Press release:

The Inclusion Illusion: CMI research reveals discrimination in the UK workplace is endemic and is holding back the economy and public services

Monday 20 June 2022

Analysis by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has revealed that, despite the appearance of an “all-inclusive” workplace culture, many employees in the UK are based in organisations that have systemic challenges when it comes to workplace inclusion.

  • 52% of employees report being overlooked for workplace opportunities because of their identity.
  • Diverse workers are significantly under-represented at management and senior leadership levels.
  • More than two in five UK employees (41%) have witnessed colleagues being negatively affected because of their background at work.
  • There is a persistent level of exclusion that is holding back the British economy and public services, says the chartered professional body for management and leadership as part of its 75th anniversary investigation.

The research indicated that employees saw weaker representation of those from different backgrounds to them in management (69% saw such representation) and senior leadership (67%). The research suggests complacency within UK organisations that is a barrier to future economic performance and organisational success, given wider changes to the UK work-force. Previous CMI research has shown that three times more male than female managers thought that gender equality had gone far enough or too far.

The survey, which polled UK employees to better understand Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in workplaces, found that despite many organisations and staff championing EDI initiatives, the workplace remains exclusionary. Specifically on the issue of discrimination, the CMI poll revealed that:

  • Over half (51%) of UK employees have either witnessed or experienced discrimination in the workplace.
  • More than two in five employees (41%) have themselves been discriminated against at work due to their identity.
  • Employees were more likely to report a sense of inclusion in their workplace where colleagues were similar to themselves.

This data follows CMI’s findings on the scale of underrepresentation at senior levels. To achieve balance in the UK working population by gender, ethnicity and disability, further analysis suggests the UK needs:

  • 560k additional women
  • 290k additional managers with registered disabilities
  • 100k additional individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds
  • 460k additional individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, commented:

“It's really quite simple: this data is a wake up call not just for fairness but on the future success of UK business and public services. Let's be frank: progress is evident but painfully slow. We can't afford to wait two generations to harness all of our available talent, given the economic, societal and environmental challenges we face.

We know that inclusive organisations are more likely to be successful: more innovative, higher performing, responsive to the needs of their customers and communities, and better able to face an uncertain future by harnessing greater opportunities.

This research reveals that although some progress has been made, employers and managers must strive to go much further than paying lip service to EDI, and commit to addressing the inequalities that exist. Passive compliance is not enough. Active leadership is required to enable UK organisations to face the future."

The latest research also revealed that despite most UK employees (86%) indicating they have access to at least one workplace opportunity, more than half of employees (52%) said they had at some point in their career been overlooked for a workplace opportunity because of their identity.

CMI has undertaken a large programme of research, deliberation and engagement in EDI in the workplace as part of its 75th anniversary programme. The programme has been developed with an advisory council including Lord Mark Price (Chair), Monica Chadha, Sherry Coutu CBE, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia, David Grayson CBE, Jeannette Lichner, Euan Blair MBE, Dr Alice Maynard CBE, Angela Noon, Teddy Nyahasha, Sir Trevor Phillips OBE, Lord Shinkwin, Jackie Stevenson, Dame Julia Unwin DBE, Elizabeth Uviebinené, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Ann Francke OBE. The final report will be published at the end of June 2022.

Further key findings

The findings overall indicated that there are clear opportunity divides between employees, and some minority groups may still be missing out and facing unwelcoming workplaces. A link to the CMI findings and wider report can be found here.

  • Missing out on training opportunities as a result of being your ‘authentic self’ was reported by 35% from black backgrounds, 32% from mixed backgrounds, 30% of disabled employees and 29% of those from Asian backgrounds, compared to a typical UK employee (21%).
  • Harassment and bullying in the workplace were more commonly experienced by those identifying as LGBTQ+ (38%), those from black backgrounds (35%) and disabled employees (33%), compared to a typical UK employee (22%).
  • Experiencing hostile, derogatory or negative attitudes was also more often experienced by those identifying as LGBTQ+ (36%), those from black backgrounds (34%), disabled employees (34%) and those from Asian backgrounds (29%), than a typical UK employee (23%).

The top three types of discrimination, experienced by just over a third (34%) of UK employees, that UK employees had both witnessed and experienced were: being treated less favourably (26% witnessed vs. 23% experienced); receiving hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes or comments (22% vs. 23%); and being harassed or bullied in the workplace( 21% for both respectively).

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Notes to editors

CMI polled UK employees who were not in managerial roles between 21 and 29 March 2022. Throughout this survey, when we refer to UK employees, we are referring to those not in management roles.

The polling is weighted to key demographics in the UK workforce, as well as sector, size and industry: 2,066 UK-based workers took part in the poll.

CMI has been carrying out research into employer attitudes on EDI in UK businesses as part of its 75th anniversary project.

About the Chartered Management Institute (CMI)

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is the Chartered professional body for Management and Leadership, counting over 170,000 managers and leaders in its membership community. There are currently over 12,000 Chartered Managers and growing.

Backed by a unique Royal Charter, CMI is the only organisation able to award Chartered Manager status – the ultimate management accolade, which is proven to boost individuals’ career prospects, management capability, and impact in the workplace.