Fiona Woolf talks about why transformational change at all levels is important

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In her third blog, Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of the City of London and Womens Business Council member, discusses why working together at all levels can help create more diverse companies.

On Thursday 25 September, I was delighted to host the fifth and final breakfast meeting in our Power of Diversity series at Baker & McKenzie.  The aim of the meeting was to discuss what should be on the ‘to do list’ to help drive transformational change so as to attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce.  We also shared ideas on how to use our power and energy at all levels to help make this change happen.

The meeting was chaired by Trevor Phillips, writer and TV producer, and Deputy Chair of the Board of the National Equality Standard.  The speaker panel was formed of senior women from organisations that prioritise diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

  • Sue Asprey, Executive Director, Head of EMEA Consulting, CBRE Corporate Services Team
  • Sally Dewar, Head of the EMEA Regulatory Policy and Strategy Group, J.P. Morgan
  • Sarah Gregory, Diversity and Inclusion Partner,  Baker & McKenzie
  • Cheryl Sunderland, SVP and International Treasurer, State Street Bank

The first part of the meeting focused on where we have achieved greater diversity and where we need more focus to achieve cultural and organisational change.  Trevor Phillips highlighted the difficulties we face in bringing about real change and the external factors involved.   The second part of the meeting was a panel discussion highlighting the changes companies have made to increase diversity, followed by a Q&A with the 180 strong audience.

The panel discussed ways in which their organisations are ensuring that diversity and inclusion is at the forefront of their business and embedded into what they do; some examples include having a measurable objective specifically on diversity and inclusion for all senior managers; championing equality at senior levels; flexible working; and working with local communities to raise the profile of diversity. A crucial common factor highlighted was the need to embed diversity into an organisation’s culture and DNA.

Overall, we have made positive inroads into addressing diversity and inclusion, but much still remains to be done on this agenda. We must continue to look at the nuts and bolts of how to make a difference.  We must ensure that we focus on the following: ensuring we continue to reach a wider audience, preaching to the choir will not widen the debate; secondly transparency, organisations must be more open about diversity in the workplace and finally, the power of collaboration, how can we get more people talking, sharing ideas and working together?

Creating an environment that recognises the importance of diversity and inclusion is something all employees, at all levels are responsible for and we must factor this into our daily thinking. There must be more diverse representation in leadership roles, this is important as individuals resonate with those like themselves, and this will help to improve employee engagement.

Despite this being my final diversity breakfast meeting, I wanted to ensure that a lasting legacy is in place, a blueprint of all the work that has been done so far as well as the work that will continue under the ‘Power of Diversity’ Programme.  An overview of the programme is currently being created and will be available towards the end of this year.

As such a LinkedIn page, a twitter account (@PoweroDiversity) and a website have been created for this purpose.  If you would like to join the mailing list, please contact Charlotte Sweeney at info@charlottesweeney.com who has been my special advisor on diversity and inclusion and has lead the creation and delivery of the programme on my behalf, or join the LinkedIn group ‘Power of Diversity.

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