19 March

50 City businesses gather to discuss breaking down bias in the workplace

Over 50 businesses joined The Lord Mayor Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli to break down socioeconomic bias in the City at the first Power of Inclusion workshop of 2024. Hosted by Howden Insurance UK, senior leaders and City representatives shared personal experiences of tackling bias and discussed what organisations can and are doing to identify and mitigate bias.  

The Power of Inclusion initiative by The Lord Mayor’s Appeal aims to create a City where everyone feels they belong. Through the Social Mobility Workshop Series, DEI professionals, members of social mobility networks, senior leaders and HR professionals join together to tackle specific topics that organisations must address to strengthen their social mobility strategies and make change. The workshop series allows for cross-sector collaboration by creating a space to share learnings and solve challenges together. 

Accent bias was a key theme of the Power of Inclusion March event. Partly inspired by The Sutton Trust’s Speaking Up: Accents & Social Mobility report which demonstrated the prevalence of accent bias in the workplace and higher education. It noted that ‘35% of university students reported being self-conscious about their accent’, potentially limiting confidence in seeking early career opportunities and once in the workplace, the research found ‘29% of senior managers from working class families have been mocked for their accent at work’.

The Breaking Down Bias workshop sought to examine the impact of accent bias on individuals and the workplace, exploring what steps businesses can take to identify their own bias, tackle it on an organisational level and create workplaces where everyone feels able to be their authentic self. 

Dan Robertson, Chair of FAIRER Consulting and Chair of the Power of Inclusion Senior Leadership Forum, welcomed guests before the Lord Mayor Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli explored the theme of breaking down bias, encouraging continued contact with The Lord Mayor’s Appeal team to share progress after the workshop. 

Pritesh Modhvadia, Group Head of Talent Acquisition & DE&I, at workshop host Howden Insurance UK, shared an overview of why social mobility is an integral aspect of Howden’s DE&I work and reflected on his own journey. 

To explore professional and personal experiences of bias in more depth, Helen Dallimore, Principal Consultant at workplace consultancy byrne.dean, explored practical tools to help us identify and mitigate our own biases. She said:

“It was great to see so many people representing so many different organisations in the room, to hear so many stories and insights, lived experience, examples of what organisations are doing to address the issue of socioeconomic background and class bias.”   

The second keynote speech, delivered by Mahari Hay, Director of Innovation & Transformation at Lloyds Banking Group and Co-chair of the B.O.L.D Network, examined a personal perspective on the topic.

Mahari shared some of his own experiences on his journey from a thirteen-year-old first arriving in London from Jamaica to his career at Lloyds Banking Group. This journey included periods of suppressing his accent, facing external bias and personal reflection, which led Mahari to a current place of authenticity and embracing his true self and accent. He attributed this in supporting his current successes, including being recognised as one of the Empower Global Top 100 Future Leaders in 2022.

The speeches provided the groundwork for group discussions that further explored how we can identify and mitigate bias in ourselves and our businesses. Feedback from attendees led to more personal experiences of bias being shared and an exploration of what companies can do on an organisational level to tackle such biases. 

The Power of Inclusion Hub provides Square Mile businesses with free resources on how to create a more inclusive workplace and exclusive access to upcoming activities, including webinars and the next Power of Inclusion workshop in September.

To help break down bias in the City and beyond, sign up to the Power of Inclusion Hub here 

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