Deltra’s 2023 Salary Survey Sheds Light on Diversity and Inclusion in Senior Leadership

From introducing D&I policies to tackling unconscious bias in their hiring process, there’s an undeniable buzz around diversity and inclusion in UK businesses right now. What was once considered non-compulsory has swiftly become a top priority for businesses wanting to succeed and reap the benefits of a more diverse workforce.

However, while commendable efforts are gradually being made by many to create more balanced teams overall, there continues to be a distinct lack of diversity in the leadership teams of these organisations. 

Women in Senior Leadership

Despite making up 48% of the UK workforce, our Deltra Salary Survey found that women are still facing inequalities when it comes to their progression into senior roles. Only 41% of women currently hold senior positions in their organisations, as opposed to 59% of men, according to our findings.

There are several reasons why gender disparity at leadership level continues to exist. One key factor is unconscious bias, which can often be a root cause in why women are significantly less likely to be promoted internally than their male counterparts. When asked what could be done to improve diversity and inclusion in their organisation, 37% of our respondents said less bias in the hiring process, highlighting the severity of the issue.

Another contributor is the tendency for women to take on greater responsibilities when it comes to childcare. According to a recent report by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), two-thirds of women believe they missed out on career progression opportunities as a direct result of their child-care responsibilities.

The benefits of having a more gender-diverse leadership team range from higher returns to capturing new markets to improving their market share. These benefits alone should be a strong motivator for businesses to provide further training to mitigate the impact of unconscious bias in their hiring process, as well as hybrid working options to help reduce the impact of childcare responsibilities on women’s career progression.

Mentoring schemes, like our Deltra Mentoring programme, that give women the guidance and confidence to pursue senior leadership roles can also help businesses tackle issues regarding gender bias and disparity.


Employees from Diverse Backgrounds in Senior Leadership

Women aren’t the only ones struggling to break into senior leadership positions. In our recent Salary Survey, we discovered that employees from diverse backgrounds also continue to face barriers when it comes to advancing their career and that more work is needed to be done to level the playing field.

We found that people of colour were less likely to be found in senior roles than their white colleagues, with only 29% of workers of colour citing that employees from diverse backgrounds were encouraged to apply for higher positions within their organisation. White respondents to our survey were 13% more likely to be found in senior roles and often earned more than workers of colour in senior roles, even if the workers of colour had more experience on average.

Racial prejudice is one of the leading reasons why there is a lack of representation from minority ethnic groups. This can lead to intolerance, racial disparities and lack of opportunities for said groups. This was echoed in our findings, where three quarters of the people of colour we spoke to said that their leadership team never acted against intolerance.

Another survey by the BWIL Network, found that 84% of Black women in senior management positions had experienced racial bias, with 50% resigning from their roles due to racial discrimination.

To increase the racial diversity of their senior leadership teams, businesses need to provide career advancement opportunities for their workers of colour by establishing development programmes and reducing bias within their hiring process. Zero-tolerance policies and the promotion of racial equity should also be a priority.


Disabled People in Senior Leadership

Research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that working disabled people were less likely to work as managers, directors and senior officials than working non-disabled people, with only 11% of employers saying they would confidently hire a disabled person into a senior role.

Unconscious bias is often cited as the root cause for this employment gap, with many wrongly believing that those with disabilities wouldn’t be able to cope with the high stress of a senior position or that they were incapable of doing the job to a high standard. Another study found that 1 in 3 hiring managers consider disabled people to be less productive than non-disabled people, with a third failing to see the benefit of hiring a disabled person.

These harmful biases were also echoed in our Salary Survey findings, where a quarter of our respondents who have disabilities said that their workplace didn’t meet their needs, suggesting a lack of awareness from non-disabled workers of the challenges faced by their disabled colleagues.

Further training and education that promotes diversity and inclusion, particularly surrounding disability in the workplace can help teams to overcomes these biases and encourage more disabled people to pursue senior leadership roles. However, this training will need to be combined with clearer workplace policies, processes and understanding of unconscious bias in order to be effective.

Creating a company culture that promotes diversity, equality and inclusion is not only a smart businesses decision with countless benefits, but a necessary one in today’s world. However, businesses who aren’t fostering diversity and representation from the top down could eventually see a negative impact on their attraction and retention rates, as employees and prospective candidates increasingly want to see D&I progress be made.

While steady progress is being made by many, through the use of mentoring and training opportunities, there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure D&I within senior leadership teams holds just as much importance as overall diversity.

To gain further insights on D&I within the workplace, you can download our latest Salary Survey for 2023 by clicking here.

Mike Weston

3rd July

Diversity & Inclusion Industry Insight