16 July

Power of Inclusion - Culture and Belonging

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We welcomed nearly 100 people to our third in the Power of Inclusion series, which is part of the two year strategy to explore and discuss social mobility. The event focused on ‘Culture and Belonging – creating a space to be oneself’, and was chaired by Dan Robertson, chair of the Power of Inclusion Senior Leadership Forum, and director of Vercida Consulting.

Dr Louise Ashely, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London spoke about continuity and change in the City is and how we can realise inclusive cultures. It’s still early days in collecting data on social class in the City. A study by Boston Consulting Study in 2015 found that 60% of leaders in City of London finance jobs had been educated privately, compared to 7% of the population – a figure that is not shifting. This has an impact on the culture, and can mean that even the most talented and brightest people do not feel that they belong, due to their background. She referred to Ashcraft’s theory of the ‘glass slipper’ where historical trends make the role and culture feel a natural fit – even when that was due to cultures that had built up over time, rather than truly based on talent and skill. The City is characterised by a strong narrative of merit, but data shows that to some extent that is a myth, with success relying on other subjective factors, that form a code that can be difficult to navigate and understand. To bring about change, competing organisations need to work together to affect a shift, particularly for a topic such as social mobility which many people find difficult to speak about.

Richard Butler, an Analyst in Portfolio Construction at Allianz Global Investors, grew up in Hackney in East London, and saw education as his route out. Self-teaching himself at A level, getting a good degree, and seeking out learning opportunities has been key for him to enter into the City and start to build his career. He also spoke about the intersection of class and race, and how that his impacted his journey.

Susan Miller-Jones is Interim Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at KPMG, and spoke about their commitment to embedding diversity and inclusion initiatives across the company. They know that being an inclusive and socially responsible business matters to their people and their clients, and are taking action to make a lasting difference. Initiatives and data collection are key to ensuring accountability. They have ranked in the top two of the Social Mobility Employer Index in each of the last three years, in 2016 were the first business in the UK to publish comprehensive data on the socio-economic background of their workforce, and their Discovery work experience programme exclusively supports young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds – with many going on to secure a role at KPMG.

Sally Davies, has been at our sponsor’s Mayer Brown UK for 28 years, working her way from trainee to Managing Partner. When she entered the City she was unsure about what the traditions and networks of the area meant, and how she would fit in. Small things such as a welcome reception and conversation are crucial to creating a culture of belonging. At Mayer Brown senior leaders are encouraged to talk about their stories and share where they came from, the challenges they have overcome, and the support they have had on their paths to leadership. They have set up a social mobility working group, a network that enables people to have those difficult conversations and discuss their personal experience, which fits into a wider culture of inclusion. They believe that people are happier when in an environment that accepts them, meaning they work better, and are more productive, creative, and engaged – showing how it makes good business sense as well as people sense.

The Lord Mayor Alderman William Russell reiterated the long term commitment that is needed to create diverse and inclusive environments for the entire business. At a time when many businesses are adapting their working styles as a result of the pandemic, this seems an ideal time to reflect on how to create inclusive workplaces.

The next seminar will be on Friday 11 September, looking at Diversity at the top and leading from above. Please email inclusion@thelordmayorsappeal.org if you would like to know more.

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