Reflections on the first year of DiverCity Podcast

Posted on October 19, 2018

A year ago, we proudly launched DiverCity Podcast in October 2017, a podcast series discussing diversity and inclusion within financial services. On each episode we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus and offer lots of ideas to help drive change.

At our anniversary event, kindly hosted by SWIFT and SWIFT Institute, more than a hundred guests joined us to celebrate an engage in two controversial panels. ‘How to accelerate the pace of change’ featured Birgit Neu – Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, HSBC, Asif Sadiq MBE – Head of Diversity & Inclusiveness – EY Financial Services UK, Vanessa Vallely OBE – Managing Director of We Are The City and Claire Harvey MBE – Chief Executive, Diversity Role Models. Our second panel ‘‘Myth busting: Yes, but I just can’t find the talent’, included Rosa Morgan- Baker – Head of Partnerships, The Brokerage, Steve Brown – Director, Empiric, Mariam Jimoh – Founder & Director, WCAN, Ruben Kostucki – COO, Makers Academy. Our senior panelists discussed some of the all-important workplace and service industry changes, offered insights into best practice all designed to accelerate the pace of change and find ways means to recruit, inspire and retain the right staff.

Back in October 2017, there were escalating murmurs of #MeToo in Hollywood. Little did we know that the hashtag would become a movement, and the movement would expose behaviours and attitudes in other sectors of life and business, including financial services. Similarly, only those in- the-know were familiar with the Presidents’ Club, and only the brave discussed gender pay and race pay gaps.

One year on, after many discussions with leading lights in diversity and inclusion, what have we learned? What has changed and where are the glimmers of hope?

Lessons learned

So many today agree that diversity matters. We know that there are social benefits for sure, however on the podcast we prefer to frame the discussion as a fundamental commercial imperative, particular on the fight to attract the type of talent that the industry needs both today and tomorrow. Diverse teams ultimately drive better performance, deliver fresh thinking and cultivate new concepts, cultures and ideas. On a recent live broadcast podcast, from the Women in Payments Conference in Toronto, one of our guests commented that: ‘if diversity isn’t part of your strategy you’ll be left standing in the dust’. As such, diversity and inclusion must be embedded in all our efforts to compete and differentiate.

In order to drive change, leadership, culture, role models and champions must be factored-into the diversity and inclusion equation. Paralympian, Claire Harvey MBE, CEO of Diversity Role Models and podcast guest, passionately believes that diversity should be a life skill and dedicates her time to inspiring and coaching school ages to appreciate the value of difference. If we are taught from a young age about the value and importance of inclusion, the change will come.

The perception of financial services is important. To many, financial services is perceived as male-dominated, arguably brutish and possibly even unscrupulous. Role models from different genders, backgrounds, ethnicities and walks of life will not only highlight that this is not the case; it will also enlighten people that there is a huge variety of roles within financial services and that The City can appeal to everyone. Organisations like The Brokerage, show young people from non-advantaged backgrounds, all brimming with skills in abundance and to whom the Square Mile may feel a world out of reach, that it is an industry that is accessible to them offering opportunities galore. The Makers Academy work with individuals from 16 to 60+ to develop their skills and knowledge in tech, not based on their education, background or previous work experience, but for their passion for the subject matter and appreciation for lifelong learning.

A small selection of guests from some of our previous episodes

Hope for the future

September 2018, also marked the 10th anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis. There are lessons to be learned and ask any financial institution and they’ll tell you that regulatory scrutiny is keener than ever before. But there are concerns too. Some believe we are sleepwalking into a skills gap in tech. The fight for talent is fierce and hard won and we need digital, data, cyber skills like never before. That’s why initiatives like the Girls 2020 campaign by Code First: Girls, with a laser-like focus on teaching 20,000 women to code by 2020, the face of the UK tech industry (not to mention the economy) could have a real impact on encouraging those much needed skills into the industry. Just rock up at We Are The City’s ‘We Are Tech Women’ Conference in November and you’ll see talent in abundance.

By having more allies for the LGBT community and networks such as LB Women and TNON (The Network of Networks), the workplace will continue to offer an open and inclusive space, whatever your sexual orientation. Every leader wants their employees to bring their authentic self to work, and yet this is not the reality. LGBT rights charity Stonewall, reported that 62% of graduates go back into the closet when they join the job market.

Rather than skirting around the topic of race, we prefer to tackle it head-on. It is no coincidence that in the first episode our guests Heather Melville and Justine Lutterodt; two dynamic women of colour, discussed attitudes, nuances and perceptions around race. Networks such as WCAN – Women in the City Afro-Caribbean Network and the Miranda Brawn Leadership Foundation, will develop and support the careers of black women in the City…and it’s encouraging to see firms take this seriously. In one episode, Andy Woodfield discussed his ColourBrave Carpool series, exploring the barriers that exist for people of colour in the workplace and that we need to talk about race and ethnicity.

A widening pay gap can hinder recruitment and retention in financial services. Ethnicity pay gap figures are pretty stark. A recent FT article states that Bangladeshi and Pakistani households earn about a third less than white families. While earnings in black African families are around a fifth less than white families. The government’s recent crackdown on the ethnic pay gap, is encouraging businesses to sign-up to the the Race at Work Charter. This will play its part as a progressive policy, but we still have a long way to go.

Parental leave and flexible working (or as some banks are calling it ‘Dynamic Working’) is no longer seen as an option just for women, who want to work flexibly. Men are parental taking leave, but it is imperative that we continue to see more of this role modelling in leadership. Flexible working isn’t just about taking time off to care for children. As our ageing population grows, flexible working will be a more popular choice for staff of all genders, with young families. When I go out and speak to organisations one of the most compelling arguments for flexible working is to answer the question how do we deal with the challenge of ageing parents. What do you do when that call comes in?

Artificial Intelligence is being described by some as the new diversity, showing that AI will give companies the competitive advantage. In the attempt to drive behavioural change, technology is being used to coach employees to change their behaviour before they step out of line. Sophisticated software such as SafeScribe, warns employees when they’re typing something that could put themselves or their companies into hot water, protecting companies from legal and reputational risk, the use of profanity, sexist, racist or homophobic language.

Faith and religious beliefs are all part of a person being their true self in the workplace. With banks and building societies taking religious festivals into consideration in their best practice and policies, we are encouraged.

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem. Through open discussions about our wellbeing and attitudes to mental health, we can change and save lives. Mental health shows no partiality and is diverse in its breadth and spectrum. Similarly, diversity encompasses us all.

At the start of the year, when I was invited to speak at events I was largely talking to people who agreed with me: Heads of D&I, Directors of Inclusion or Strategic Leads on Diversity. What continues to impress me now is that I’m being invited to speak at conferences where mostly I’m talking to male, besuited audiences all keen to learn more … we have a long way to go, but there are many reasons to be optimistic, surely this has to be at the top of the pile.

As I write, Series Three is in full flight and by the end of the year we’ll have interviewed 60 leading lights from across the industry. I only wish I could mention and credit them all and you can find them by following us on @divercitypod or I am immensely proud that each of our posts are viewed by thousands, we have listeners in 49 countries and our social media engagement grows weekly.

I know I speak on behalf of all the team when I say we are really enthused. As we plan (and have started recording Series Four due for 2019) we believe that by keeping the engagement and conversation current we can play our part in debating, challenging and driving change. Thank you for all your support and if you think there’s anything we should be discussing, all ideas are very welcome. We’d love to hear from you.


Julia Streets

Host & Executive producer of DiverCity Podcast Founder and CEO of Streets Consulting (Business development, marketing and communications consultancy)