This episode discusses the Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce, backed by the UK Treasury and the City of London Corporation, with the mandate to increase socio-economic diversity at senior level in professional and financial services. Host Julia Streets is joined by Yasmine Chinwala, a partner at the capital markets think tank New Financial and Chris Woolard, Financial Services Partner at EY and Chair of its Global Financial Services Regulation Network. They discuss the rate of seniority progression of ethnic minorities and women, paying particular heed to the data from the Women in Finance Charter. They discuss the economic and commercial importance of socio-economic inclusion and share views on what the finance sector can do to appeal, recruit and retain staff from the widest and sometimes overlooked sections of society.
Yasmine Chinwala, OBE
Yasmine is a partner at capital markets think tank New Financial, which launched in September 2014, leading its diversity and culture programme. New Financial contributed data to the government-backed Gadhia Review of senior women in UK financial services, and works with HM Treasury to monitor the progress of signatories to the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter. Yasmine has been a driving force behind the strategic development of the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter since its inception, work for which she was awarded an OBE in 2020.
Chris Woolard, CBE
Chris is a Financial Services Partner at EY and Chair of its Global Financial Services Regulation Network. Prior to EY Chris had a 25-year career in public service, the last eight of which were as an executive director and board member at the Financial Conduct Authority where latterly he was also interim chief executive. He has also held senior roles at Ofcom, the BBC and in the Civil Service, and is a Sloan Fellow of London Business School. Chris grew up on council estates in South East London and attended a local comprehensive before becoming the first member of his family to study at university.
Series Eleven, Episode Four Transcript
Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion, and diversity in financial services. As you all know, on the podcast we seek to shine the light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. Before we get started today, I just want to take a moment to thank our friends at CityAM for all their continued support of DiverCity Podcast, publishing and promoting both our episodes and our supporting blog series so their readers can stay on top of the very latest diversity and inclusion debate. Now you may want to check out CityAM’s own podcast called The City View, for all the latest news and opinion from the city, because we at DiverCity Podcast are huge fans.
Now I’m very excited today because I’m delighted to be joined by Yasmine Chinwala, OBE, and Chris Woolard, CBE. Let me tell you a little bit about each guest. Yasmine Chinwala is a partner at Capital Markets think tank New Financial, which launched in September 2014, and she leads its diversity and culture programme. New Financial has contributed data to the government backed Gadhia review of senior women in UK financial services, and works with the treasury to monitor the progress of signatories to this charter. She’s been a driving force behind it, and it is no surprise that she was awarded for an OBE for her work in this space in 2020. Yasmine, wonderful you could join us. Thanks for being with us today.
Yasmine: Thank you so much, Julia. Great to be here.
Julia: Joining Yasmine is Chris Woolard, CBE. Now he is a financial services partner at EY, and Chair of its global financial services regulation network. Prior to joining EY, Chris had a 25 year career in public service, the last eight of which were as an Executive Director and as a Board Member at the Financial Conduct Authority, where latterly he was also interim CEO. He has held senior roles at Ofcom, the BBC, the civil service, and is a Sloan Fellow of the London Business School. He grew up on a council estate in Southeast London and attended a local comprehensive before becoming the first member of his family to study at a university. Chris, it’s wonderful. You could be with us. Thanks for joining us today.
Chris: Thanks very much, Julia. It’s nice to be here.
Julia: I can’t wait to get into this conversation, so let’s get started with the first question, which is I’m always dying to know what our guests are up to. Yasmine, let me come to you first of all. What are you focused on right now?
Yasmine: I’m working on three different projects at the moment. Obviously I’m a member of the socio-economic diversity task force which we’re going to be talking about today, but in my day job, I am working on a five-year review of the Women in Finance Charter. As you mentioned, that’s a big piece of work that I contribute to every year, and it’s been five years since the launch. It was back in March, 2016, so five years has flown. And on top of that, I’ve also just done a big piece of work called accelerating black inclusion, looking at the experiences of black colleagues in financial services, and particularly amongst the senior cohorts. The other piece that I’m working on the planning of at the moment is a big piece of work called diversity toolkit for investors, and it’s really trying to map out key criteria for investors to be engaging with their investee companies around diversity and inclusion, which I think has only become more important through COVID and really trying to get properly under the bonnet of why is human capital management so important from a sustainability or just a general ESG perspective.
Julia: I can’t help but think we could have an episode on each one of those four topics.
Yasmine: I’m very happy to do so, Julia, at any point in time.
Julia: This will not be our last conversation for sure. It’s wonderful. Thank you so much for framing it so clearly, as well. Chris, let me ask you the same question. What are you working on at the moment?
Chris: In my day job, if you want to describe it like that, I’m at EY, I’m a partner in our financial services practise. And what I’m really looking at is where strategy and financial regulation and quite often technology come together. That means working with a range of clients from governments to regulators to firms in the sector. Alongside that day job, like Yasmine, I’m a member of the City of London’s new socioeconomic diversity task force. Those wider questions of diversity are something that I’d spent a lot of time with over the last 20 years, that I’ve championed in a range of organisations, whether that’s around race or gender or LGBT or disability. But socioeconomic diversity, I think, is a relative newcomer to this space in terms of the awareness that people have of it, and it’s really great to have an opportunity to talk about that a bit more today.
Julia: Well, let’s get straight into it. Why hang around? Yasmine, let me come to you first of all. My first question, of course, is going to be why do we need it, why did we have to set it up, and what does it hope to achieve?
Yasmine: This is an independent task force set up by the City of London Corporation, and it’s backed by the treasury and government. What it’s really trying to achieve is to really increase socioeconomic diversity at senior levels in professional and financial services across the UK. It’s focusing on career progression. There’s been a lot of really interesting and long overdue work done at point of access, and that’s really been the focus for the industry, and even wider the financial services industry. That’s been around the discussion around social mobility, it’s always about point of access, and really what this piece of work is doing that is so different is focusing on how can we bring this discussion into progression in to making sure that people, once they’re through the door, that they’re actually moving through the organisation and trying to understand their experiences, their journey, and what they’re bringing to the organisation far more clearly.
Julia: Wonderful. And Chris, can I bring you in here because I would love to hear about some of the findings that have come out of the work the task force has been doing.
Chris: The task force has its foundations on a major report that was done by The Bridge Group back in 2020. It’s a really big piece of research, looked at well over 7,000 people in a range of organisations across the city. And what it found is that if you come from a family with a professional background, about 89% of the senior roles within the sample they looked at were held by people who came from that kind of background. If you compare that to the wider population, 32% of people grow up in households where people come from a professional background. So when you’re aged 14, what do your parents do? And if you look even at CEOs in the wider UK market, about 52% of them come from that background. There’s a huge disparity here about who gets on within financial services and professional services in the UK, and who really does make it to the top.
Chris: If you then dig a bit deeper in some of those numbers, you can also see there’s an awful lot of intersectionality. So for example, if you look at people who do come from a different socioeconomic background, so if you come from the 67% of the population that don’t fall into that more privileged group, when you look at their progression, if people do make it to the top from those groups, they’re about 25% slower in making that journey in terms of the rate at which they’re promoted. If you lay over that the fact that people come from a black or ethnic minority background, actually the rate of progression gets slower. If we look at those who come from an independent school backgrounds or privately educated background in that mix, around 19% of those people who make it into those senior roles are white and come from an independent school background, only 8% are black and come from an independent school background.
There’s all sorts of things going on here underneath the bonnet in terms of the picture that’s created, but we can see very clearly if you come from what we might call a professional background in terms of what your parents did for a living, if you come from a certain type of education, if you’ve perhaps gone to a certain type of university, you are far, far more likely to make it into the senior ranks of the city, but also far more likely than actually other top jobs in the country as well. So that’s one of the things that really this taskforce is focusing on. It’s about saying, how do we make sure we’ll get a far greater diversity of individuals, of thinking, and as Yasmine was just saying, really the focus is on progression here. So not just how do you attract people from a much wider base to join your firm in the first instance, and I think there’s been a lot of good work that’s been going on there, but actually how do you really see them progressing to the most senior roles?
Julia: And of course the question about gender does very much fit into that. When we talk about the intersectionality and we’ve got an agenda as well around that. I was saying in your introduction, Yasmine, you’ve done a lot of work around the women’s charter as well. Are there any findings in that you find particularly concerning, whereas you’ve been aiding the work and then also observing how the charter is progressing as well?
Yasmine: I think a key takeaway really is that the focus in terms of the diversity agenda, diversity inclusion agenda for the majority of financial services and professional services companies has very much been on female representation and that’s been the priority, that’s been the priority for quite a while. Even then we still haven’t seen the level of progress that we would have wanted to see. So I think that what the Women in Finance Charter has done is created a framework for discussion and for governance accountability of the female representation agenda. And again, with the Women in Finance Charter it was very much about women in senior roles, getting women into senior roles. That is the first thing is really that that has been a focus for a long time. The focus on social mobility, and Chris touched on this, it’s really new, it’s a very new discussion. There’s been a lot of nervousness around this. The data isn’t there. The data wasn’t there around female representation for a really long time. But actually it’s something that is much easier to get a handle on because it’s quite easy to determine the sex of your staff. All companies gather that data, they have that information available to them. They don’t have information readily available to them on socioeconomic background, and that has been a big stumbling block to this discussion. But there’s been a lot of work done through academics and the government has done work to try and understand what are the key criteria that we need to ask in terms of data? So we’re there now. We know what those criteria are, but now we’re at the stage of trying to actually build that data set.
One more thing about the Women in Finance Charter that I’d like to add, we asked this year for the Women in Finance Charter signatories to tell us what other diversity data they capture around their female senior management population, and the biggest categories by far were ethnicity and sexual orientation, then quite a way behind that was disability, and then it really drops off after that, and socioeconomic background came in really, really low down, and only 13 of the 200 plus signatories that we looked at in this particular analysis said that they capture data on socioeconomic background amongst their female senior management population. So that to me is very telling of where we’re at. That’s the starting point for the discussion of socioeconomic background.
Julia: Of course the wonderful outcomes and the wonderful work of the task force is to not only bring the conversation forward, but then also to go out into the city and say, “This is data we should capture,” so to enrich those datasets and also to be able to provide the benchmark for which to go forward. I guess the burning question I have from hearing you talk there is not only the fact that we’re paying attention to the existing data collection and saying are you also looking at this dataset, but also what else could we be doing to accelerate that pace of change to collect the data to set the benchmarks?
Yasmine: I think there are definitely takeaways from what we’ve learned through increasing female representation, and we can also learn from some of the pitfalls where things have slowed down. Data is a key one, but at the same time data shouldn’t hold us back from developing some of these other areas. So I think what we’ve learned through the Women in Finance Charter, for example, is that we need a very clear governance and accountability framework and that needs to be, “Okay, how is this addressed as a strategic priority for the organisation? And then how are individuals in the organisation and leadership and management responsible for driving these changes?” That’s all work that is separate from data, though obviously there’s an overlap. I go back to those key principles of the charter, which are having a senior executive accountable for that agenda, having good quality data around it, being public about that data and those targets.
I think this discussion isn’t really ready for a link to pay, I would say, yet, which is the fourth principle of the charter, though it’s the most potent one. But it’s really around how do you make this accountable? How do you make individuals accountable for progress on this agenda? That’s looking at it from a charter framework. What the work of the taskforce is going to be is to try and work out what are the key criteria that the task force wants to encourage companies to look at? So it might be that it’s going to be some of those areas that are going to lean on the Women in Finance Charter for those criteria? There’s three streams within the task force. The stream that I’m on, it’s called the productivity work stream, but it’s really about trying to understand the business case for why should this particular diversity area of socioeconomic background, why should it be important to a company in financial services and the professional services industry?
It’s going to be a far reaching piece and it’s going to be a really, really interesting one. And it’s one that’s really close to my heart. It’s something that I talk about a lot. It’s around the business case for how we need to think very much more widely about the business case and not be so narrow about X percent increase in representation here is going to give you an X percent uptick in your ROE, or whatever it is that the criteria you want to look at. It’s a much broader view. The second work stream is a work stream that’s going to be trying to understand what are the key levers that can be pulled in terms of government and regulators to drive the agenda forward? And the third work stream is trying to set up a membership body of some kind that will be maintaining momentum and leading this work on an ongoing basis.
Julia: Wonderful. Well, thank you for framing it out in terms of the complexity of change is one of the things we talk about a lot on the podcast. We also talk about the compelling reason for change framed in a commercial intention, so really fascinated by some of the findings that will come out of those work streams. So thank you.
Chris, the ex-regulator of the podcast today, I mean the cautionary voice in the enthusiasm for change, and also the very considered format for change, is I’m really keen to hear from your point of view, is there anything in the findings that are emerging that you’re finding particularly concerning?
Chris: I think when you look at the picture that’s presented here, and then you think about it perhaps from a regulatory lens for a moment. I mean, it tells you a number of things. It tells you that there is potentially a single or actually quite a narrow culture, maybe at the top of many firms. If you find that many people come from very similar backgrounds, very similar framing of their worldviews, unsurprisingly, they will tend to think alike and they will tend to tackle problems alike. Where the FCA has certainly spoken about this and I’ve spoken about it, actually, when I was there in the past, it’s often been with the framing of who is making the judgments at your senior decision-making boards and committees, and how do you ensure that you get a genuine diversity of view? That’s the first thing.
Second thing, and I think this goes to the work that’s been done, I think real progress has been made on the number of women that you’re seeing in senior roles and senior executive roles in particular. Progress is being made on seeing people from wider ethnic minorities in some of those senior roles as well. But I think the one thing that socioeconomic lens throws on that is a real challenge to say, “Well actually, are you still drawing from quite a narrow pool of candidates here potentially.” This was once described to me rather brilliantly as, “All you’ve done is put the sisters of the brothers who are already on the board on your board.” Clearly that’s a cliché, but nevertheless, I think there is a genuine challenge back to firms about saying if you really got a more diverse group here now at senior level with wider experiences.
This matters. I mean, this really matters. I mean, if you think about this in the context of particularly, say, retail banking or retail insurance in the city, you can have conversations where people say, “Well, the customer is only out of pocket by £10 or whatever it might be. Why is the regulator making such a fuss about those things?” And the reality is, for an awful lot of people, that £10 as part of their weekly income is a huge difference, or the monthly income is a huge difference. So I think getting those different perspectives in, having people who’ve come from a range of different backgrounds within boards and committees is really important. What this report paints so far is a picture that says, “Actually, it’s pretty narrow, and we need to change that.”
I think there’s a wider set of public policy objectives you can lay on this, not least of which is how we think about the recovery from COVID, how we think about the growth of the UK economy, post-Brexit. Actually from the competitiveness angle, if you are not making the most of a much wider pool of talent, there feels instinctively like there’s a massive case there for people are missing out. And one of the things that Andy Haldane is doing as part of this task force is actually assembling what is that economic case?
Julia: Just listening to you talk, my mind’s going in many different directions. One of them is, and it actually draws back on the comment that Yasmine was making earlier about the investment point of view around the importance of financial inclusion as well. We talk a lot about The NEDs on boards tends to be… I love the way you described, the brothers and sisters of those. So they all seem to come from a very, very similar background and sitting on similar boards. But also in terms of the economic recovery and thinking about the potential for young entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial businesses from right the way across the UK that are found in many, many different areas as well, and if, as an industry, the financial services industry were not aligned with the types of people who we should be encouraging to set up businesses and grow businesses and engage with the financial services system, which is all about the spirit of financial inclusion, that actually we’re out of lockstep, which is really, really fascinating as well.
Chris, I mentioned in the opening remarks about your background as well. I would love to hear, obviously we’re thinking about to what degree is socioeconomic diversity moving up the diversity and inclusion agenda, but also your observations from your career in financial services as well, and are things changing?
Chris: I’ve had a career that has obviously spanned lots of different bits of public service, so civil service and regulators like Ofcom and places like the BBC, before spending quite a lot of time at the FCA and therefore in the city and in financial services more generally. It’s definitely been a journey. I mean I started off life, and you always feel a bit strange saying this, by the way, you always feel like you’re suddenly becoming a candidate on The Apprentice or something, but I started off life, my early years, I lived in a tower block and then I lived in a different council house all the time I was growing up. I was ridiculously lucky in some ways. I had a really stable home life. Mum and dad were great and continue to be great. And I’ve been very, very lucky in many ways.
But you are also aware, I think, when you go in certain situations that you are potentially different. I remember When I first joined the civil service, being in a learning set, which was sometimes a bit of a poster child for diversity in the civil service, because there was an Asian man, an Asian woman, and a white woman and me, and often it was championed in terms of diversity. And I was the one that was slightly embarrassing for those purposes, being a white bloke. But then when you look to actually the makeup of that group, I was the only one who’d been to a state school, I was the only one who hadn’t been to Oxford or Cambridge, and you’re aware that actually, maybe there are some different angles here in terms of what’s the norm within organisations.
But it tends to be something you don’t talk about. And certainly I didn’t talk about it for years. It’s only really the last couple of years that people have encouraged me to talk about background and journey and those kinds of things. And it does, I mean, there’s a lot of it in The Bridge Report that’s actually published for the City of London, the way that people will feel they can’t engage in certain conversations. If everyone’s having a lovely chat about what they’re doing on their yacht or skiing or their second home or whatever it might be, and you kind of think, well, until recent years, while I’ve tried to ski very badly, there’s nothing I can add to that conversation. So it’s important, I think, that people recognise that not everyone who makes it to senior leadership roles actually does come from that background.
One of the things we regularly did at the FCA was we had a group of students come in every year from the Social Mobility Foundation, and I used to stand there and say who I was and the job I did and all those sorts of things. And then I’d get them to draw a picture on a post-it note of where’s the house that I grew up in, and where’s the school I went to, and invariably 95% of the kids in the room would draw a detached house like you would in a Mr. Man book, and on the other side, they’d draw this school with great big columns up the front of it and all of those sorts of things, and it invariably surprised them that I came from that background.
There’s a lot that when you’re looking up as a young person, you project onto people that maybe they come from a completely different background, whereas actually there are many that don’t, but as we can see from the research, relatively too few still. I think one of the really important things about this piece of work is how do we create those pathways for progression and how do we get people to want to be involved in it. Certainly when I was starting out my career, could I imagine both in the city the current lord mayor and the future mayor potentially being supporters of an agenda like this? No, I couldn’t. I think there’s already been some huge steps in terms of progress, but there’s an awful lot more that we need to here.
Julia: I think that’s a real example of where the nature of the discussion in The City has just changed so much. And there’s so much for me to be really positive about it, and I think, Yasmine, you and I have been kicking around this industry for longer than we’re going to put a number on, put it that way. I mean, I’d just love to hear from your point of view as well the positive changes that you’ve seen in your career journey as well. Obviously we’ve talked about what we must be very mindful and very cautious of, but it does feel like the conversation around diversity inclusion is really changing.
Yasmine: I suppose the sensible frame to look at it, and as I’m working on the five-year review of the Women in Finance Charter, if we think back to March 2016, which is when the Women in Finance Charter launched, the headlines against the principles of the charter where, “Hire women or lose your bonus.” It was really crazy kind of stuff that it was a very knee-jerk reaction of, “This is crazy madness. Why should we be promoting women? This is not meritocratic.” And that was the nature of the discussion. And it was horrifying to the industry to set targets, it was a really terrifying prospect five years ago. And now those things are all part and parcel of the discussion, and in fact, the taskforce is starting. We had our inaugural meeting of the task force very recently, and the opening question was, should we be setting a target and what would that look like?
That starting point for the discussion is completely different than it was five years ago, and the change we’ve seen in the past five years has been very, very rapid. I think the years before that there wasn’t the governance and accountability to really drive change and everything was tinkering at the edges. We’ve still got a lot of tinkering at the edges going on, but I do think, and this is something, as I said, looking out through the five-year review of the charter, we have reached a point where there is a critical mass of companies who take these issues seriously enough that they’re really beginning to understand the granularity needed to drive change. Hopefully that is going to just permeate across the industry over time and initiatives like the task force will accelerate that.
Julia: I’d love to turn the conversation, a cog shift if I may, which is, we’ve talked about actually the industry wanting to take this more seriously about the conversation about socioeconomic inclusion. We’ve talked about some of the positive changes and we still have a long way to go yet. But I’d love to get your thoughts on what can the industry do to make itself more appealing? You can arguably say that the race for talent, the competition for talent is fierce. What do we need to do as an industry to appeal to other sections of society? Chris, let me come to you first of all for your thoughts.
Chris: I don’t think there’s one silver bullet. I think this is one of those things that’s going to be a multi-layered approach. I think an awful lot of firms are starting to put in place programmes that are about attracting talent at the entry level and about reaching out, particularly into the schools. So just shamelessly plugging it for a second, EY has a programme called Smart Futures that gives paid work experience throughout 10 months. Lots and lots of other organisations have those kinds of schemes where you get a bit of paid work experience and you get a bit of coaching and you get a bit of life skills and all those kinds of things.
I think they’re brilliant on two levels. The first is it actually raises awareness. If I think to being at school, there were so many careers and so many avenues I just simply didn’t know existed. You would look at certain professional roles and just think broadly that’s something to do with law or that’s something to do with accountancy, and you wouldn’t necessarily have that depth of insight into what are the possibilities and the careers there to even go looking in the first place. I think paid work experience is incredibly important as opposed to internships. We will be talking about kids who were making the choice between saying, do I put in some extra time waiting tables or at the supermarket or whatever it might be, or do I actually get some paid work experience and trading off what that means to them personally. And I don’t think we should ever forget that.
But then I think where the real gap is right now in many, many organisations, and this is therefore, it’s a shared problem, it’s something that coalition of the willing are going to have to really get behind, is how do you then from having that great start, start to see people really genuinely progress, as opposed to perhaps the apprenticeship schemes or the ReachOut entry schemes being a way of getting maybe to the middle of an organisation and stopping, how does it really give you a career path that goes to the top? I think there’s an enormous amount we can learn in terms of what has worked around race or what has worked around gender? Things like the 30% club in gender or the kinds of mentoring sponsorship schemes that have happened in government and elsewhere around race. If we can learn from the best of them, then I think we’ve got a real chance of really bringing a pipeline of talent from a much wider background through into the top ranks of The City.
Julia: Yasmine, when you’re working with organisations and talking to organisations as you do, what advice would you give listeners and their companies who want to widen the scope of potential applicants into their organisations as well?
Yasmine: I suppose my number one would be please do consider getting involved with the work of the task force in some shape, manner, or form. I suppose my focus is very much on progression, so it’s not really about that applicant stage, but it’s much more around, I suppose my starting point would be is what you’re currently doing around your diversity and inclusion initiatives, be that for women, be that for ethnic minorities, are those programmes, those initiatives in those areas, are they inclusive? Are they genuinely inclusive? Are they going to be attracting, for example, a black woman from a really deprived socio-economic background? Is it genuinely open to a wider pool, or is it, as we’ve already discussed, is it just maintaining that narrow focus?
And again, that’s a question that we asked the Women in Finance charter signatories in the latest round of analysis that we did, we asked the question around the activities to support targets that they tell us about in their submission forms every year, we ask them, “What are you doing to ensure that your actions are inclusive to women across all diversity strands?” And frankly, the responses were really poor, because that indicates to me that they’re not really doing that work to understand if they’re being inclusive with these approaches. A starting point, I think, really is being inclusive with the approaches that are already underway and kick the tyres on them, really try and understand is this going to get us the widest possible talent pool, even if it’s under the heading of women or ethnic minorities or whatever it might be.
A big focus for the task force is going to be around data. Again, for organisations I think the really big focus, and for individuals, is around what can I do as a person, and what can my organisation do to try and build this dataset? What you as an individual can do is when that email pings into your inbox saying, “Can you identify against various characteristics,” and it’s that dreaded diversity form that nobody wants to fill out and nobody can be bothered to do, please do it. Please think about it, this is the key to unlocking so much of the things that we’ve been talking about today. Without that high-quality data it can’t move forward. But I think that the data issue is going to be very, very front and centre for at least the length of the life of the task force.
Julia: What a better moment to bring in Cynthia to talk about data, which is going to support today’s discussion as well.
Cynthia: The 2020 article from Stuart’s, a UK employment law firm, states that the two key reasons for the lack of diversity in financial services are unconscious bias and a disproportionate number of applicants for jobs in the financial services sector have attended a prestigious school or often independent school and studied at a leading university. Increasing diversity through better representation of gender, race, disability, and sexual orientation is a good start, but employers can take the following steps to improve the diversity of their teams through socio economic inclusion. Collect and analyse data on the socioeconomic background of staff in order to understand the size of the problem, don’t insist on candidates having a degree from a good university, make sure recruitment panels are as diverse as possible, address and discuss possible bias in recruitment decisions, set up a staff diversity and inclusion panel to consider company policy and decisions, and partner up with charities who work with school children with less privileged backgrounds and offer work experience.
Julia: Thank you, Cynthia, as always, and of course, remember, you can find all the research on our website, divercitypodcast.com, and don’t forget that’s DiverCity with a C, not with an S. Divercitypodcast.com, and you can up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. Don’t forget, of course, we’re grateful to our friends at CityAM who not only publish and promote all the episodes, but also our regular blogs. And if you are listening, we would, of course, love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.
Just before we went into the research break there, we were talking, guests, with you about data as well. We have to course remember this is a very human centred conversation, as much as we’ve talked about data and organisational change as well. As we go into the last minutes of the podcast, I’d really love to hear your response to the question I’m asking everybody, which is really why right now why it’s so important that diversity and inclusion remains high on corporate agendas.
Yasmine: I think with what we’re living through at the moment with hopefully, fingers crossed, the tail end of COVID and COVID restrictions, it’s really brought home how important good quality, high quality people management is for organisations to really be sustainable. Who would have thought that something that is considered very much a D&I thing, so flexible working and the ability to work effectively remotely, that’s always something that sat in the D&I bucket of, “Okay, that’s a nice to have, it’s not essential.” But actually it turned out that it was a vital part and has now become a vital part of business continuity planning for the whole industry. I think that with that thinking now awakened, we need to continue to really understand how important people are to our organisations and that we get the best out of them.
Julia: As you say, these are the most incredible times that have really challenged thinking. When we think about what enlightened leaders are paying attention to, this is such a timely discussion. Chris, it’s a similar question to you, close out the show for us. Love to hear your reasons why diversity and inclusion must remain high on the corporate agenda.
Chris: Like Yasmine, I think you cannot understate the role that good leadership has played in this crisis. If you look at the organisations that have come through it best, they have had that strong, enlightened leadership within them. In terms of why will this continue to matter, if you’re taking a sort of, “Oh, I’ve got to do it,” kind of reason, the reality is things like the task force, things like the strand within it around government and regulation are going to continue to pay attention to this. I think shareholders, particularly in a world in which the S in ESG is becoming increasingly important, are going to pay attention to this. So even if you wanted to hide from it, which I don’t think many people do, as a senior leader, this is an agenda you’re going to have to engage with over the coming years.
But I think far, far more that, there’s a really positive reason to want to get involved, and one of the things I think we’re going to try to do with the task forced is absolutely build a coalition much wider than even the firms and organisations already involved in it, to say that positively here, this is a chance for leaders across the financial services industry up and down the UK, not just in the city, to play a really positive role in making the lives of a whole group of people who would have never come through into the senior leadership of these organisations before not only significantly better for those people, but actually better for their firms. This is a chance to get a genuine diversity of thought, spirit around the table making decisions and driving firms forward at a time when getting that fresh blood, getting that fresh talent has never mattered more.
Julia: It’s been the most fantastic discussion if you think how much we’ve covered, but also it’s great to hear about the work of the task force. It’s great to hear the context of other initiatives as well, particularly the Women in Finance Charter, its progress on that. Yasmine, we’ll definitely talk about that again. But also to hear your personal stories, your personal journeys and observations of change, as well as thinking about the data, the importance of the data, and the fact that this ultimately is a very human centred conversation, but it’s about progression. It’s progression of talent into the socioeconomic talent pool that is right under our noses as well. Yasmine, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been the most fantastic conversation.
Yasmine: Thank you so much, Julia. I really appreciate it.
Julia: Chris, thank you for your thoughts. Thanks for joining us.
Chris: Thanks very much, Julia.
Julia: As always to all our listeners, thank you so much for tuning in. I’ve been Julia Streets. I will look forward to bringing you another episode very soon.
Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya for her insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. And that’s divercity with a C, not an S. Whilst you’re there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.
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