Diversity breeds innovation. And innovation breeds business success. It is often said that an organisation’s greatest asset is its people. And it is people who make organisations great. But how do organisations attract and retain the best talent? How do they nurture this talent and unleash the energy, drive and ideas that comes from attracting a diverse workforce? Asian Media Group, Britain’s biggest Asian publishing group, will explore these questions and more at the GG2 Diversity Conference which will take place in Thursday 10th October 2019 . Diversity is essential to the growth and prosperity of organisations because a diversity of perspectives, experiences, cultures, genders, and age reap untold benefits. And it’s these benefits we’ll be exploring at the GG2 Conference.
Research by McKinsey clearly demonstrates that companies with more diverse senior management teams and boards are considerably more profitable than those with all-white, male boards. Multiple studies have revealed that more diverse companies are better able to attract top talent, improve their customer orientation, and increase employee satisfaction and decision making, often leading to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. The GG2 Diversity Conference will feature speeches by a number of inspirational and passionate speakers including politicians, campaigners, entrepreneurs and senior executives, who will share their knowledge and expertise and explore why investment in diversity is critical for business growth, and what organisations can do to improve diversity and support inclusion in the workplace.
Host BBC presenter Clive Myrie told the audience at the 2018 GG2 Diversity Conference they could look forward to a day which would focus on the conversation surrounding diversity. “Our wide range of speakers today will help move that conversation forward,” he said. “Because it’s a discussion you should all be having, at the very highest levels of management.” Myrie warned businesses that if sections of society were excluded, then talent could potentially be excluded too. That talent could be beneficial to their companies, he explained, so they should seek out the best staff, whatever their colour, gender or sexual orientation.
AMG executive editor Shailesh Solanki welcomed guests by touching upon Britain’s progress in the past 20 years. “There were no black or Asian police chief or generals,” he said. “No senior judges or permanent secretaries and very few CEOs of major British companies.” Although the country had made great strides since then, he added, the reality is that progress has been slow and hard fought. Citing recent research by McKinsey which showed that companies with the most culturally diverse leadership teams outperform their counterparts by up to a third in terms of profitability and performance, Solanki said diversity helped propel business growth and drive innovation. He added that although a small number of FTSE 100 companies had appointed ethnic minority chief executives, they had been recruited from overseas and none had ever promoted a British-born ethnic minority to the top role. Some of the session highlights are below.
BUSINESSES should be actively thinking about what ethnic minorities can bring to the corporate world, a leading advisor and campaigner has said. Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE addressed what companies could do to be more inclusive and diverse. Thompson sits on the Parker Review panel, an independent review into the ethnic diversity of UK boards. Speaking alongside Ravi Chand CBE – the chief people officer at the Department of International Development – Thompson said she wanted people to “encourage each other to be ‘colour-brave’ rather than ‘colour-blind’”. Chand, who previously worked as the director responsible for capability, talent and diversity at the Home Office, questioned how business could better understand the cultures of the countries they wished to build ties with. He also addressed aims implemented by the Civil Service which hoped to become to most inclusive employer by 2020.
In a panel discussion, the pair stressed the importance of talking about the intersection of race and gender when it comes to exploring gender equality. “Though we have moved a long way, the point that has never taken off or addressed is the intersectionality of race,” Thompson said. “Yes, we can see there are a lot more women on boards, but it is the same group of women. Rather than an old boys’ club, there is an old girls’ club. It is not inclusive and not open to certain sections of the community."
MILLENNIALS should be encouraged and empowered to push the boundaries of diversity, a panel of young professionals have said. Olu Obubajo, who works in the customer and digital team at services company KPMG, also discussed his experiences of a “reverse mentoring” group for ethnic minorities. He acted as a reverse mentor at Philip Davidson, a managing partner of KPMG. Obubajo believes it provides a safe place for junior and senior colleagues to discuss race and inclusion in the workplace. “It empowers junior colleagues and pushes leaders to listen and enact meaningful change,” he said. Martin Pong, a management consultant at Oliver Wyman, spoke about the importance of intersectionality among staff networks to reflect the true diversity of a workforce. “Ultimately, we must all be allies to each other,” Pong said. “It is about working together towards a common cause.”
INCLUSIVITY and equality in the workplace are improving, but the changes don’t feel like they are happening quickly enough, an influential business leader said. Sir Charlie Mayfield, the chairman of John Lewis Partnership, spoke about the importance of a company’s employee-value proposition. He described the John Lewis Partnership as having a “fabulous and rich” diverse mix of employees. However, he admitted he was less proud that in the senior ranks of the company, the level of diversity wasn’t as strong.
“We are concerned about the issue,” he said. “And we have been at working on it.” The company has worked on “unconscious bias” training and reverse mentoring, Sir Charlie explained. He himself had taken part in it, as had many of the organisation’s other senior leaders. They have also introduced “gentle targeting for promotion”. “We are progressing, but the honest truth is it doesn’t feel like it is going fast enough,” he said. Discussing the concept of singular identify, Sir Charlie believed it was the language of separation as it does not describe people’s similarities.
“Singular identity results in a singular solution which is dangerous,” he warned. He added: “Today, we are fortunate to live in a fabulously rich and diverse society… identity is no longer a given, it is potentially much richer in answers. “The health of our organisation is at stake, but more important, the fabric of our society rests on the quality of our relationships.”
A PANEL of three leading executives set out to explore LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace and the importance of LGBT+ ethnic minority role models. Asad Dhunna, founder of the Unmistakables, believes role models were “incredibly important” to the LGBT+ community. “For ethnic minorities, we’ve not had our ‘Tom Daley’ moment, where someone very famous [an ethnic minority role model] has come out from this community,” he said. Dhunna spoke of his hope that this would happen in the future, as the idea of a role model would be especially helpful to those Asians who were coming to terms with their sexuality.
Amazin LêThi, the founder of Amazin LêThi Foundation, said that as a member of an ethnic minority, there were different issues in terms of “coming out”. “There are multiple layers,” LêThi said. “As an Asian woman, it was not just about being LGBT+ but the shame surrounding this, coming out and what that means for us as a community and what that means in business and to our family.” As an Asian woman, she said she had to deal with a number of issues including homophobia, racism and sexism. “I have to go through a triple whammy to be my authentic self,” the entrepreneur revealed.
Suki Sandhu, founder and CEO of INvolve, stressed that inclusion practices were essential and the “right thing to do”. “We need to make people feel valued”, he explained. “It is about fundamentally being human and kind to your workforce.”
THREE senior executives shared their experiences on how women could get ahead in the workplace, as the gender pay debate continues to rage. Presently, eight out of 10 firms pay men more than women for doing the same job. Last year, the government introduced gender pay gap regulations, asking large businesses to publish the contrast between what they pay their male and female staff in salaries. More than 10,000 firms complied.
According to McKinsey & Company, eliminating the gender pay gap could add as much as £150 million to the country’s annual GDP by 2025. Leendert den Hollander is the vice-president and general manager of Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP). He said CCEP targets included having 50 per cent of women working within management by 2025. “Inclusion drives diversity from our perspective,” he said. “Inclusive leadership and building diverse teams go hand in hand.”
Sam Smethers is the CEO at the Fawcett Society, one of the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights. In key data collected by the charity, Smethers revealed statistics which showed that for black African women, the gender pay gap by ethnicity has hardly moved over time. It also found a big gap between Indian men and Indian women. “If any of us are held back…we are all held back,” she remarked.
Bina Mehta, a partner at KPMG, said it was important to think about the structural challenge which were stopping females from reaching senior levels. “We need to be providing opportunities for progression and busting the biases,” she said. She also urged employees to reach out and find mentors. Mehta cited her own mentor as a big help in her personal journey.
BE TRUE to yourself in the workplace and share your culture, a senior buying manager for Morrisons said during a panel exploring identity. The session looked at the importance of a person’s true self at work, as well as the role of race and identity in a work environment. Noor Ali, who launched Asda’s first food ethnic range in 2007, advised people to share their thoughts and feelings. “Be who you are,” she said. “Be a part of making Britain more diverse.” Ali started out as a checkout operator at the supermarket chain with no qualifications. However, she cited a supportive network for helping her progress in her career. “I may not have had qualifications, but I had people who believed in me to move up the ranks,” she said.
Also sharing her thoughts was Labour MP Dawn Butler. She addressed unconscious bias and warned firms to be mindful of it. Butler said unconscious biases could have negative and detrimental effects on people’s lives, especially in recruitment. “Being a black person, you can often be visible and invisible in your workplace,” she said. “For example, if you are late to work once, this is what people may remember and focus on.” Advising people to have uncomfortable conversations about race and unconscious biases in the workplace, Butler said they must not fearful of highlighting such narratives. “We must be honest about our unconscious biases,” she said
For more information on the 2018 GG2 Diversity Conference, please click here.