Supporting diversity in the workplace not only improves the working lives of employees and reduces workplace inequality, but also benefits organisations. A diverse workforce, who are well supported in the workplace and their career progression, will be more satisfied and productive, leading to greater retention of talent.

There is often a disconnect between researchers and practitioners. While various policies and practices are being considered and implemented by employers with a view to increasing diversity and decreasing workplace inequalities, there is lack of systematic research on what works and what doesn’t.  The result is that policies and practices currently in use may bring little benefit, while more beneficial ones may not be considered. In turn, researchers may be unaware of practical challenges experienced by employers while selecting and implementing interventions.

The University of Reading has a large group of researchers working on issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, with an emphasis on implications for workplace policy and practice. As the group spans various academic disciplines including economics, law, management and linguistics, we can analyse diversity issues from a wide range of perspectives. The next step for our group is to put our research to practical use by working directly with employers.

We are keen to reach out to employers and other stakeholders who can directly benefit from our research, and who we can learn from. We want to create a sustainable network of like-minded people to discuss diversity issues, policies and practices, as well as what works and what doesn’t. Only a close collaboration between academics and employers will allow us to get to the heart of workplace issues.

To launch this initiative, we are hosting the first in a series of workshops on issues and solutions for accommodating diversity in the workplace at the University of Reading on 8 December 2022. These workshops are aimed at HR professionals, hiring and line managers, workplace representatives, employer organisations and charities interested in diversity and inclusion.

The first workshop will start a dialogue between academic researchers, employers and other stakeholders (for example, employer organisations, unions and charities) to reach a shared understanding around issues related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace with a view to identifying best policies and practices. Attendees at this – and future – workshops will also have the chance to learn about some of our current projects, how these may benefit them and ways they can be involved, either directly, or indirectly.

How will the workshop benefit participants?

  • Help collectively reach a better understanding of how different groups understand what is and what is not diversity.
  • Share experiences of diversity issues and policies implemented in your organisation and learn from others’ experiences.
  • Network with other participants.
  • Find out more about opportunities to be involved in our academic research.

Our current projects

Some of the topics we are working on include gender and ethnic pay gaps and the complexities within these, as well as the pros and cons and effectiveness of pay gap reporting. Another key area we are working on is women’s health and fertility, and the workplace. Existing workplace practices, organised around an unsustainable image of an ideal worker, are incompatible with women’s health needs across their life course. Changes in workplace policy and practice that is inclusive of women’s health and fertility needs would help reduce labour market inequalities and support women’s agency broadly and in taking work and career decisions. In particular we are working on infant feeding decisions and return to work, the journey to parenthood, gendered ageing, and the menopause.

Sarah Jewell and Simonetta Longhi are Professors of Economics at the University of Reading.