Alicia Millar, Director of Learning and Development (EMEA) at Reed Smith, NED of MyGWork and co-chair of the LGBT chapter of The Network of Networks (TNON), and Dan Ricard, Transformation Lead in PwC’s UK Sales & Marketing function and founder and co-chair of The Network of Networks (TNON), discuss inclusive leadership, diversity of thought and opinion, why networks are no longer exclusively for large organisations and setting appropriate KPIs for networks. They also discuss how organisations must truly understand and value the very core of their people, explore intersectionality (for example ethnic minority LGBT+ employees) and collaboration between other segments and networks. They also explore the use of the term ‘allies’ and highlight the importance of creating ‘callout’ cultures.
Alicia Millar is the Director of Learning and Development (EMEA) at Reed Smith. Alicia leads on designing award-winning organisational development programmes, partnering with sector and industry group leaders to deliver bespoke development initiatives for their teams across the EMEA region. She sits on the Diversity Committee and the Responsible Business Committee, and works closely with the leadership team of WINRS – the firm’s global women’s initiative network. She has created opportunities to bring all the employee affinity networks together to learn and share best practice and become allies for each other.
Alicia is an inspirational role-model to others in championing and supporting LGBT individuals. She serves as a NED of MyGWork, the only LGBT-dedicated professional networking and recruitment platform. Alicia also co-chairs the LGBT chapter of The Network of Networks and has a pro bono coaching practice. She stepped down in 2017 as the co-chair of PRISM, Reed Smith’s European LGBT Network, having successfully achieved Stonewall Workplace Equality Index top 100 employer status.
Alicia also appeared in the Inspirational Women list in 2015 for her role as co-chair of PRISM. She was recently shortlisted the Citywealth Powerwomen Awards 2018, and in 2016 was nominated for the Diversity Champion award at the British LGBT Awards.
You can follow Alicia on Twitter @ForceofLearning.
Dan Ricard is the Transformation Lead in PwC’s UK Sales & Marketing function and an Ambassador of GLEE@PwC, the firm’s LGBT+ employee network in the UK which he previously chaired. He secured and acted as Programme Manager for the firm’s 2017 Silver sponsorship of Pride in London. Outside PwC, he is the founder and co-chair of LGBT TNON (The Network of Networks) which connects network leaders across 150+ organisations to share best practice. He was nominated in the and 2016 and 2017 Financial Times Top 50 LGBT+ Future Leaders in business. Dan is deputy-chair of OUTstanding’s Programme and Events Committee. He is also a mentor to Opening Opening Door London’s corporate ambassadors and supports other charities through fundraising and probono consulting.
You can follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Ricard.
Series Four, Episode Seven Transcript
Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion and diversity in financial services. On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress. Call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change.
Today, I’m joined by Alicia Millar, and Dan Ricard. Alicia Miller is the EMEA Director of Learning Development, at the legal firm Reed Smith. Where her role is to design organisational development initiatives, partnering with industry leaders, across the region. She sits on Reed Smith’s Diversity and Responsible Business committees, and works closely with the firms global women’s network, WINRS.
A champion of LGBTQ+ initiatives, Alicia serves as a non-executive director of MyGWork, the LGBT+ networking and recruitment platform, and with Dan, co-chairs the LGBT chapter of the group called The Network of Networks.
Alicia, welcome to the show.
Alicia: Thank you for inviting me.
Julia: Dan Ricard is the Transformation Lead in PWC’s UK sales and marketing function and is an ambassador of Glee@PWC, the firm’s LGBT+ network. With Alicia, Dan is the founder and co-chair of the Network of Networks, connecting leaders across more than 150 organisations that all come together to share best practice in their networking development initiatives. He was nominated in the 2016 and 2017 Financial Times top 50 LGBT+ Future Leaders in Business, and is a mentor for Open Door, the charity supporting older LGBT people.
Julia: Dan, welcome to the show.
Dan: Thanks for having me.
Julia: As always at the start of the show, we invite each guest to talk about what they’re up to at the moment. Alicia, let’s start with you, what are you particularly focused on?
Alicia: Thank you. My life revolves around learning and development, behavioural change and our organisational development initiatives. That’s the day job. The gay job is looking after and Co-Chairing Prism, which is our LGBT network within Reed Smith, and of course working with Dan on TNON, The Network of Networks, which is the LGBT chapter.
The joy at the moment is that I am seeking to step out of the limelight just a little bit, to invite others to take the spotlight and to lead, certainly for Prism at Reed Smith. To invite future, younger, dare I say it, leaders to really bring out the next generation of what Prism looks like at the firm and doing a bit more of the day job. That’s me in a nutshell.
Julia: Wonderful, that’s great. Let me turn to you, Dan, what are you up to at the moment?
Dan: I started a few months ago a new job at PWC that’s getting pretty busy. Working for one of your previous guests Andy Woodfield, who founded, a few years ago GLEE@PWC. Recently I have retired from that role at GLEE, and taking a step back to focus on my career. I have been thinking about doing more initiatives around inclusion and wellbeing with clients through my sales and marketing world and day to day. I’ve also been really thinking about how we apply inclusion best practises through a sales and marketing lens.
Julia: Alicia, there are clear benefits, and we have lots of guests on talking about inclusion and diversity initiatives, I’m really interested in your role, Learning Development as well. I’m also really keen to get to the heart of what impacts Learning and Development, particularly D&I has on organisations, that’s something you do as a day job. Can you share from your perspective some of the impacts?
Alicia: Happy to, yes. I have a joy of a Venn diagram in front of my eyes all the time. I look at it from the point of view of professional services organisations. The product is ultimately the human being. It is the core of what the offering is to the client of that organisation. If we don’t focus on that person, if we don’t allow them to be great, in whatever it is that they’re doing, we’re missing a trick. For an organisation to tap into that, we have an opportunity for organisational growth, organisational development, and ultimately to serve our clients in a better way.
When I look at developmental initiatives with both the L and D hat, the diversity and inclusion hat, I’m thinking professional development, what does it look like for the individual, what does it look like to be, call it the best lawyer you want to be, call it the best in your professional service environment, or the best business person that you need to be.
How are you then impacting the profession? The way in which we look at lawyers, at accountants, at our professional services, and ultimately in a commercial context, how are we holding our firm to account to say there’s a beating heart at the core of it.
The more we can do that, the more we can actually have those filters, the more we can get our clients to think in the same way. What is interesting, what I’m loving seeing is actually the clients are driving it more. I used to think of it as a vicious circle, oh my god, what do we do next? But actually, I look at it more as an infinity loop. We are feeding off each other. We are feeding into each other and we are pushing each other to grow in different way. It is not easy.
Julia: Can you share some thoughts around when your clients are asking you about your Diversity and Inclusion and your Learning and Development initiatives, what are they particularly asking you?
Alicia: They want to know what’s different. They want to know what it is that first of all set us apart, and that they are going to be able to partner with. A Learning and Development example would be, inviting our clients to have the space to talk about Leadership Development. Inclusive leadership is one of that which is wonderful to actually go down that rabbit hole, it’s great to do. But if I think about Professional Leadership, how are we building the right teams to lead and to grow and to work on a specific matter for clients, for our individuals, and for a market area that we’re doing.
With that brings the view on how we do things differently. Diversity of thought. Diversity of opinion. Having the space for that. The way in which we approach a question from multiple view-points. It’s almost like a kaleidoscope as opposed to the Venn diagram. It’s ever-changing in my mind. That’s where the driver comes. Law firms is very similar. Professional services is very similar. So what is it that sets us apart? And it is that human being. It is the human connection and how we tap into that.
Julia: I know one of the things you’ve been thinking about, partly with the Network of Networks, which I was saying in the beginning of the show is 150+ companies that come together. Is when you look at the networks that you’ve been involved with, are you seeing some natural evolution given the tide of change to help you stand apart?
I know you’re finding some areas where further attention is required. Where are the gaps?
Alicia: That is a great question, it really is. This is actually something that Dan and I debate a lot.
Julia: We’re going to bring Dan in.
Alicia: He’s great, because the thing is we actually look at it from a network perspective which is very much, Dan who has the absolute guru view on this and I’m looking at it from the individual perspective. I think that is what is key to understanding where there is development in the networks. Where there is development to allow the networks to grow and to ultimately feed through the organisation. If we don’t have a balance between the individual and then the collective, again, we’re missing something.
Julia: Are you finding some of the boundaries of existing networks changing over time as well? Dan, do come in at this point, because I’m really interested in your views, because you sit at both a common objective but coming from different angles as well.
Dan: If I look at the membership of the Network’s Networks, we have a huge diversity of maturity within the diversity journey, huge diversity of roles of the leaders within the organisation and levels of seniority within the organisation and as well, just varying sectors which are huge differences in professional services, banks and public sector, some with very different levels of budget.
So actually success means different things in a different context. I do see a common thread that more and more organisations are picking up on setting up networks, I think we’re moving away from the big, large corporate to more mid-sized tier that traditionally didn’t have networks, didn’t think as much about diversity from an organisational perspective. I think when we’re having new members come on board, it tends to be the smaller organisations now.
Julia: It’s really interesting, because when you think about how those organisations come into the Network of Networks, they have some very clear expectations, and I often wonder, I’m sure there’s no rigid answer, how do they set their objectives in terms of where they are now and where they want to get to? It’s interesting, Alicia, you were talking about how you engage with your customers to do that, as well. Are you seeing some kind of common objective setting in that and how do you begin to set KPIs around networks?
Dan: I think there are usually two different ways a network will start. They’re either more grassroots, saying if the employees get together “I want to do something”, or really come from the top is “oh we need to do something about D&I, let’s set up a network”.
They come from two different angles and usually you find right answer comes from somewhere in the middle where there are some really keen people who want to do something and have a common understanding and goal of commonality of wanting to do something and as well that meets those organisational goals and how they’ll meet together to be credible within the organisation. They need to speak the language of their organisation and whether a metric’s going to land whether it’s financial, people engagement, number of events, you’ve got to have some numbers somewhere that are going to speak to your leadership and having that peer sponsorship, but actually what you really need is doers as well. A network is relying on people who are volunteers, doing this above and beyond their day job.
I think where I’ve seen it most successful is when the organisation, as a collective, recognises those people’s contribution to the wider organisation. Usually it doesn’t make a promotion but it might set you apart in that HR process.
Julia: One of the things I love hearing is when people say, you know, traditionally if you only wind back a matter of years, that if you took on something that was very much on the side of the desk, it was something you chose to do. But actually, as young execs come through, they are looking for opportunities to take leadership positions before they necessarily become leaders in their commercial sense, in their commercial roles.
Building on your point, are you seeing that more and more organisations recognise that the skills that you bring on, and Alicia you were talking about the young execs coming through to shine as part of your Prism initiatives, for example. Are you seeing that the organisation’s much more supportive of embodying that into the company ethos and also the development structure?
Alicia: Something that I’m seeing is actually an awareness of the space to do that. I’ve been seeing a lot more autonomy. I’m seeing less direct, or perhaps there’s a shift in leadership, we’re moving away from the command and the troll. We’re moving away from perhaps, and maybe this is unkind, but sort of this snowy white peaks of leadership. It’s those who’ve been there for many, many years who’re at the top of their profession and are doing amazing things.
Julia: I really like that expression, by the way.
Alicia: I might have to check that just to make sure I’m not offending anyone, I hope I’m not.
It brings in the fact that organisation is not the pyramid anymore. We have to actually have everyday leadership. We have to invite those who have different ways of doing things, who are thinking differently. Who have had a very different experience though, before they’ve come into the profession, through their education, through their life experiences.
To live that in a professional context, if we don’t allow the space, we risk marginalising a generation of people who are going to be leaders very quickly. The pace of leadership and the pace of change is so much faster these days. If we don’t engage in the right way and we don’t have the space in our organisations to listen to them, to encourage conversation, we will miss out.
Julia: The organisations talk a lot about the need to bring your authentic self to work. But if you think about it, also, what’s authentic leadership as well?, and the two sort of very much blend.
There’s a big statistic which gets thrown out quite a lot which is particularly thinking about the LGBT agenda which is that 62% of LGBT graduates reportedly go back into the closet when they come into the workplace and I’m really interested in these dynamics of how you can bring your authentic self to work, become an authentic leader by getting involved in some of the initiatives, but yet, someone may not necessarily feel very comfortable doing that.
It’s an open question really and just love your thoughts particularly because you are both very deeply involved in your own networks and also with the kind of pan business view as well from TNON.
Dan: I think what’s really important is for organisations to create a culture where people feel they can come out. A network is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea and that’s perfectly fine. I also think that’s something that people get involved in over time and then will get bored of it or just move to something else because they have different aspirations and I think that’s very natural cycles of networks in general. Any network, actually, not just LGBT networks. So I’m not sure it’s necessarily an issue that people choose not to be out at work.
Alicia: If I could add to that, I think about the concept of identity and who we are in any given environment. From waking up in the morning to the commuter person that we turn into, to walking through the doors of our professional organisations, we are three, four, five, often ten different people. So understanding who we are, and I think that’s where I come back to who the core of the human being, who are you, who do you want to be, and for an organisation to tap into the space to allow that is where I think we’ll see change.
I’m not surprised that people go back in the closet. But I would like us to define what the closet is. If I’m drawing on some of the gender work that I do, for women in professional services, first of all, and I’m happy to be challenged, but first of all they’re thinking, I want to be a really good professional. I want to be shining, I want to be successful for what I am doing. I don’t, perhaps, want the fact that I’m a woman, to either get in the way or be the defining factor. I want to be successful. We need to invite people to consider what is your closet and who are you?
If I think about my own organisation, Reed Smith, we have a number of ‘ins’, that’s perhaps my phraseology, but it’s those who are very comfortable in their own skin, they aren’t out. But they don’t necessarily want to be part of a network, they don’t want to be this visible of our role models. But day to day working with them? They’re out, they’re very comfortable, everybody is championing them as leaders. For being leaders, not for being gay.
Julia: Dan, anything you’d add to that?
Dan: I think it’s perhaps my move to the UK that I actually made a very deliberate choice to come out at work. I previously worked in Paris where I think you worked as well, and in Prague in financial services. Very different environments where I was not out at work after being out in University. I think that was almost more to do with the country context then actually the organisational context.
When I moved to London, I just felt like I could be out. As a city, it was very easy for me, and therefore, I think it’s got to be a personal decision, and again, back to my initial point, the culture in the organisation, has got to allow those people to come out, should they want to be out.
Julia: One of the things that a lot of our guests talk about at the moment is, and we sort of explored this a little bit earlier in our conversation, about how the dynamics are changing and how the boundaries if you’d like, in networks are changing as one, and the question of intersectionality comes up a lot.
I’m beginning to see how there’s a risk when you come out on an agenda, agenda, that it tends to be mostly, you run a risk of becoming predominately white privileged females. In LGBT that it also runs a risk of being very white centric as well.
I’m very interested in your views and your experiences of the intersectionality of ethnic minority LGBT employees and reaching out to other segments and other networks and see how you can work together with them.
Dan: In my experience, I would say, even at a TNON breakfast you could only have a white room. 70% male, 30% female, and that’s pretty accurate at any organisation I think, if you look at the diversity of the network’s corporate.
Julia: Who’s normally in the room, is it heads of learning and development, is it heads of HR, D&I?
Dan: We have a whole variety of roles within the organisations and levels of seniority. I think that’s true with any LGBT corporate network. They tend to be more male dominated, quite often with a female co-chair, because that’s a very deliberate approach to wanting to have a gender balance as a co-chair for a visibility perspective. I think that’s really important. Beyond that, it’s quite hard to scale out more diversity, quite visible diversity, at least. It’s true that it’s quite tough to engage in those other minority groups. I think that’s not just in the organisation, but actually the LGBT community can be quite segregated in itself outside the organisation.
Julia: Do you see that changing over time? Do you think there’s increasing awareness in that or is that something we should be talking about more on the podcast, about why and how actually intersectionality can truly come together?
Dan: I think one big issue we’re seeing outside the workplace, amongst the gay male community, is racism. And that’s certainly becoming very apparent and visible on dating apps. Where you can filter through ethnicity. A lot of discrimination against people living with HIV as well, that’s a huge issue in the gay male community. It’s not just within the organisation that that’s a challenge also outside the workplace.
Julia: Pushing even further into the T of LGBT, as well, it’s encouraging that I’ve seen so many organisations taking on transgender discussion and actually changing sort of the policies, some of the HR policies, and really an appreciation that if you can accelerate change by looking at the world through the transgendered lens, that could be incredibly empowering as well.
Again, I’m interested to what degree TNON and the LGBT networks actually embracing greater transgender initiatives and empowerment.
Alicia: I think certainly, just to, and I’ll defer to Dan because he has the better data and details on this, but I think certainly with TNON, something that we have, it’s been a part of who we are, is how to bring forth leadership. How to focus on actually very pressing issues within organisations, but also just generally within LGBT community. To also have space for the non for profit, the charitable side. Our final event of 2018, in fact, we had an incredible event for TNON, Dan you know the names and the details for it, but it was moving, and it’s one of the first times that I’ve actually felt the emotion that TNON can actually bring in a professional context.
Dan: During our last breakfast of 2018, we invited a guest speaker who is an out trans woman living with HIV, to speak about her experience. She was an ambassador for poster voices for Terrence Higgins Trust. It was during HIV Awareness Week, just following Transpeople Awareness Week, so educating people around those two issues and inviting charities like Mermaids, we have in the past who actually support LGBT people in society. That’s certainly something we’ve done or tried to do our bit with TNON.
Alicia: I was thinking about your point on intersectionality, and where the network chairs especially can be role models of behaviour, if they are coming together. If we’ve got our multi-cultural network, if we’ve got your disability network, your LGBT network, if those network’s chairs are coming together to have a greater understanding of what it is like to be in this identity, what it is like to be a Muslim woman working in professional services, what it is in any way that you can actually have greater understanding what it is like to be mobility impaired or to be living with a mental illness, for example, and forgive me if I’m not using the right words.
This is actually a way of, I guess sharing some learning, we’re going to start, pushing behaviours out. We are going to encourage people to come together. As an example, personally, I will never know what it’s like to be a Muslim woman bisexual, because that’s not me. But to understand more about those different things, helps me to then understand what I can do in my own world that could be bridging some of that gap around intersectionality.
Julia: let’s take a moment there to turn to Cynthia and Robert for some research to support the discussion today.
Cynthia: In the Financial Conduct Association 2016/17 annual diversity report, 94% of LGBT+ employees believed that the FCA treated its employees fairly regardless of sexual orientation.
Between 2015 and 2017, membership of FCA individual networks across the diversity spectrum increased by over 50% with the greatest increase being in the disability network Embrace.
Robert: According to the 2018 Stonewall LGBT in Britain in home communities report, 51% of all Black, Asian, and minority ethnic LGBT people reported experiencing discrimination or poor treatment within their LGBT network because of their ethnicity. This number rises to 61% among black LGBT people.
Cynthia: In 2018, Sheffield University opened a set of LGBT only student flats to provide a safe space for students to be themselves. The university received 30 applications for 12 rooms and plans to expand the accommodation this year. This is a result from concerns from the student union that gay and transgender students have been subject to bullying and harassment in mainstream accommodation.
Robert: However, universities have been warned of the creeping segregation on campus. According to the article, an explicit ban on heterosexual students could further fuel student segregation.
In the same year, a report from Stonewall found that 42% of LGBT students in the UK were forced to hide their sexuality at university. 33% have received negative comments from other students.
Julia: Thanks, Cynthia and Robert. The links to the research can be found on our website, divercitypodcast.com. That’s where you can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter @divercitypod, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.
As we go into the final section of the discussion today which I have to say, I’m really enjoying, and what I love particularly about this episode, is that it’s deeply considered and it’s always risky that we have people come out and talk with rhetoric and platitudes about initiatives and I love that that’s been very considered.
One thing is that I’ve been thinking about, and you tend to hear framed mostly in the world of LGBT is the question of allies. In the framework of sponsors and mentors and allies as well. I wonder sometimes whether we have an over-swing, whether we’ve got a pendulum shift that’s gone a little bit too far. I’m really keen to hear your views on what do you think about allies?
Dan: I have a strong view on the word allies. I really dislike that word. I’m not at war, I don’t need help as a gay man. I really don’t like that term specifically. I do recognise the need though, for advocates and champions, of LGBT diversity within the workplace, it doesn’t really matter if they’re straight or gay. Actually, it’s people who are really happy to call out bad behaviour when they see it be visibly supportive of people who might not feel comfortable to be out and actually create that inclusive environment which is really key. It doesn’t matter how we call it, I think there’s maybe been a bit of an over-emphasis on allies in the last few years.
Julia: It sounds like it’s just very much focused on the individual. You know, I will be an ally of you. Which sounds, to me, actually I’m quite there with you going, yes, that sounds a little personal and a little bit direct. But actually in the call out culture is incredibly important and I think of the back of ‘me too’ and we won’t go into ‘me too’ specifically, but thinking about cultural change and how, when you’re looking at an organisation, and thinking about the individuals within an organisation, how you can become a very positive ally and engaged with that organisation.
Alicia: Dan, your point about allies is actually really resonating for me. We’ve been talking about impact, labels, we’ve been talking allies, and for me this is, what are we actually waiting for? Are we waiting for this label? Is it some kind of permission to say, I support you? Actually I think if you’ll bring back to my own personal value drivers about what I do in the D&I in the LGBT space. See people, see the person at their desk struggling with something. See the person who perhaps is a bit more quiet. Have the courage to talk to them. Have the courage to invite them to talk about themselves. Something that I’ve taken a lot of time over this past year or so, is think about mental health first aid in the workplace.
Actually that’s something that’s hugely relevant right now because we are all wading through our own personal stuff, all of the time. Then identity, then professionalism, then actually being successful. And we’re sitting at our desk, help me. You don’t scream it very loudly, and it’s those who absolutely hide that need to be drawn out. What are you waiting for? Have courage and a conversation. Create impact by seeing the other individual and starting the conversation.
Julia: I think the mental health lens is really important, so I’m going to shine a light on that, because that has a, in many ways, a direct impact on productivity, and particularly our performance. And of course the whole diversity and inclusion debate, as we frame it on the podcast, is very much about the impact on commercial intention and productivity because otherwise it just becomes a ‘nice to have.’
As we look ahead, I’m really keen to hear about your plans, and also what you’re really optimistic about, so Dan, for TNON, what are you focused on this year?
Dan: I think we’re going to look to innovate a little bit more incrementally than erratically. We’ve got some things that work really well, so we’re going to continue doing 4/5 breakfasts a year, early morning because that suits both Alicia and I.
Last year, we brought in Pink News to do the ‘in the news’ update. The year before we had the new charities pitch so we’re going to keep on those but actually bring you elements of networking, probably more guest speakers as well, just more variety in terms of background. I think we’ve found something that works quite well, both for us because we do this in our spare time, and as well that kind of keeps fresh and keeps people coming along.
Julia: It was a great pleasure to have been a speaker at your event in January this year. So thank you for the invitation for that.
Alicia, let me turn to you, so what are you optimistic about as you look ahead?
Alicia: I think there’s so much to be optimistic about. I think a lot of it comes through evolution, not only innovation, here is a ground swell, I think, within culture. I think there is a ground swell within some of the political stuff not going anywhere near that just FYI, within economics, within the generations coming through, actually within the way in which diversity and inclusion is evolving and, wow, to be riding that crest would be incredible.
I think there’s so much positivity to look at. We’re great at navel-gazing. We’re great at saying what’s bad. But there is so much positivity that is coming up. Just need to see it. Just need to welcome it. And we just need to say come and help us with this.
Julia: I think that’s a perfect moment to end the show. It’s been a real pleasure to have you both on. Thank you very much, indeed, Alicia and Dan.
Dan: Thank you.
Alicia: Thank you.
Kieron: This episode of the DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.
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