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Series Five, Episode Three: Is data driving inclusivity and impacting ethnic minority representation?

Noreen Niazi, Co-founder of Muslim Women Connect and Jon Terry, Partner at PWC, discuss the importance of data in highlighting deficiencies and driving change. We consider how ethic minority and gender representation compare and how organisations can implement policies, strategies and accountability measures of impact. They each outline how they work with organisations to encourage a more inclusive and diverse working environment, focusing on attracting and retaining greater ethnic heritage diversity and the importance of effective networks and mentoring programmes.

Noreen Niazi

Noreen has worked for over 30 organisations, from start -ups and wealth management to working in education and on farms! Noreen recently worked for the EY Foundation, a charity committed to helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their career ambitions.

Noreen is also co-founder of Muslim Women Connect a mentoring and networking organisations which has engaged thousands of women across sectors over the past year.

Muslim Women Connect is an initiative bringing together Muslim women from a broad range of careers and different walks of life in order to network, connect and nurture the next generation of women. Through providing mentoring and training we inspire confidence and guide career development.

You can follow Muslim Women Connect on Twitter @muslimwomenc.

Jon Terry

Jon Terry is PwC’s global FS HR Consulting Leader and UK Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader and is based in London with over 30 years’ experience in supporting organisations on their HR challenges. Jon specialises in all aspects of employee motivation and pay including roles, responsibilities, performance management and remuneration. Jon is passionate about creating inclusive workplaces both within PwC and in society. He leads PwC’s diversity and inclusion consulting practice which includes their extensive research and thought leadership on diversity and inclusion issues. Jon advises firms on all aspects of their diversity and inclusion challenges, from creating strategies and action plans to developing inclusive leadership and ensuring HR policies and processes are looked at through a diversity lens along with engagement and communication support.

You can follow Jon on Twitter @jon_p_terry.

Series Five, Episode Three 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 Noreen Niazi of Muslim Women Connect, and Jon Terry of PWC. Noreen has worked for over 30 organisations from startup and wealth management firms to working in education and on farms. Most recently Noreen worked at EY Foundation, a charity committed to helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their career ambitions.  She is Co-founder of Muslim Women Connect, an initiative, bringing together Muslim women from a broad range of careers and different walks of life in order to network, connect and nurture the next generation of women.

Noreen, welcome to the show.

Noreen: Thanks for having me.

Julia: Jon Terry is a member of PWC’s Global Financial Services Leadership Team. Within this remit, Jon is responsible for the people strategy of some 60,000 Global Financial Services Specialists around the world. As Head of the firm’s UK Diversity and Inclusion Consulting practise, Jon advises firms on all aspects of their diversity and inclusion challenges, from creating strategies and action plans, to developing leadership performance, remuneration and communications policies, processes and practises.

Jon, welcome to the show.

Jon: Delighted to be here.

Julia: As always at the start of the show, we invite each of our guests to take approximately a minute to tell us what you’re up to. Noreen, let me come to you first of all, what are you up to at the moment?

Noreen: We’re currently running a six month mentoring programme for young women where we connect them with professionals across sectors. That’s in full swing right now. We are looking to expand all across the UK. That’s what we’re looking to do this year. We’re currently working on some research that’s going to be published in Parliament on the experiences of Muslim women in work. That’s some exciting stuff we’re currently working on.

Julia: When that comes out do let us know because we’d love to promote that through the podcast as well.   Jon, let me ask you the same question. What are you up to at the moment?

Jon: I’m privileged to work with many financial services organisations on their diversity and inclusion challenges. As you probably know, firms fit into two buckets. Those primarily, but not exclusively, banks that have really been focused on this issue for a long time, about a decade or more, and those that frankly have only really come into it the last year or two.

We are doing a lot of work with the second bucket, helping organisations put what I call, “the fundamentals” in place, putting real diversity inclusion policies, properly linked to their business strategies in place, to really move from just senior sponsorship at the board, to really have an accountability framework throughout the organisation, particularly being clear on what we expect the so-called, permafrost middle management to be doing to drive the agenda.

A major focus, a lot of our work is helping organisations get a grip with data, to not only extract that data, but to analyse that data so that they can work up action plans that are meaningful, rather than just doing whatever the next organisation does, which by luck might be useful for them.

Lastly, is really helping organisations with their internal communications and awareness programmes, and indeed externally to help them build a more positive reputation in this space. This has been increasing work, you won’t be surprised to know following the gender pay disclosures, and indeed really ticked up a lot following the ethnicity pay reporting consultation. An awful lot of work helping organisations figure out what enhances reputation and how transparent organisation should really be.

Julia:  There was the ‘invitation for Consultation’ that came out in the beginning of January, so we’re looking forward to seeing what comes out of that. Can I pick up on that point particularly around ethnic minorities as well and particular initiatives that you’re undertaking at PWC to address that gap?

Jon: Yes, I think it’s fair to say that the focus of organisations on moving the dial, on being more inclusive with ethnic minorities is only really starting. For some organisations like PWC that’s been for a few years, but not many years, nothing like the focus has been on gender. One of the key issues for us at PWC is de-stigmatising the whole debate around race.

We’ve been very proud of what we’ve been doing around mental health the last few years to raise mental health awareness, make people more and more comfortable. People are not comfortable talking about racial issues. We had a big focus on that, we called it ‘Colour Brave’. We’ve had a big focus on that for the last 18 months, two years, to really get people to open up, irrespective of their ethnicity, to really open up around what are the challenges, so that the organisation can really understand that many of these challenges are different from the challenges for women, for those with mental health problems, those in the LGBT+ community, etc. That’s been a real focus for us. We’ve also been doing a number of various specifics on the back of that. But I just wanted to highlight really getting debate going has been a really key thing for us.

Julia: Do walk us through some of the specifics. I’m very keen to hear what impacts they’ve had.

Jon: The first thing, as I said, is really understanding some of the challenges. You can probably tell listener, that I’m a late middle-aged, white, straight man, and so how am I going to understand the challenges of a Muslim woman in the workplace? I make a load of assumptions about those challenges, and most of them are not spot on.

We have really been encouraging all of our people to be much more open, and for leadership to understand the differences. It’s not one great, big amorphous mass. Not everyone who isn’t white has exactly the same challenges. Of course, there’s an intermingling of faith with ethnicity as well, which is really important.

We have a sustained programme throughout the business of really getting that debate going. Then taking those issues back to the different business units, we don’t have separate initiatives across the entire business around ethnicity, that falls within our overall approaches on inclusion and creating more inclusive workplaces, but we do in relation to the specific parts of our business.

One of the biggest challenges for example in my part of the business is very much around putting yourself forward, speaking up, and in the Client Advisory Business, being able to get on with those really interesting career defining projects is incredibly important for individuals to develop their skills, to get a better networks and attention of Leadership. Without doing that, it’s really hard to really develop and move on in the organisation.

What we often find is that within our ethnic minority communities, many feel much more reticent to push themselves forward for expressing why they’ve got the right skills to get on certain projects. We have a big focus on what we call, “Fair Work Allocation”, to take the subjectivity of allocating work to team members out of it and become much more objective, and have checks and balances with our resourcing specialists away from people like myself who’ll resource around projects. That’s been a real major step forward. A long way to go, but that for us in our type of business, that’s probably the most important central point outside of general inclusion.

Julia: There are a number of things I picked up from that. One of them is about challenging assumptions, and the second was about fair work allocation, and having sustained progress across the entire organisation as well. How does that bear out? Is that in terms of specific networks, reverse mentoring? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, can you give some insights into how does that actually display itself on a day-to day-basis?

Jon: We have a five point inclusion plan. One of those important elements is actually around sponsorship, but being really clear around senior leaders taking true ownership in a partnering way with our talented individuals across the spectrum. Particularly in our firm, we focus on women, on those of ethnic minorities. They take a proactive role in not just helping individuals, but opening up networks for highlighting and giving greater exposure to the individuals and frankly, for fighting their corners, which is really important.

Julia: Noreen, let me turn to you then at this point, as the Co-founder of The Woman Muslim Network, talk to us a little bit about the network itself. Also, some of the challenges that people face when they enter the workforce.

Noreen: We work with a number of young people, but also professionals across different networks, anything between 18 – 28, which is the age of our mentees to much older, above 28. We have mentors who are in their 50’s or in their 60’s. I think one of the biggest challenges we face is even Muslim women getting their foot in the door. We talk about Muslim women who’ve kind of gone into the financial services, or who’ve gone into different sectors, but actually a lot of the issues Muslim women are facing are even getting a chance or an opportunity to be able to work, or be able to progress in whatever they want to do.

There are lots of reports that came out recently. In 2016 a Parliamentary report on The Women and Equalities Committee presented that Muslim women specifically are three times more likely to be unemployed than women in general. That was a very shocking fact for us. I think a lot of girls who are my age, we’ve experienced it, but seeing it on paper is like, “Wow. It’s as bad as we thought it was.” It’s crazy if you think about the figures. We thought about what are the actual challenges? It’s a much broader conversation because you can talk about diversity and inclusion, all of these things. But actually if it’s to do with Islamophobia and discrimination, which is what a lot of the young girls we work with have said that they’ve faced, it’s talking about the rhetoric in wider society. It’s the media, it’s representation, it’s stereotyping. Then it goes down to unconscious bias, and things like that.

There was recently a report on BBC, how Muslims feel like they need to change their names on applications because they’re more likely to be employed if they have a whiter name or a less ‘Muslim-y’ name. I think there are some structural issues that are really important to address, of course, diversity and inclusion is so important in looking at all of these things. But it’s also a much wider problem, which we need to face.

I guess there are so many recruitment practises that we can do to help that process, like training, like Jon talked about. Ensuring that there is dialogue and people feel confident enough to talk about race, and talk about the issues that they face in work. I would say one of the biggest issues for the people that I’ve come across is actually getting their foot in the door, and actually being able to have an opportunity to have the networks in those places. Because when I was growing up, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, I was like, “Where are all the women who are ethnic in Director roles or Manager roles?”

 It was only until I was 21 or 22 that I was like, “Wow, I’ve found one, that’s amazing.” That shouldn’t be the case because there are lots of women doing really incredible things across the sector, and it’s for us to spotlight them and to give them a platform, and for them to mentor and network and nurture the next generation, which we try to do.

Julia: When you look at organisations that have attracted and have opened the door and have actually attracted and retained good Muslim young female talent, are there any particular things that you would commend them for that other organisations should be replicating?

Noreen: Yes, of course. We’ve had some of our mentees who’ve worked for smaller organisations have had issues where they’ve asked for prayer space, and their employers are not that culturally aware, and they haven’t been trained on different religions or cultural practises and things. One of our mentee’s told us that her manager said, “Oh, you can pray in the bathroom.” For us that was really shocking. How is there such little cultural awareness in these kinds of organisations?

I used to work at EY, and I feel like what a lot of financial services have done really well is provide those kinds of spaces, celebrate diversity and see it as a real positive and a real strength. I think those kinds of initiatives really do help. It’s creating an environment where you feel like you can talk to your Manager, or you can talk to someone who’s more senior about your faith and feel comfortable and not feel like it’s going to hinder your progress.

Julia: When you are supporting the young talent coming through, and you mentioned also about working with mentors as well, do Corporates come to you and ask for your advice and your support in trying to improve their understanding and also just I suppose empathy?

Noreen: Yes, we work with a couple of Corporates. They ask us and we ask them to actually give back. If they genuinely say, “We want more Muslims in our workplace,” or, “We want to create a more inclusive and diverse environment where management understand the kind of complexities that especially women face.” We do meetings with them. We ask them if they want to run a training session, if they want to learn from our mentee’s? We do lots of different master classes. We did some at HSBC and EY, and that’s been really great for them.

It’s been really good for us as well because it means that we get all of that talent helping young people navigate how they can get more confident, or how they can negotiate their pay. That’s a really big thing that we face.

A lot of, not just Muslim women, but ethnic minorities in general, they’re never taught how to negotiate their wage. When they get a job, They think that, “Oh, it’s amazing. I should be so thankful that I have this job, I’m not going to even negotiate my pay, or I’ve never been taught to do that.” These really basic things are things that they don’t have the skills to do. And so, teaching how to know your worth, how to build your personal brand, how to be able to negotiate those things and have the confidence, as John said, to come forth and talk about, “Where do I want to go in the future? What do I need in order to get there?”

Julia: Funny enough, you just mentioned back to Jon’s comment, I was really picking up on that as well in terms of there’s the appetite. I guess, from PWC’s perspective, the inclination to want to support talent, to step up and put themselves forward for things, but there is a cultural blend that needs to be navigated there. I’m really keen to see where we can think about how Corporates and individuals can intersect, both within organisations and also outside organisations as well. Anything that Noreen’s talked about here that particularly strikes a chord with you?

Jon: Yes, a couple of things. Noreen was mentioning smaller organisations. One of the issues with smaller organisations is they may only have a relatively small, in absolute terms, number of individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds. So, it’s really difficult for them to establish networks, to create programmes. It’s really important, particularly in organisations, an industry like financial services, that we collaborate. Incredibly important that we collaborate, that networks are open across the sector.

I think the insurance sector is doing that really well. The Investment Management sector is beginning to do that, particularly through their Diversity Project, Helena Morrissey’s project, really well. That’s really important, particularly there’s large chunks of industry that have large numbers of organisations of fairly small number employee size. I think that’s important for two particular reasons. One, so that there can be support across, so you’re not just looking up as Noreen said, “I can’t see. Where’s the other person at that sort of higher level?” Well, they may not be in your organisation, but they are around the city. And so, that’s really important that you’re opening up that visibility as well as the networks. So that networking is incredibly important.

I think the second thing is that the companies themselves can learn from each other more in a practical, rolling up your sleeves way. I think that’s incredibly important. Diversity inclusion, I’m hoping you agree? I’m sure you do Julia, is one of those areas where collaboration rises the tide for everybody.

It isn’t a competitive issue. It really is about rising the tide for everyone, and I would like to perhaps chat to you about reputation for an individual organisation a bit later. I think that collaboration I think is incredibly important. What works in one organisation may not work in another organisation, but prompting the thinking is actually really important.

Julia: I think this point about sort of looking outside your organisation to other networks as well, I was really staggered, I found this statistic that said that, “More than 50% of ethnic minority young talent will seek to move outside their organisation, more confident that they’ll move through their careers by moving, than staying within an organisation,” which is the for large clients is a big question.

I’m interested to what degree you intersect with other networks as well. Your view of the inside world and the outside world almost. Are there any particular things that your members are telling you about how we could work with other networks, and as you say, you sort of rise the tides together, or do we think that we’ve got quite a long way to go given where the numbers are today?

Noreen: I think we have a long way to go. I think if you’re talking about ethnic minorities in managerial positions, or in senior positions, especially the Muslim population it’s only 6% of Muslims who are in managerial positions, which is a tiny number. Of course, it’s a very complex topic and there’s no one solution to how every single organisation can make it easier for people to work their way up the ranks. A lot of the time when we talk to people, they say they find it hard to progress because when they get to a certain point, a lot of the ways that people get promotions is through networking, and where people who look different to them, and in different environments. There are lots of women who come up to us and say, “Lots of people I know get promotions, they’re in these circles, and they go for drinks together. We don’t feel comfortable in those environments because we don’t drink.”

Julia: Thursday night drinks in the pub.

Noreen: Yes.

Julia: A classic example.

Noreen: It’s not to say that organisations should stop going out for drinks, but it’s how do you make sure that everybody’s given an equal kind of opportunity to network and to have that opportunity to talk about career development? Those relationships are nurtured outside of the office in those kinds of casual environments. So, you’re already at a bit of a disadvantage if you don’t kind of partake in those kinds of activities.

Julia: Can you give us an example of something that firms could be doing? Is there a particular way in which reaching out to those networks would to be particularly welcome?

Noreen: Well, just even smaller things. Someone I know who is working in financial services was telling me that her manager took lots of individuals out, that she worked within a team, individually for drinks, and she didn’t ask her because she knew she didn’t drink. But instead of just kind of ignoring her, she could have asked her to go out for tea or coffee. So just small things like that, or creating an environment where there are places outside of that where you can have those conversations or talk, which isn’t just surrounded … You don’t have to go out after work to be in that kind of environment where you have to network.

Julia: Which is incredibly important, isn’t it? Again, it’s that kind of stereotypical, we do our networking outside working hours, but actually a lot of it can be done within working hours, provided that corporates give structure and permission for those networks to interact as well. It is very easy I think with organisations, and I think about the dynamics at play and these are deeply complex. It’s all very well and good to sit here and say, “All you need to do is this. All you need to do that.” Again, these are working environments too.

One thing that some guests have said over the course of our four series now, is that they’re increasingly concerned about labelling in the appetites to recognise the complexity and the wonderful rich diversity that organisations are trying to make themselves attractive to, is that there’s a little bit of labelling. BAME being the classic example, the black, Asian minority ethnic, brand as well.

There are some concerns around that in terms of the multiplicity of faith and economic backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, personal backgrounds and networks within that. Love to hear your views and your thoughts on that. Jon let me come to you first of all, from the corporate perspective.

Jon: I’ll start by saying that it’s incredibly important to have data. It’s really important to understand who your population is that works for you. This is difficult because there’s a balance here. It’s harder to gather information across a multitude of categorisation. In fact, we’ve been running a survey on the back of the government’s consultation ethnicity pay gap reporting.

One of the questions we asked organisations was, to what extent do they wish to collect that data? Because a significant majority do not collect that data at the moment. The majority of organisations were saying, “Well, we go back to 2011 census data,” which are 11 categorisations. That is not going to satisfy a whole range of people. There are a few issues that are really important here. I think we have to separate the collection of information and then the understanding of the issues. It’s all very specific.

So as we move towards ethnicity pay gap reporting, if we have pay gap reporting through a whole range of different angles, then most of that will not be reported because the numbers are so small, individuals can be identified. The ability for organisations to collect that will be really difficult. I’m a supporter on pay gap reporting, for example, to be BAME and non-BAME.

However, and it’s a really important, however, organisations need to understand that putting everyone into one great, big bucket, and by the way, putting all white people in one great big bucket is just ridiculous. Individuals are individuals. I’ve been doing a lot of lot of work in the black community, and it’s obvious me saying this out loud, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but I hadn’t understood the significant differences and challenges from black British, black African, and black Asian people. Incredibly different.

Even then I’ve just simplified it, of course. So it’s really important for organisations to understand the differences and the specifics of all their individuals that work for them and not lump everyone into one great, big bucket. But when it comes to collecting information and reporting our information, frankly if that’s done too complicated, it won’t get done. I’m a massive fan on transparency, a huge fan of what gets measured gets focused and hopefully gets done.

Julia: Noreen, what’s your opinions there in terms of not only your personal view but also the network view as well?

Noreen: I think it’s a difficult one. I think it’s important to have it. I think it’s important, as you said, for reporting and having data to know where the deficiencies are and to know the areas to work on. I also think it’s hugely generalised sometimes and people don’t like D&I and BAME always to be those tick-box activities where you feel like you were just a quota, It’s a personal joke that lots of us use, “I don’t know if I actually got the job or if I’m just filling a diversity quota,” which is troubling, but at the same time I think it can be frustrating because it limits you, and you feel like you only get to where you are. There was an actor, who I think he just won an award and he said, “I’m sick of people just constantly focusing on the colour of my skin, because I got this award for acting, yet people are always talking about the colour of my skin, and my faith, or this and that.”

It’s the same for us. As Muslim Women Connect, we care a lot about education and skill building, and networking, and things like that. Yet, every day in my inbox, I have hundreds of emails from different newspapers who want us to speak on Muslim issues like the hijab or burkas, ‘burkinis’. It’s very simplified and it’s very easy to just look at things very black and white, and not look at people as individuals.

I think it’s really important that you have those criteria, so you know that there are more BAME people coming into work. But I think it’s really dangerous if we put so much emphasis on it that we’re only promoting people because we need to fill diversity quotas and it’s just a tick box activity. I think we need to create more humanity in D&I, instead of it just being statistics and numbers and look at it as a human issue, because you’re right, people who are people of colour, people who have really complex issues, it’s really difficult to just put them in a box. There are so many more different things that you need to think about.

Julia: I think that’s a great moment to just take a break there. We’re going to turn to Robert and Cynthia to provide some research to support the discussion today.

Cynthia: The 2016-17 UK government report, Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK, concludes that Muslim women are three times more likely to be unemployed, and twice as likely not to be in the job market in the first place. Additionally, the report states that Muslim women were 71% more likely to be unemployed than white, Christian women, even when education level, marital status, number of children, strengths of religious belief and language abilities were similar.

Robert: According to the 2017 CIPD report addressing the barriers to BAME employee career progression to the top, around 14% of the UK working age population comes from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. By 2030 this figure is expected to be closer to 20%. BAME employees are significantly more likely than white, British employees to say that someone’s identity or background can have an effect on the opportunities that person is given, particularly those from an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi background.

The report also stated that only around half of employees across most ethnic groups feel able to talk to their manager about their career aspirations. Approximately a third of both BAME and white British feel that their managers make assumptions about their career paths and aspirations.

Julia: Thanks, Cynthia and Robert. The links to the research can be found on our website, 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.

Jon, something you were saying earlier about reputation, let me just come back to that for a second, which is that here we are in 2019, as we look ahead, coming to also to the end of the decade, dare I say it, what are corporates thinking about?

Jon:  Reputation is massively important, and particularly in the UK the whole fairness debate, which is largely apolitical, solutions are political, but the debate is apolitical. Organisations who are not focused on improving their diversity in their organisations and not focused on creating more inclusive workplaces, actually their reputation as not just an employer, but as a provider of their services or products, are significantly damaged.

I think that organisations need to recognise that, and in order to move the dial faster and more sustained, they need to recognise that they have to make diversity inclusion a critical business issue, and approach it like any other business critical issue, having appropriate action plans, appropriate policies, appropriate accountabilities, appropriate resources. That’s going to be much, much more difficult as we continue in ’19 and continue to moving into more difficult times. It requires strong leadership and it requires organisations, leaders throughout the organisation, particularly often it’s called, “the permafrost”, the middle managers, who frankly are the ones that on a day-to-day basis create the culture in that organisation, to stay focused on doing the right things by all their people, whoever they are, in all the critical decisions on a day-to-day basis.

Julia: In this world sort of driven by technology and driven by change, and the world is shifting so much, that it’s really important that we do find the talent that we need in diverse groups as well. Noreen, let me come to you just to wrap up the show really, which was final thoughts about you and your networks and the way in which you interact with corporates. Any sort of lasting thoughts that people should go away with?

Noreen: Yes, definitely. I would just say if you are working in D&I, or are working in those sectors, to just address D&I is more than just the statistics and the tick boxes and see it in a more human way, and more empathetic way, and to collaborate more. Look at organisations who are doing work with grassroots organisations, who’ve been on the ground for ages and who understand those issues and challenges and collaborate with them. There are lots of organisations like Muslim Women Connect out there who’d be happy to work with corporates and give their advice and send people into help them build their pipeline.

Julia: Wonderful. That’s a very optimistic way to end the show knowing that there are ways in which to reach out, but also how organisations should think about diversity and inclusion really very much as a business critical challenge.

I’d like to take a moment just to thank you both so much for joining us today. Jon and Noreen, thank you.

Jon: Thank you.

Noreen: Thanks for having us.

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, Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.

To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed on iTunes, or your favourite podcast app. And, if you’ve enjoyed this episode DiverCity Podcast, remember to give us a rating or review. This all helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.