Diversity as a topic causes constant, even huge, debate in families, in organisations and across the globe. But for me – this is not a new agenda item. When I talk about Diversity, what I really mean is inclusion and for me, true inclusion in the work environment means everyone being able to work in a place that embraces them – no matter what background they come from. It is about people being able to feel comfortable in their organisation, so they can talk to anyone and feel like a valued member of the company.
When I look back at what has shaped my point of view on this topic, I realise that I have been very fortunate to start and progress my career in a number of large consulting organisations that had ED&I at the forefront of their agendas. These were global companies that recognised the importance and benefits of having an inclusive workforce and thus were exciting and energising places in which to work. These early experiences made it clear to me – these were high performing organisations specifically because they consisted of diverse teams (from the Executives down to the most junior project level team members.) Indeed, when I then had the opportunity at Accenture of leading teams of consultants from the UK, India and South East Asia, it was obvious that a more diverse programme team would achieve a better outcome for our clients. Part of cultural intelligence includes recognising that people from diverse backgrounds have different ways of looking at and solving problems, doing business, and purchasing goods and services. Moving away from a traditional ‘group think’ model can then unleash significant potential.
I also strongly believe that we need to appreciate and understand the differences in our bias. While the diversity agenda is naturally very focused on outward differences, we need to also think about where our biggest differences may lie – in our psychology, in the way we were raised, in past experiences that shaped who we are, in the beliefs we hold, in the values we express, in the traumas we’ve faced, the accomplishments we’ve had, the losses we’ve sustained. We all have unconscious bias; bias that is a result of beliefs, past experiences, values, politics, etc. It’s imperative that every person understands they will have unconscious bias so that we can reflect and learn how this may approach our work and the way we interact with colleagues. For me, to be truly inclusive you have to make a conscious effort to broaden your own professional horizons and to look outside of your ‘normal places’. A good analogy is a customer who goes to the same coffee shop every day and says I am open to trying any coffee on the menu and mixes it up every time they go in. This is truly inclusive of all coffees on the menu. But a tea shop is just round the corner, but they have never thought to look in an alternative place for hot beverages as the coffee menu is so diverse. But maybe they would gain a new experience from trying tea?
By joining B2E Consulting in 2017 I have the privilege to now personally and directly influence the ED&I agenda for my own organisation internally, for the consultants in our community as well as for our clients. With that I am delighted to take on the role of Equality Diversity & Inclusion Sponsor. While there is no magic wand, or ‘end state ED&I deliverable’ and this is necessarily an ongoing series of activities that will evolve and change – this year we have refocused our B2E ED&I work around 4 key areas: Leadership, Understanding, Empowerment and Programmes & Policy which shape what we are doing and we look forward to sharing more information on our progress in our newsletters and on this site. I am also very excited about our B2E ED&I Service Offering specifically in this space led by B2E Principal Liz Mayers whereby she can help clients with their diversity programmes using her EDI Improvement Framework© which provides a clear framework of 150 measures against which an organisation is assessed, and improvements are planned.
As a result of these initiatives within B2E, I am delighted that we have recently been placed in the top 5% of companies assessed by EcoVadis and have therefore been awarded a Gold Medal for the 2022 EcoVadis Sustainability Assessment, with Diversity being one its key areas of focus.
And I look forward to continue driving the agenda that puts ED&I at the centre of our organisation and the work we do for our clients.