City Matters: Why the City will lose out if its fails to capitalise on London’s diversity

Fiona Woolf
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EAGLE-EYED City workers may have already spotted this, but there are some slightly unusual adverts on the side of their buses this year. Alongside the regular adverts for London attractions and products, three buses have been specially wrapped to enable 34 organisations to proclaim that “We are all dedicated to diversity”.

While commuters can be reassured that the buses are still headed to their normal destinations of Bow, Westbourne Park and Shepherd’s Bush, we are also headed to Destination Diversity. The buses are a moving billboard for my Lord Mayor’s Appeal, which is supporting four community-based charities, as well as for the The Power of Diversity programme, which is being supported by 34 firms. It’s a particularly apt year for our diversity buses as well – 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of women working on the buses in large numbers, and it’s great to celebrate that link to women’s empowerment.

The Power of Diversity programme is a series of events designed to share best practice and experience among senior and mid-level managers across a diverse array of organisations, in a collaborative effort to ensure that talent from all backgrounds can get to the top. These events include conferences and business breakfasts, looking in detail at how the City can speed up its diversity achievements.

It is also important for me to raise the profile of the issue. I am only the second female lord mayor since 1189. In this role as a leading global spokeswoman for the UK financial, business and professional services sector, I am determined to focus attention on the practical steps the City needs to take to harness the benefits of diversity in the talent pool on which it depends. This is critical to sustaining London’s success and to creating a genuinely inclusive City. Only then will the statistics on diversity better reflect modern society.

The world has changed since I became the first female partner at my law firm, CMS, in London 30 years ago. But it has not changed fast enough, and we need to make sure far fewer people from diverse backgrounds get left behind. One of my inspirations throughout my career has been former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who said that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”. But it’s not just a fear of hell that has me focused on improving diversity – it’s also the right thing to do, from both a moral case and a business perspective.

London will lose out if it does not capture the benefits of diversity – fresh perspectives, originality and innovation – by enabling talented individuals to get to the top. This change will not happen overnight, but we need to ensure that businesses employ a true meritocracy, so that the best succeed, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or social background. Only then can we be assured that London is best equipped to tackle the challenges the City faces in the future in meeting the needs of society.

Fiona Woolf is lord mayor of London.