Three Common Barriers To Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated February 26, 2024

We deep dive into three common barriers to equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace and what you, as an employer, can do to address them.

If despite your best efforts, you still feel like your organisation isn’t meeting its EDI objectives, it may be time to re-examine everything you think you know.

Policies and training alone aren’t enough to remove workplace discrimination and create equal opportunities for all. This is because many common barriers remain.

From residual systemic inequality to unchecked privilege, there are plenty of obstacles standing in the way of a more inclusive working culture.

And the data supports this.

A McKinsey survey indicated that almost 50% of respondents experience barriers to inclusion and consider your company’s inclusiveness when making career decisions.

Keep reading if you’re an employer looking to tear down these EDI barriers and effect real change.

This guide explores the three most common reasons you’re not meeting your DEI and strategies to tackle them.

Three Common Barriers To Equality

Every organisation is different and faces unique challenges when it comes to implementing equality, diversity, and inclusion. Therefore, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” problem or solution.

You will need to conduct thorough research into what barriers are preventing inclusion in your workplace. That said, here are the most common barriers to equality, diversity, and inclusion.

1. Unconscious Bias

One of the biggest barriers to workplace inclusion is unconscious bias. It can seep into every facet of the workplace, creating a non-inclusive environment.

In particular, unconscious bias can stand in the way of inclusive recruitment practices.

In many cases, recruitment teams don’t even realise that their policies are discriminatory. This results in deterring diverse applicants from applying. 

The end result is your recruitment team is left stumped at how few candidates from diverse backgrounds apply for roles in your company.

An example of this is companies that rely on personality or psychometric tests during the hiring process.  While many employers find them effective, they tend to discriminate against candidates with disabilities and neurodivergent applicants. 

The biggest issue with unconscious bias is that people are unaware of it. This means it often goes unchecked and these stereotypes and assumptions seep into the working environment.

While there’s no way to remove unconscious bias, you can help your hiring teams to identify the signs.

Training is one way to do this. It gives staff techniques and strategies to better understand biases and notice when they come into play.

In addition, using employee data to showcase where biases lie can be beneficial. For instance, is there a lack of representation in a certain demographic? If so, urge hiring teams to consider why that is.

How can they reach this audience? Do they need to adjust job descriptions or criteria to make them more accessible to a certain audience? Deep reflection can help to overcome this equality barrier.

Related content: 8 Diversity And Inclusion Activities For The Workplace

2. All EDI Policy, But No Action

Implementing a comprehensive ED&I strategy and policy is an excellent step towards a more inclusive workplace. But you need to back these documents up with tangible actions. Otherwise, they are simply ideas on a page.

This is another common barrier to equality: employers put the policies in place but don’t do enough to create behaviour change.

If you want to make a significant cultural change, you need to back your policies up with actions. 

Here are some places to start:

  • Get buy-in from leaders and have them actively participate in DEI initiatives 
  • Provide regular training and education (e.g. cultural competency training)
  • Define clear accountability measures to track progress toward DEI goals 
  • Integrate inclusive hiring practices (e.g. blind resume screening, expanding candidate pools, and introducing diverse interview panels)
  • Establish partnerships with diverse talent pipelines like Aspiring to Include and Careers with Disabilities 
  • Collaborate with community groups and charities to learn best practices and advocate for equality
  • Regularly assess your efforts through feedback loops, data analysis, and benchmarking against sector standards. Use your findings to refine your strategy

Additional content:  Best Diversity And Inclusion Courses 2024  

3. Lack of Representation

A common pitfall for many organisations is ignoring the impact a lack of representation has. Many employers consider their workforce diverse, and the numbers may agree. But, if there is limited representation in leadership roles, this can create an obstacle to inclusion.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how diverse your workforce is if those diverse voices aren’t heard at a decision-making level.

If your organisation lacks representation at the senior level, the first step is to ask why. Are you not creating an environment that supports and uplifts certain employees? Do your internal promotion policies favour some colleagues over others? Or perhaps staff from underrepresented groups don’t apply for top roles because they don’t see anyone else like them at the table.

Understanding the answers to these questions will help you address the root cause behind your lack of representation. 

The next step is to find ways to support underrepresented groups in assuming leadership roles. For example, through leadership development programmes, training initiatives, and job shadowing.

The more diverse voices you have at the decision-making level, the more inclusive your company can become.

Further reading: How to Attract Candidates from the Diverse Backgrounds 

Moving Forward

Every employer now knows that the benefits of equality and diversity in the workplace are significant. Inclusive workplaces with diverse teams see better performance results, increased productivity, and enhanced productivity (to name but a few of the advantages).

However, the three common barriers to equality outlined in this guide can prevent organisations from achieving their EDI goals.

Unconscious bias, a lack of representation in high-level positions, and inaction can all cause EDI obstacles.

As a result, many UK employers struggle to provide a truly equal and inclusive working environment despite their best efforts.

Does this sound like your business? We can help.

At Aspiring to Include, we advocate for equality, diversity, and inclusion. As such, we provide an inclusive job board, a free resource hub, and a range of employer services.

From advertising opportunities to inclusivity screening, we can support your business in becoming an even better place to work. Get in touch today.

Share This Story

Last Updated: Tuesday February 6 2024
Go to Top