5 surprising socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work

When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, there are many reasons why it is an essential in business. It fosters an inclusive company culture, which improves employee happiness and innovation. It is also a must-have agenda in the modern world. Workplaces need to represent the diversity of the society we live in and the sections of society that they serve! However, there is still a long way to go before true diversity and inclusion at work is achieved. Everyone in an organisation has a responsibility to champion diversity and inclusion in order to make this a reality. However, there are plenty of other things that can affect diversity in the workplace. In today’s article, we will be looking at 5 socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work. The aim of the article is to give you a better understanding of these factors, which you can then use within your own company or organisation to help devise strategies to overcome them! 

What do we mean by socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work?

Firstly, let’s have a look at what ‘socio-economic factors’ means in this context. In short, they are social and economic factors that can affect the level of diversity and inclusion in a specific workplace. The socio-economic factors that affect diversity will vary between workplaces, because the issues that affect various areas tend to be different. It’s important to be aware of different socio-economic factors around you, and how they can hinder diversity at work. This is so you can see what steps can be taken to combat them and foster a more inclusive workplace for all, no matter what background people may come from. Next up, we’ll take a closer look at some of the factors themselves and how they affect diversity in the workplace!

Location is first on the list of socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work

Firstly, it’s important to look at location. This includes the location of the organisation itself and the location of its employees. If an organisation is solely located in a higher-income area, or a location with poor public transport links, it will tend to attract employees that either live in the area or have their own transport. This can lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace because employees are largely of a higher economic status or from the same area. To help combat this barrier, organisations need to look at the areas where they are choosing to locate their offices. Are there good transport links? Is the population around you diverse? If you cannot choose a different area, can you offer working from home opportunities to those who cannot regularly access the office? It’s important to look at the areas where employees live and compare this to diversity in the workplace to see if there is a correlation and if anything can be done to attract more diverse candidates.


Location is a primary socio-economic factor that can hinder diversity in the workplace

Income is another vital socio-economic factor to look at when it comes to diversity

Tying into location is the socio-economic factor of income. Usually, areas tend to be grouped by the average income of the residents that live there. So, there tends to be both high and low-income areas. But how can this hinder diversity at work? Well, job candidates that come from lower-income areas may have had fewer opportunities to develop their skills and partake in extra-curricular activities. In theory, this could make them look like a poorer-quality candidate than someone from a high-income family who had these opportunities. However, there are plenty of ways to get around this as an organisation and ensure that it is a candidate’s skills that are looked at when considering them for a job, and not their opportunities. One way to do this is by removing the need to look at CVs, and instead asking potential candidates a series of questions that focus on their skills themselves, and not how and where they acquired them. People from all income backgrounds can bring a whole variety of skills to the workplace that can lead to the diversity of thought and ideas, so hiring from a range of backgrounds is a great way to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace as a whole. 

When it comes to socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work, education must be considered

Education is a hugely prevalent socio-economic factor that really can hinder diversity in the workplace! After all, depending on the organisation and the job roles within it, many roles require a certain level of educational attainment. But how can this requirement hinder diversity at work? Well, there are a variety of reasons. Firstly, lower-income communities, which in many places have a higher percentage of BAME residents, also tend to have lower levels of academic achievement. This could be due to under-funded schools, or young adults having to enter the workplace instead of further education in order to help support their family. Also, there tends to be a stigma attached to education that was perhaps not achieved in the UK. For example, a first-generation immigrant may have achieved a degree in their home country, but it is not recognised as such in the UK. In this way, they are forced to take jobs that they are overqualified for. 

Clearly, for some jobs, a certain degree will be required, such as in the medical field. However, there are ways in which the socio-economic factor of education can be combated. Possibly one of the top ways is apprenticeships. These are open to everyone, regardless of their background or education level. They can really help diversity and inclusion in the workplace by giving opportunities to those who have had few in the past. They can bring their unique perspectives and skillsets to the workplace, and become role models in their communities as well, helping to encourage more and more people to take this route to success. 

Community safety can hinder diversity at work in surprising ways

Another of the main socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work is community safety. In some communities, young people turn to crime because they see this as the best way to protect and provide for themselves and their family in a community that is somewhat unsafe. Higher rates of crime also mean that more people find themselves in prison instead of the workplace. The key here is, again, providing them with alternative opportunities. If you want to work on the diversity of your workplace, you need to make it an attractive place to work for people of all backgrounds. Apprenticeships play a vital role in overcoming this socio-economic factor too. Providing apprenticeships shows people in communities that have high levels of crime that there is an alternative path that they can take. It’s important that organisations that offer apprenticeships work to target people in these areas, to show them that these opportunities exist and that their unique skills and perspectives will be valued in the workplace. 


Initiatives such as apprenticeships can help overcome some socio-economic factors

Finally on this list of socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work is family and social support

It’s important to look at the level of family and social support that is in place for people. If the level is low, for example, if childcare is expensive or poor quality, diversity in the workplaces in those areas also tends to be poorer. It is predominantly women who are affected by these factors which may lead to them being unable to work, or only able to offer part-time hours. However, there are things that organisations can do to try and combat these barriers. Flexible working and the option to work from home is a big one here. If people know that they can work around, for example, school pick up and drop off, or that their work can be tailored to their needs as a disabled person, they are far more likely to be able to enter the workplace and utilise their skills. Furthermore, measures such as these actually benefit everyone in the workplace, not just those affected by a lack of family and social support! So it really is a win-win situation, as all employees can benefit and are likely to be happier at work as a result. 

This look at some of the socio-economic factors that can hinder diversity at work is definitely not exhaustive! But, we hope that it has given you some things to consider in your own workplace when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Can you be doing more to encourage people from all socio-economic backgrounds to work at your organisation? Encouraging diversity of all kinds can really benefit organisations and the people who work there. Looking at socio-economic factors is only one part of this! We must all do our part to encourage diversity of all kinds, to foster inclusive workplaces and more productive and innovative companies.