‘Diversity reaps untold benefits’

Dr Yvonne Thompson, Ravi Chand
Dr Yvonne Thompson, Ravi Chand

THE GG2 Diversity Conference last Wednesday (24) featured speeches by a number of inspirational and passionate speakers including politicians, campaigners, entrepreneurs and senior executives.

The conference is hosted by the Asian Media Group (AMG), which publishes Eastern Eye, Garavi Gujarat, Asian Trader, Pharmacy Business, the Asian Rich List and the GG2 Power List.

Host BBC presenter Clive Myrie told the audience 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.

Keynote: The Race Disparity Audit – 12 Months On

David Lidington

THE minister at the Cabinet Office has revealed how the government is acting to reduce disparities between ethnic groups, a year on from the launch of the racial disparity audit by prime minister Theresa May.

According to the audit, which was released last October, Asian and ethnic minority households are more likely to be poor and in “persistent poverty”.

Women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds were the least likely to be employed, the findings showed.

David Lidington admitted that the issues needed to be addressed by communities, businesses and the broader public sector. “This is not something the government can work on alone,” he cautioned.

When it came to health, most Asian groups also expressed lower levels of satisfaction and less positive experiences while dealing with the National Health Service (NHS) when compared to other ethnic groups.

In terms of recruitment, Lidington said figures were not enough – “it is also a matter of retention and progression.”

Lidington, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, also spoke about the ethnic pay gap. He said large companies needed to provide data on what they paid employees, like many have done in order for the gender pay gap to be bridged.

He confirmed that the government was consulting leading companies on this and ensuring it would become mandatory.

Revealing shocking statistics, Lidington said one fourth of people have faced racist bullying at work during the past two years and that 56 per cent of ethnic minorities feel they needed to leave their company to progress.

“It should be natural and not surprising for someone who happens to come from an ethnic background to be in a senior role,” he stressed.

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

(From left) Poppy Jaman, Nishma Robb, Manish Tayal and Clive Myrie

ISSUES of mental health in the workplace needs to be tackled in a supportive and positive way, a panel concluded during a discussion on the steps to eliminate stigma and encourage conversation on the illness.

Nishma Robb, ads marketing director for Google, said that the stress and pressure of modern-day working life is “significant”.

“We don’t have means and ways of tackling that,” she said.

Reflecting on her personal journey, Robb admitted that she suffered from “imposter” syndrome, a psychological pattern of behaviour where a person can doubt their accomplishments.

“I recognised how it was manifesting in the workplace, as the leader I was becoming, and the impact it was having on my family, friends and my team.”

Robb also stressed that awareness of mental illness should be heightened. “Mental health can vary day by day and that lack of awareness can make you feel like you’re on your own and that can be a challenge,” she said.

Poppy Jaman OBE is the CEO for City Mental Health Alliance. Sharing figures on the mental health problem in the UK, she revealed that one in four people would suffer from a mental health illness in their lifetime.

Jaman said 91 million work days are lost due to mental ill health, and that Asian women are 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide.

“We have to care of our mental health the same way as our physical health,” she advised. “The unfortunate end outcome for poor mental health is suicide.”

Surgeon Commander Manish Tayal MBE, head of the medical operations in the Royal Navy, shared his experience of the loss of a friend, Vijay, who was in the armed forces and committed suicide. “He was a popular, happy person…[and] nobody saw it coming,” he said.
Tayal added that policies, strategies and resources around mental health were “useless” if people did not feel they could reach out for help when they needed it.

“How do we embed a positive and supportive culture where Vijay wouldn’t have felt he was so alone?” he questioned.

Aligning Strategy with Culture

Sanjay Bhandari and Paul Cleal

MANY businesses do not fully understand why diversity and equality need to be a focal point in the workplace, a senior executive said.

Sanjay Bhandari, partner at EY, and Paul Cleal, a non-executive board member and advisor, took part in a panel discussion on how organisations can make positive changes by engaging the power of their diverse cultures.

Bhandari, who also acts as partner sponsor of EY’s BAME strategy and leadership programme in the UK, made the remarks as he acknowledged diversity strategies were being implemented in business.

“There is too much focus on what and how, instead of why we are driving change,” he said. “Businesses have not fully embraced why we are doing this.”

Cleal said he believed that appealing to the values of an organisation and acting in ways that were consistent could change ingrained culture.

He also touched upon the so-called diffusion theory, which seeks to explain how, why and at what rate new ideas and technology spreads.

“The innovators have to get the majority to adopt those ideas and ultimately affect change,” Cleal said.

The Diversity Dividend
with Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE and Ravi Chand CBE

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 spoke at a presentation last week, as she 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.”

The Millennial Motivation –how youths will transform workplace diversity

Leila McKenzie

MILLENNIALS should be encouraged and empowered to push the boundaries of diversity, a panel of young professionals have said.

Leila McKenzie, the managing director of Leila McKenzie Associates, said senior figures in business should ensure they give confidence to the younger generation so they can progress.

“The leaders above us should give true confidence to millennials,” McKenzie stressed. “They must feel empowered to be able to embrace and be as innovative as they possibly can.”

She added that millennials were statistically the most traditionally diverse, digitally connected and socially minded group of professionals and were set to represent about 70 per cent of the workforce by 2025.

Olu Obubajo, who works in the customer and digital team at services company KPMG, also

Olu Odubajo

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

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.”




LGBT+ Inclusion in the Workplace

(From left) Asad Dhunna, Amazin LeThi, Suki Sandhu and Clive Myrie

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.”

The ECB South Asian Action Plan

Tom Harrison

THE CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Tom Harrison, shared the results of an 11-point action plan which hopes to engage better with south Asian communities.
Launched in May, the action plan aimed to increase the game’s appeal among south Asians and transform the game in the community.

Harrison discussed the challenges behind the ECB initiative and addressed how change could be made.

“Our priority is to break down the institutional barriers which have restricted cricket within the Asian community,” he said.

Research by the ECB showed that British Asians constitute 30 per cent of recreational players in the UK, yet only four per cent of professional players were from a south Asian background.

It also found that lack of access to resources hampered participation and only three per cent of ticket sales for England games were from Asian communities.

“We’ve been listening and learning to the very communities we often neglected,” Harrison said.

Recent initiatives undertaken as part of engaging with communities and ensuring inclusivity included laying 80 artificial pitches in cities where access to cricket was limited, he said.

The ECB has also ensured that multi-faith prayer rooms were available at all international matches, and were also dedicated to ensuring the sport becomes truly gender neutral.

In addition, Harrison said an advisory board with influential figures from the south Asian community has been created with the aim of holding the ECB accountable for its targets.

The Gender Pay Gap – know your worth in the workplace

Bina Mehta, Leendert den Hollander, Sam Smethers

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.

Role of diversity in the Creative Industries

Darren Henley, Kully Thiarai, Nina Bhagwat

ARTISTS can be the “agents of change” in terms of challenging norms, a senior figure in a leading arts and culture public body said.

Darren Henley, CEO at Arts Council England, made the comments as he addressed the issue of why creative representation was integral for society.

“Arts and culture enable people to have conversations they would not necessarily have,” Henley said.

“Creativity is a humanising thing that absolutely everybody in society has… diverse thinking leads to extraordinary cultural collaboration,” he added.

Nina Bhagwat, an off-screen diversity executive at Channel 4, and Kully Thiarai, artistic director at the National Theatre Wales, also contributed to the discussion.

Bhagwat believes that the diversity agenda needs to focus on helping talent progress within the middle to senior levels, as well as junior roles.

She also spoke about three key factors which in her opinion would drive diversity agendas – having inclusive cultures, senior managements holding accountability and better data which could reflect change.

Thiarai shared her experiences growing up as a working-class woman of colour, and how she attempted to have a significant voice in the sector.

“Difference is to be celebrated… it brings a sense of expansion and joy,” she said.

“Sometimes difference is in the cracks and edges, rather than in the mainstream… and that is where innovation happens.”

Race and Identity in the Workplace

Noor Ali and Dawn Butler

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.

My Journey – a personal story

Anuja Ravindra Dhir

AN ASIAN judge looked back on her personal journey, explaining how she secured one of the leading jobs in law and the challenges she faced in doing so.

Anuja Ravindra Dhir QC is currently a judge at the Old Bailey, London. She became the youngest non-white judge to be appointed in 2017.

Dhir, who revealed that she was often mistaken for a witness or defendant when she initially started working as a lawyer, rose through the ranks and is now on top in her chosen career.

Sharing statistics on ethnic minorities and women in the law sector, Dhir revealed only 13.7 per cent of QCs were women in 2017.

When she started her pupillage in 1989, no women or people from an ethnic minority background were in 61 per cent of chambers.

Asked if she agreed with having quotas to increase the number of senior ethnic minorities in the workplace, Dhir said she did not, warning that it could lead to slots being filled just to meet targets, rather than judging an individual on their talent.

“Minorities pride ourselves on the fact that we deserve the jobs we have,” said Dhir, who is on the Judicial Appointments Committee. “We should be able to get there on merit. We don’t want to just be judged on the color of our skin. What we want is a fair level-playing field.”

Dhir said her advice to those starting in a profession was to seek others who could offer help.

“They may not be everywhere, but they do exist, and if you are not getting the support you need and deserve, then move on quickly,” she said.

Building Diversity – why It starts with your company’s employee value proposition

Sir Charlie Mayfield

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.”