The Story of the Chicken and the Egg: Diversity and the French Charter

Some voices criticize the different national Diversity Charters for allowing companies to “green wash” their image by simply signing a document without really engaging in Diversity-Programmes. In order to make life more difficult for those free riders the French Diversity Charter interviews its members on an annual basis, last time in autumn 2013. Now the Charter publishes the “Bilan Diversité 2013” which shows the positive effects within the signing companies. 1300 of these companies participated in the monitoring study and allowed insights into their workforce. Compared with all French employees the signing companies are more diverse.

According to the survey within the group of signers a third of all leading employees in companies with more than 50 employees are female, a few more compared to managing women in the non-member companies (31%). The French Diversity Charta moreover counts 6% disabled workers (3% in non-member companies) and furthermore observes a more diverse and balanced age structure, meaning a larger number of younger as well as older employees within the member companies. Gender, disability and age are the most important dimensions for the French companies and they focus their actions on those key issues. Other dimensions consequently fade from the spotlights. Integrating people from areas with social problems – traditionally a very important topic in France – only matters for 23% of the companies, religious diversity (9%) and sexual orientation (10%) are even less important. At least the attention for those neglected dimensions has slightly increased since the last survey in 2012 and holistic approaches addressing to all dimensions are more probable even within smaller companies.

Asked about their motivation to engage in Diversity-Programmes the companies replied with improvements in HR-processes and the human capital (48%), the prevention of lawsuits and general respect of laws (39%) and a better economic performance due to Diversity (30%). As tools for Diversity the sensitisation of more than 50% of the workforce was employed by nearly a quarter of all companies, moreover the monitoring of all approaches becomes more important for a majority of responding companies.

Coming back to the Charter itself, it can be of course questioned, whether the positive quantitative effects are really due to the concrete signing or whether a positive attitude to diversity and some Diversity-programmes precedes the signature. But even if the statistical relation between the signature and a more diverse workforce cannot be established with complete certainty, the Diversity Charta certainly allows companies to showcase their commitment and conviction for Diversity and motivate other companies to learn and improve by studying and copying the best practices examples.