The Herald & GenAnalytics Diversity Awards take place this October and there is still time to enter.

Now in their fifth year, the awards will once again shine a spotlight on those individuals and organisations who have championed the cause of diversity, supporting people from all backgrounds to forge ahead and helping to remove the roadblocks that stand in the way of equality.

When they were last held in 2019, the awards received their highest number of entries and included amongst the winners were many fine examples of how initiatives designed to level the playing field were having a positive impact on the lives of people who were facing unfair discrimination.

The world has changed since then and the events of the last 18 months have had a significant impact on many aspects of life, shaking them up and calling for a reassessment of outdated attitudes.

Will this upheaval have ushered in a new era of equality in opportunity and employment?

According to Nick Murray, Enterprise Engagement Lead with AAI EmployAbility, which in 2019 won the Diversity in the Third Sector category for its work with graduates, women returners, minority ethnic communities and disabled jobseekers, there are now fresh opportunities but many obstacles still exist and there is now more need than ever for campaigns that will help to make the most of the positive chances and to overcome the blocks that still stand in the way of progress.

Murray says: “The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has brought racial inequality into sharp focus, which is vital to social progress, but the conversations around it have proved to be very painful for many of those involved. They have re-awoken not just personal memories of injustice, but wider historical trauma too, resulting in a considerable toll on mental health and wellbeing.

“And then there has been the pandemic during which many women have had found themselves in the default position of primary caregiver, which has had a negative impact on their employability.”

Minority ethnic communities too have been disproportionately affected by the health crisis he says and the message has still to be recognised by many employers that exclusion makes no commercial sense..

“The economic case is clear. Companies with diverse workforces perform better.”

As it stands there is a significant gender pay gap, women are under-represented at senior levels and half of disabled people of working age are unemployed, meaning that there is still a very long way to go before equality has been achieved.

But progress is being made. Murray says: “I hope the Black Lives Matters campaign has given employees the confidence to challenge bosses on their diversity record, because at the time of the demonstrations lots of promises were made but it is only right that companies are now accountable about how they are delivering on their claims.”

The Herald & GenAnalytics Diversity Awards are a platform for recognising accountability and there are eight categories in total, each one focused on a different sector of employment or society.

The categories include the Diversity in Sport, Diversity Through Education, Diversity in the Third Sector  and Diversity in the Public Sector.

Fergus McMillan, Head of Equality and Diversity, Skills Development Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to sponsor this year’s Diversity in the Public Sector award and proud to celebrate the importance of equality in the workplace in modern Scotland.

“We continue to champion the reality that a diverse workforce – including a range of people and perspectives – builds stronger organisations, forges a far better understanding of various markets and helps to bridge the skills gap. It’s something that SDS believes is incredibly important.

“So SDS would actively encourage organisations to submit their entries and showcase their efforts towards greater inclusivity and eliminating inequalities while revitalising Scotland’s economy.”

There are awards from SMEs and for larger companies that have thrown the net for employment and career advancement as widely as possible and also for the Diversity Campaign of the Year, which has illuminated the value of inclusion.

The awards will also include the Diversity Hero of the Year, sponsored by Diageo, which will recognise an individual who has campaigned to highlight diversity, has worked to make a difference or who has been an inspirational role model to others.

And companies too have a role to play in demonstrating the benefits of a workforce that is diverse in every way.

A spokesperson for 3In Consulting, sponsor of the Diversity Star Performer 250+ Employees, said: “We know how important it is for an organisation to step above and beyond the minimum legal requirements of equality to encourage and engage the workforce to become inclusive, innovative and collaborative.

“Employers who can demonstrate diversity across Scotland, the UK and internationally are best placed to encourage inclusivity in their supply chain and to create equity in the workplace that is world class, attracting and retaining the finest talent.”

The closing date for entries is Thursday, August 26, 2021 and the awards will take place on The Herald’s virtual Awards Room platform on Thursday, October 7.

For more information on categories and how to apply visit here.

Contact Stephen Laughlin, events manager, on 0141 302 6050.