Statutory targets for improving diversity and inclusion are "patronising" and "too easy", according to digital and culture minister Matt Hancock.
Giving a keynote speech at the Building Inclusivity in Publishing conference at Coin Street Conference Centre today (13th November), Hancock said such statutory targets were: "in a way... too easy [and] the groups targeted for improvement often find them patronising." But instead of quotas, metrics which measure a company's employee make-up are necessary in comparing inequalities in industries, he said.
"Metrics are important," he said. "There's a subtle difference [between them and targets], for example knowing where you are on recruiting people with disabilities when they make up approximately 16% of population is important. Then you need to think about the series of tools you need to get [to that number]."
Interviewing practices and the way jobs are advertised need to be re-evaluated, he also said: "One absolutely central problems to address is unconscious bias - people tend to recruit people who look like them. The best thing as a starting step is to acknowledge and accept this in order to ensure we can deal with it. Role models are vitally important in selecting the next generation as well. The more diverse the nature of senior leadership, the more likely you are to draw through a more diverse workforce. Let’s not just hire people who look like we do, [we need to] hire people from a broad range… not just people who look, sound and most importantly think the same as we do.
"I highly recommend looking at HR specialists for putting these words into practice. If we want the nation to succeed we need to find a variety of people and make sure they have the opportunities to flourish."
He was "delighted" by the Publishers Association's new action plan on diversity, he said.
Hancock, himself from Chester in the North West of England, added that differences in socio-economic background is a "really important driver of diversity of thought". He said: "It's easier to get on in some professions if you’re from the north if you change your accent like I did. I moved down south and now I sound [Southern] because of it.”
Hancock also spoke about the importance role models and “soft” networks: "I suggest everybody who wants to act themselves [to improve diversity], gets involved in the Speakers For Schools organisation. Evidence shows that it is the soft networks of friends and acquaintanceship that helps people get on [in their careers]. By mentorship and inspiring people from childhood, this helps them build stronger networks.”
Hancock will be hosting a social mobility forum next year were the heads of sport, technology, media coming together to share best practice.