Inclusion in the Evolving Workplace

Trends / Realness
FG Trade
Rebecca Rom-Frank
May 6, 2021
For our financial services customers, authentic and inclusive business visuals are key to establishing trust with consumers and employees alike. Now that Covid‑19 has changed work for good, it’s imperative not to leave underrepresented groups behind.
American consumers think that the most significant long‑term outcome of the pandemic will be more people working from home, our Visual GPS research found. Already, many offices in the US are experimenting with more flexible remote work policies, social distancing in the office, or some hybrid of these new work models. As the workplace evolves, Deloitte predicts, companies will need to highlight the importance of humans at work more than ever before. Visually, nothing is more personal than diversity and inclusion. Through Visual GPS, over half of consumers surveyed told us that they have been affected by bias in their everyday lives—and 8 in 10 expect brands to be consistently committed to diversity and inclusion in their advertising.

Looking back at 2020, our financial services customers generally improved their representation when it comes to race, ethnicity, age, and gender in business visuals. But when the pandemic threw a wrench in business‑as‑usual, the visual equilibrium was slightly derailed. In 2020, the number of women (and senior women) shown in professional office settings grew +14% since 2019, even slightly surpassing men. But amongst visuals showing people working from home, women were shown bearing childcare responsibilities +40% more than men. While unequal gender roles was in fact an unfortunate side effect of the pandemic, it’s important that brands not fall back on stereotypical visual representations during a crisis—consumers expect better.

Our research identified three ways that our financial services customers can choose more diverse and inclusive business visuals, in the interest of preparing for a more equitable future of work.
Show a variety of body sizes, types, and abilities
Of all the reasons Americans experience discrimination in their everyday lives, our Visual GPS research uncovered that, in fact, body size and type was ranked at the top. This affects 1 in 3 consumers, and while being perceived as “too heavy” is reported as the primary bias, reasons runs the gamut of being “too short” to “too tall”; “too curvy” to “too skinny”. Additionally, 1 in 10 consumers report experiencing discrimination based on a physical disability. This means that showing diverse body types is actually a significant factor in making visuals feel authentic and inclusive.

Despite this, people with larger bodies appeared in just 1% of financial services’ visuals in 2020, and people with disabilities appeared in less than 1%. Centering people with real bodies and various abilities in business visuals will elevate and connect with a significant portion of the American population.
Include the LGBTQIA+ community in business visuals
Financial services brands are vocal participants in Pride Month, and some companies have even launched initiatives aimed at including the transgender population, such as TrueName by Mastercard. However, when it comes to the visuals that our financial services customers used throughout 2020, the LGBTQIA+ community is included in less than 1% of all visuals—and, when they are included, they are most frequently shown in romantic visual stories. While this is a step forward, it doesn't capture the full and multi‑faceted lives that this community leads.  

A study by Kantar found that, today, 14.6% of Americans identify as "LGBTQ+", an indication that gender expression is also becoming much more fluid. Still, though, this community was all but left out of financial services’ business visuals in 2020. In the interest of being consistently committed to inclusion, be sure to include this community in visuals beyond Pride Month.
Still, a need to move beyond tokenism remains
Tokenism is the practice of making an effort to include underrepresented groups, but only in a superficial or symbolic way. In financial services’ visuals in 2020, Black, Asian, and Latinx people were twice as likely to be featured in a multi‑ethnic group as white people were. This indicates that most visual stories about “diversity” are still centered around the experience of white subjects, rather than authentically representing communities of color. Choose business visuals that capture people's personalities, true cultures, and intersectional identities, not just one fraction of their identity.

Although some progress has been made, it's important to move beyond tokenism when showing all types of people who belong to previously underrepresented groups. The future of the workplace is evolving, but the need to show authentically diverse and inclusive visuals remains stronger than ever. 
More than a Ramadan Story