Start promoting diversity in your workplace – it’s worth it

Mairead Nayager
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For businesses to succeed, ensuring diversity in our workforces is essential.

Embracing diversity, including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, experience, skills and capabilities, is not only the right thing to do, but makes good business sense.

Promoting diversity benefits commercial performance while enriching our work environment for all employees.

And with diversity must come initiatives to include and engage. Engaged employees are happier and more productive – a fact that cannot be ignored by boardrooms focused on financial performance or political leaders who need to close the UK’s significant productivity gap with other G7 nations.

Read more: The UK just elected its most diverse parliament in history

When I started at Diageo in 2006, our executive committee consisted entirely of men. There were only a handful of women in senior leadership roles.

Today, as a result of our determination and targeted initiatives, including gender-equal intakes in our career development programmes, 36 per cent of our board are women. Our executive committee, which runs the company day-to-day, has 40 per cent female membership. We also have six different nationalities on this team who speak multiple languages and have lived and worked in dozens of countries across the globe.

The change in our senior leadership has transformed the way we do business, but the work doesn’t stop here.

Yesterday marked the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK and a moment to reflect on how far we have come in accepting individuality and celebrating diversity.

This month we celebrated London Pride through a huge range of events on diversity and inclusion under the banner of INC (for inclusive culture).

We ran workshops on unconscious bias and flexible working as well as hosting TED style talks and discussions with inspiring speakers on coming out at work, disability in the workplace, supporting ethnically diverse talent when they move around the world and supporting trans employees.

I’ve been blown away by the passion of our various networking groups across the globe, including the Europe Rainbow Network, which have been the driving force behind INC this week, as well as the enthusiasm from colleagues across the business to get involved.

I’m delighted we continue to celebrate difference in a company that operates in over 180 countries, where diversity is cherished and everyone is set up to succeed.

It is why our highly competitive talent management programme moves people to new jobs around the world, so they have better perspective and understanding of the consumers we want to reach and the diversity of the colleagues we interact with on a daily basis.

It is why, as senior business leaders, we have to be bold enough to welcome those with new or alternative perspectives and experience into our organisations. That might mean broadening our searches for board members and senior leadership appointments, or encouraging more open employee feedback through online platforms.

And it is why we leverage the excellent inclusion work carried out by our brands, most recently by Smirnoff. The brand promotes inclusivity regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation and has demonstrated its commitment to the LGBTQ community over the years, including our brand campaign to tackle online homophobic abuse and the release of a limited edition bottle to celebrate Pride.

We recognise that success won’t be delivered overnight. There will be challenges and barriers to overcome, but we know we have to succeed if all our people and Diageo itself are to reach our full potential.

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