The CIPD’s role in supporting the improvement of equality, diversity and inclusion in the profession

CIPD Voice On… by Jill Miller and Lutfur Ali, Senior Policy Advisors on EDI. 

We know from research and experience that equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the people profession needs improving. We have a vital role to play in helping to create inclusive and fair workplaces that enable all people to feel a sense of belonging at work, and progress in their careers. It is essential that the people profession itself sets an example and helps to be the change it wants to see.

Overall, 63% of the UK people profession is female and 37% is male[1]. There is an overrepresentation of women at all levels, however the percentage of women gets smaller as seniority increases, although not dipping below 50%.

The UK people profession is also slightly less ethnically diverse than the general workforce. The overall UK working population is 88% white and HR is 89% white, with fewer people from Bangladeshi, Pakistani, or other Asian backgrounds and ethnic groups, compared to the wider UK workforce. Furthermore, the percentage of people professionals with a disability (under the Equality Act 2010) is lower than in the workforce as a whole: 11% versus 14%[2].

The CIPD is committed to creating a workplace that values and respects all colleagues, and to support the profession to do the same within their own organisations. We acknowledge our broad reach and the role we can play in collaborating to enable EDI improvements in the profession itself, not just in diverse representation at all levels, but in equality of outcome and impact. Our work here is a journey, and we continue to learn, grow, and develop our approach. Some of the steps we’re taking include:

Research and Guidance

Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Hub provides a wealth of evidence, resources, and guidance to support people professionals and people managers to challenge, develop and deliver EDI strategies in workplaces. All our content is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure we’re equipping the profession with cutting edge research and best practice tools.

Our recent Inclusion at Work survey report, in partnership with Reed, provides benchmarking data on what UK organisations are doing with respect to inclusion and diversity, and future plans. The survey found that almost half of employers don’t have an inclusion and diversity strategy or action plan in place (47%). Furthermore, a quarter said their I&D approach is entirely or mostly reactive, for example in response to mandatory reporting requirements or societal events.

These findings are disappointing as meaningful and lasting change in UK workplaces requires a genuine, long-term strategic commitment, with EDI being fundamental principles on which every aspect of an organisation operates. It makes business sense, can help tackle many of the challenges they’re currently facing, and is the right thing to do.

We've also been involved in a research consortium which brings together several professional bodies to understand the barriers to EDI in professional occupations. Improved data collection combined with other forms of evidence including lived experience, will help all professional bodies better understand the barriers causing underrepresentation and inequalities, and help develop interventions to address them.

Policy work

The CIPD influence public policy and public debate on issues relating to the world of work. Our recent campaign, #FlexFrom1st, called for the UK Government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right, reduced from the existing 26-week qualifying period. After months of campaigning, responding to consultations and lobbying, we’re delighted that the UK Government committed to this change. Furthermore, our policy work stretches across several other areas in the EDI space, including gender and ethnicity pay reporting; supporting parents and carers in the workplace; raising awareness of menopause and menstrual health; helping older workers and those with disabilities or long-term health issues get into and stay in work; and supporting LBGTQI+ workers.


In addition to our industry-leading annual two-day EDI conference, EDI is consistently a key theme and embedded in all our events and conferences where we engage directly with the profession sharing the latest developments in the profession space, working practices and evidence-based research. This allows us to collaborate directly with our customers and members on the challenges and opportunities for EDI.

Professional Standards

Our professional standards set the expectation for the profession. They are key to ensuring people understand behaviours and capabilities in all areas of HR, L&D and OD and how to deliver with impact. We have recently undertaken an impact assessment to continually eliminate bias and embed EDI throughout our Profession Map, as well as drawing out the specific skills and competencies needed amongst EDI specialists. This is an ongoing process where we will ensure the professional standards remain inclusive and relevant to the diverse changing world of work.

CIPD EDI strategy

Our internal EDI strategy is a 3–5-year plan that has been designed to ensure that EDI principles and objectives inform and align with our business priorities. The strategy has been developed across three tiers to shape our internal culture and processes, inform our products and services, and influence our members. We monitor progress and report on our demographics, culture, people’s perceptions and lived experience, and support different communities within the CIPD through employee resource groups.

CIPD Trust

Our new Trust has been established to accelerate and grow the programmes and initiatives we have to help people get into work, back to work, and develop in work by harnessing the knowledge and expertise of the people profession. A key focus of our work through the Trust is to help create inclusive workplaces by giving individuals and organisations the people expertise they could not otherwise access, and that is being applied to the people profession itself.

The Trust is working to remove barriers for those entering the profession by offering bursaries for our qualifications. Alongside this, mentoring programmes such as Aspiring HR Directors, which matches senior leaders with professionals striving to become HR Directors, will help drive greater diversity in senior roles.

A shared commitment

People professionals are responsible for role modelling EDI in everything they do. A lack of diversity in our profession affects all parts of an organisation, from leadership to culture and how colleagues foster inclusive workplaces and working practices on a day-to-day basis. Everyone in the profession has a role to play, including us at the CIPD, and we are stepping up to champion that change.

[2] Source: Annual population survey accessed through the secure research service

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