimination and exclusion, shedding light on the situation of employees that are at risk of discrimination, and thus enabling employers to develop and implement targeted equality and/or diversity management policies. In order to do that successfully, the report recommends companies to

-       Build on the success (and learning…) of Gender Diversity initiatives

-       Leverage advanced models from Employers’ Association (e.g. in Scandinavia)

-       Monitor HR processes in regards to ethnicity

-       Communicate on ethnic/cultural/religious diversity

-       Join public initiatives that support the work and development

The 2015 report is a result of an Equal@Work Platform event that took place in December 2014 (and therefore carries a 2014 date). The platform brings together businesses, social partners, NGOs, public authorities and academics committed to diversity and inclusion, to find solutions so that ethnic and religious minorities can fully participate in the labour market.

The report is available from this website