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Recent social justice movements across the globe reminded business leaders of the need for more diverse and inclusive workplaces. The momentum behind some of 2020’s most high profile movements inevitably spurred a broader discussion around whether companies were doing enough to ensure an inclusive work environment, according to the 2021 Randstad diversity and inclusion report.

The launch of the report coincided with the latest instalment of Randstad’s monthly webinar series, starring four-time Premiership winner, England and British & Irish Lion legend, Maro Itoje. 

Throughout the discussion, it became clear that there is much businesses can learn, in terms of leadership and inclusivity from the game of rugby.

Statistics from the RFU suggest: “Despite growth of the women’s game and the most diverse England men’s team ever, compared to the overall England adult population, those who participate in Rugby Union are significantly less likely to be female, or of an ethic minority and of the lowest socio-economic group. 57% of those involved in the game agree that rugby is representative of the local community it is in, but only 31% agree it is representative of the general population.”

Commenting on the findings, England and Saracens Lock, Maro Itoje said: 

“In terms of the benefits of diversity, where do you start? Looking at it from a purely sporting point of view, if you have a wider pool of players you have more talent to select from; if you have more players to select from you have more competition, which in turn drives performance. If you have a wider, diverse group of people who have different thoughts, thinking patterns, experiences and backgrounds - in terms of problem solving, you have a greater chance of success. This is definitely something business leaders should be reminded about, and need to keep at the top of their agendas.”

A 2021 Randstad poll of over 400 jobseekers identified that only 28% said that the senior leadership team in the organisation within which they worked was an even mix of men and women - while just under a fifth, 19% said it was predominantly female. More than half, 53%, said their organisation was predominantly male.  

Speaking on the importance of a diverse team, Maro added: “Diversity has a number of positive benefits for everyone involved. I think it’s relatively similar to those in businesses, from a cognitive point of view. If you have a wide and varied workforce, you can pull from different experiences, you can learn from each other.”

As highlighted in the Randstad 2021 diversity and inclusion report; “Companies with more diverse staff demographics tend to be more productive, with McKinsey finding that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have better financial returns than national industry medians.”

Speaking on whether this is the same for sport teams, and if both businesses and sports teams alike should have policies in place to help fight against discrimination and to promote a positive and diverse working environment, Maro said:

“What we desire to promote is not making people employ those who they don’t want to employ. What we want is employment purely based on merit, capability and equal opportunity. 

We don't want a situation where individuals from a certain demographic, social class or ethnicity are treated differently or spotlighted based on those elements. This shouldn't become a determining factor in deciding whether or not if the person is suitable for the job. It should purely be based on merit. Any way in which we can assure that is the case, we need to put that forward. Moreso in business than in sport, sport tends to be a bit more meritocratic than business.”

Speaking on what other sports can learn from Rugby Union in terms of diversity, attitude, respect and humility, Maro commented:

“In terms of diversity, rugby can take some learnings from other sports, to be honest. Football for example has a more diverse range of players than rugby. What other sports however can learn from rugby, is respect. That’s a big one. Considering how aggressive rugby is as a sport, the level of respect that players have for one another, the match officials and even the general level of respect that fans demonstrate is admirable.

I have friends who are predominantly football fans that are surprised when they come to watch a rugby match, and may be sitting next to other fans from different nationalities and backgrounds, watching the game amicably, with total respect from one another. 

One of the great things about rugby is its culture. It’s predicated on respect, treating people fairly, being a good sportsperson, and that is one of the things about rugby that should be celebrated and encouraged.” 

The recording of the informative and insightful discussion with the Saracens superstar, broadcasted live and exclusively to over 300 Randstad clients can be accessed below:

Randstad’s Director of Inclusion and Wellbeing, Laura Todd added: “The recent social justice moments and the Covid-19 pandemic have undoubtedly impacted every aspect of society over the last year or so, and it’s changed the way we live and work. Research shows that the most disadvantaged groups in our society have been the worst hit, with nearly one third of lowest earning employees in the UK having lost their job or been furloughed, compared to less than one in 10 top earners.

Similar to sports teams, organisations have a vital role to play in building society back better, to help tackle inequalities which have widened because of the pandemic, improving livelihoods, embracing diversity, nurturing talent, and leaving no one behind. It is now more important than ever to ensure diversity and inclusion doesn’t fall off the agenda.

Maro raised some incredibly insightful and thought-provoking discussion points in our webinar around what organisations can learn from sport. Not just in terms of values and leadership, but also in terms of respect and who we advocate for. Business leaders can certainly learn a thing or two from this inspiring individual.”

The host of the webinar, Randstad UK Marketing Director, Adam Nicoll, went on to say, “Maro was an inspiring force on the call, as he is on the pitch. It was a pleasure to work with him. His approach to diversity issues seems very practical. His responses around meritocracy were particularly pertinent for businesses. It’s obvious that sporting institutions are much less likely to overlook quality compared to businesses and organisations, as the talent is arguably more visible and undeniable on the sports field. For businesses, a tunnel visioned view of the talent at their disposal is more likely, as ‘seeing’ what’s possible, is often harder in ‘real jobs’ so to speak. Businesses need to open their eyes.”


Exclusive access to Maro Itoje has been made possible following the announcement of Randstad's new partnership with Premiership title-winning Saracens Rugby club, following a multi-year working relationship. 

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Randstad is the global leader in the HR services industry. We support people and organisations in realising their true potential by combining the power of today's technology with our passion for people. We call it Human Forward. In 2020, we helped nearly two million candidates find a meaningful job with more than 236,000 clients. Furthermore, we trained close to 350,000 people. Randstad is active in 38 markets around the world and has a top-three position in almost half of these. In 2020, Randstad had on average 34,680 corporate employees and generated revenue of € 20.7 billion. Randstad was founded in 1960 and is headquartered in Diemen, the Netherlands. Randstad N.V. is listed on the NYSE Euronext (symbol: RAND.AS). For more information, see

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