Now more than ever, businesses like to tell us what they care about. Most company websites have a full section extolling the corporate values they claim sets them apart. Think: a culture of flexibility, low environmental impact or strong workforce diversity.
Unfortunately, the walk does not always match this talk.
Even though diversity and inclusion has become an increasingly important subject within the corporate world, much still needs to be done to champion representation across all aspects of the spectrum including gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability and more.
There is now an added danger that, faced with surviving an uncertain economic outlook, many management boards could relegate or – worse still – abandon their diversity commitments.
Someone who knows all about bridging ambition and reality is Baroness Helena Morrissey, DBE. Founder of the hugely impactful 30% Club, Baroness Morrissey now chairs the savings and investment management industry’s Diversity Project. She joined me for the first in the new series of the DiverCity Podcast to reflect on successes so far – and the challenges that remain.
“We would have never ever have got anywhere if it had been women talking to women about women’s issues,” explained Baroness Morrissey. “Alison Carnwath, the only woman chairman at the time, was a fantastic supporter, but we needed more than just her. It’s absolutely critical to affecting change, to have the people in power inviting those who are outside it to join them and championing their cause.”
Since the 30% Club was founded in 2010, representation of women on FTSE 350 boards has risen from less than 10% to over 30%. There are now 17 30% Clubs around the world and Baroness Morrissey says it is important to build on this success to enable a wider application of diversity.
There is a solid business case for this to go beyond just good principles.
A 2019 World Economic Forum found that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials. This generation has a unique perspective on diversity and, as such, will have higher expectations on how this should be encouraged.
In this environment, Baroness Morrissey insisted that a lip service approach to diversity would be quickly exposed.
“[Diversity] needs to be something that’s very much part of one’s behaviours and thought processes and is firmly embedded,” she said. “The world has been changing dramatically and quickly before coronavirus and many of the trends we’ve seen before have just been accelerated.”
An uncertain 2021 lies ahead of the UK financial services industry, but with disruption comes opportunity and the chance to achieve real corporate change to embrace all diversity can bring should not be missed.
To echo Baroness Morrisey, it’s up to us all to ensure diversity and inclusion continues to be the central case for financial services business, and that we keep moving ever forward.
In the coming weeks I look forward to being joined by other diversity and inclusion advocates from across the industry, and you can read all about these in my fortnightly blog for CityAM.