Diversity & Inclusion in Northern Ireland

Paul Gillen, IoD Ambassador for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, discusses the importance of DE&I with Nuala Murphy, Director at Diversity Mark and member of the IOD NI committee.

Nuala: For nearly three months now, I am relishing in the opportunity to work with a group of incredible leaders, bringing my knowledge and experience to help the business community in Northern Ireland navigate all areas of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).

Paul: What are the benefits of DE&I in the workplace?

Nuala: The benefits of workplace D&I are far reaching and whether we choose to realise it or not, diversity and inclusion affects every single person in an organisation. In the past when people in Northern Ireland spoke of diversity and inclusion, they were generally speaking in terms of division in the workplace relating to religious belief – and at that, only two communities: protestant and catholic. However, society has since moved on and we now embrace a much more multicultural outlook.

Diversity and Inclusion extends well beyond religion to include gender, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and social inclusion. And now that the majority of employees want to work for a company or organisation that values diversity, equity and inclusion, businesses really need to live those values in order to attract and retain the best talent in a highly competitive market. In short, D&I has become a business imperative.

Paul: Tell us about the impact of Diversity Mark in Northern Ireland.

Nuala: As a registered charity, we have been offering independent diversity and inclusion accreditation for businesses since 2017. Launched by the social enterprise Women in Business after years of grassroots development and backing from a panel of expert individuals across the UK and Ireland, Diversity Mark helps businesses and organisations of all sizes on their journey to bronze, silver and gold accreditation. Our goal is to make all jobs attainable for everyone no matter what gender, what commitments, what disability.

Representing over 200,000 employees in 160 companies across NI, we have become the leading authority in diversity in the UK and Ireland with our accreditation now a sought after and trusted badge of honour. The fact that Diversity Mark’s signatories doubled last year and looks set to do the same this year, bears testimony to the rising number of businesses that now recognise the value of investing in diversity.  

Paul: We all know that having a DE&I strategy is the right thing to do, but is it also a must have for business?

Nuala: Above and beyond attracting and retaining talent, it is well documented that having a diverse workforce can unlock greater innovation within a company, driving its performance and success. Research by McKinsey found that companies in the top quantile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above average profitability than their peers.

Diversity and inclusion is no longer just the right thing to do in an equitable workplace, it is a business priority few can afford to ignore. From simple things like attracting the best talent from a wider pool of candidates, to increasing profitability and helping people feel confident in their own skin.

Paul: So can the IoD help members in their DE&I journey?

Nuala: Yes, of course.  Working closely with both Frances Hill and Paul Gillen, IoD NI Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors, I look forward to deploying my learnings and those of my colleagues to this role as well as to you, our members, in order to play my part in building a more inclusive economy and society.  We can all develop and learn from each other across business in Northern Ireland, regardless of sector, size or where on the journey we find ourselves.  The key is involvement in the IoD programme in bringing DE&I to the fore as a business imperative.

Paul: Great Nuala, we look forward to welcoming you and our other members to our round tables on DE&I.

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