3 April

Race and Ethnicity: Why so little progress?

“We have seen some action, though progress remains slow. We need to ask ourselves why this is.”

The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor Alderman Peter Estlin

This morning saw 70 attendees join us for the first Power of Inclusion breakfast event of 2019. Today we were concentrating on Race and Ethnicity and why there has been so little progress on the issue despite the issue being so high on people’s priority lists. We were also experimenting with a slightly more informal format, with small table discussions. With attendees from over 34 organisations – there was certainly a lot of experience to share.  

We kicked off with a debate with Rukasana Bhaijee from EY and Asif Sadiq from The Telegraph:

  • Rukasana argued that meritocracy is a myth – we are led to believe we will be judged on our talent, abilities and efforts – however in reality our systems limit ethnic minorities. They’re less likely to get a 2/1 at university, and less likely to progress at work. EY’s future leaders programme identifies diverse top talent and gives them the tools lead authentically, and to influence the systems around them to create a ripple effect and become the disruptors and change agents. “The time for talking is over - the time to act is now!”
  • Asif argued that leadership programmes make it about the people who are discriminated against - asking them to confirm when we should be valuing authenticity and difference. He asked us to start educating the whole workforce on how they can make a difference, making opportunities as fair for BAME individuals as they are for anyone else – rather than sending BAME employees on specialist leadership programmes, which they then have to justify to colleagues who think they have received preferential treatment.

We then had an in depth case study from Ed Fox at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) who shared his experiences making diversity (with a focus on race and ethnicity) a business priority at the FCA by running it as a change programme. He recommended others considering a similar approach to think about 5 questions:

  1. How could you take the time to develop the insight that will make it make sense to everyone?
  2. How could you prioritise action so that everyone is working on the most important initiatives?
  3. How could you find ways to measure success?
  4. How could you switch off what is failing or can’t be scaled?
  5. How could you scale what is working so that it can have more impact?

He shared the education programmes they ran at all levels of the organisation, and emphasised the importance of selling the programme of work to appeal to “what’s in it for me”. How do you attract your best people to want to work on it? How do you attract those who have never considered working on something like this before?  He acknowledged that it’s not easy work and encouraged us all to stay dynamic and responsive and be resilient when it doesn’t work.

Another great morning considering the big questions we need to consider if we really want to move the dial on diversity and inclusion, and sharing best practice of what solutions are currently being developed across the City.

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