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54 CORPORATE DNA The State I Jon Whiteley, Head of Diversity, Capital Consulting of the nation “Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t got a problem with them. It’s just – well, they don’t fit in with the rest of us… Do they” am sorry if these comments offend but this was the common reaction I received when, facilitating discussions around diversity over 15 years ago, we would discuss the merits and demerits of a pluralistic society and the benefits it could bring. Yes, we have certainly made some great strides forward. These days there are organisations doing some superb work in the area of diversity – you know who you are: Having recently conducted diversity audits in a number of UK organisations, the fact remains that we are a long way from really valuing diversity and all the benefits that it brings. Let’s not be naïve – well-constructed strategies need time to embed themselves so that diversity becomes part of the corporate DNA and those organisations at the vanguard of the drive are acutely aware of this. However, setting aside this natural life-cycle, I am yet to see any sustained evidence that certain critical areas are being tackled. In the spirit of future progress I have put together a list of what I consider these hot spots and challenges to be for business in the UK. I have collated these over the last 12 months or so through my experience of working with public / private and not-for-profit organisations. Fact: “diversity” now appears as mainstream language in the media Fact: organisations are increasingly appointing heads of diversity Fact: diversity-related issues account for about 60 percent of coverage in the human resources (HR) trade press Yet, while the comments are now less exclusive and more softly executed, the sentiment behind them still pervades some of the boardrooms and corridors of power across the UK. What is far more troubling than the above remarks of yesterday is that major surgery is still required today if we are to truly – and I mean, truly – embrace and value diversity across corporate UK. This is not meant to be a fruitless exercise – “throwing pebbles into the lake and running away” – rather it is intended as a genuine effort to set out the issues that need to be managed. They are not conclusive or meant to be prescriptive: they are however intended to cause change, provoking organisations into real, meaningful action for the future. engage ISSUE TWO 2006