Series Ten, Episode Four: The Changing Shape of Female and Inclusive Entrepreneurship

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For our international Women’s Day episode, host Julia Streets is joined by Yvonne Thompson CBE, Entrepreneur, Campaigner and Activist and Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director of  WeAreTheCity. Together they share their experiences of the changing face of entrepreneurship and business over the decades. The discussion sets out priorities when building back businesses in 2021, considers key steps to gender parity and explores the impact of Covid-19 on the female workforce. They talk about new models of leadership and the important attributes required to be successful. The conversation turns to social inclusion and the value of entrepreneurship, corporate intrepreneurs and the importance of involving women and ethnic minorities in idea generation and business decision-making.

Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE

Game changer, campaigner, activist, she has over 37 years, experience in the Communications, Marketing and PR industry, advising corporates, public sector, educational establishments and government championing equality, diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Honoured by Queen Elizabeth II, and received two doctorates for her work in the Entrepreneurship, Global Diversity and Equality arena, she was recently nominated for and accepted into the prestigious St George’s House, Leadership organisation based at Windsor Castle, Windsor, and was invested with an Honorary Fellowship by Kings College University London, January 2020. She has published her first leadership book, “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards", promoting the path to and greater gender and race diversity in company boardrooms. Yvonne sits on several boards, and public appointment committees including her most recent appointment as Chair of the Radio Academy, representing the UK’s Radio Industry, and the Parker Review Committee – More Than One By 2021- advocating for more minorities on FTSE boards. She was instrumental in encouraging Deloitte to include minority women on their “Navigating the Boardroom” programme and encouraging them to start” BAME on Boards. Celebrating the 23rd anniversary of the first black women in business network set up in the UK she also recently founded and led the third WinTrade Week (Women In Trade) convention and Awards themed “Womenomics” hosting and celebrating over 600 global women through a week of global business connections, networking, contracting and business development. During the COVID Lockdown – WinTrade Global Talks a lunchtime discussion every Thursday 12:30 BST with interviews and discussion from women for women to ignite and keep their passion for business alive. https://bit.ly/wintrade_global_talks_register_now Find out more: www.msyvonnethompson.com // www.wintradeglobal.com

Vanessa Vallely OBE

Vanessa is one of the UK’s most well-networked women and has provided keynotes on a variety of career related topics for over 500 companies worldwide. Vanessa is also one of the UK’s most prominent figures in gender equality and often provides guidance and consultancy to both government and corporate organisations who are seeking to attract, develop and retain their female talent. Vanessa was awarded her OBE in June 2018 for her services to women and the economy. At the height of her successful 25 year career in the financial services, Vanessa launched the award winning WeAreTheCity.com in 2008 as a vehicle to help women progress in their careers. WeAreTheCity.com now has over 120,000 members and provides resources/conferences/awards/jobs to women across the UK. Vanessa is the also the - founder of UK wide diversity forum Gender Networks. Gender Networks (formerly The Network of Networks) brings together diversity leaders from 85 cross sector firms to share best practice on a quarterly basis. Vanessa is also the author of the book “Heels of Steel: Surviving and Thriving in the Corporate World” which tracks her career and shares 13 chapters of tips to succeed in the workplace. Over the past twelve years, she has accumulated over 20 industry awards, including Women in Banking & Finance’s Champion for Women, Financial News Top 100 Rising Star, The International Alliance for Women Top 100 Women globally & Brummells Top 30 London Entrepreneurs. In 2015 Vanessa was in GQ UK’s Top 100 Connected Women and the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential Londoners. Vanessa is a regular guest on TV and radio and also sits on the Government Digital Services advisory board. Vanessa is also the Pearly Queen of The City of London, a tradition that has been in her family for over 100 years. She is an avid charity worker and sits on the board for Cancer Research UK as one of its Women of Influence. Vanessa also sits on the Centenary Action .

Series Ten, Episode Four 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.

Before we get started today, I just wanted to take a moment to thank our friends at CityAM for 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 D&I debate. You may want to check out CityAM’s own podcast called the City View for all the latest news and opinion for the city, because we at DiverCity podcast are huge fans.

Today, I’m joined by Yvonne Thompson CBE and Vanessa Vallely OBE. Yvonne Thompson is an entrepreneur, campaigner, activist with more than 37 years of experience in the communications marketing and PR. She’s advised public and private sector organisations and is renowned for her work, championing equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

She has published her first leadership book, ‘Seven Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards’ and indeed sits on several boards and public appointment committees herself. These include the most recent appointment as chair of the Radio Academy that represents the UK radio industry and the Parker Review Committee, which advocates for more minorities on FTSE boards. During lockdown, Yvonne has hosted a weekly lunchtime discussion called Win Trade Global, interviewing women for right the way across the industry, thinking about how they can keep their passion for business alive. Yvonne, it’s wonderful to have you on the show, welcome.

Yvonne: Thank you for inviting me. I’m excited.

Julia: Vanessa Vallely OBE, is an international motivational speaker and Managing Director of WeAreTheCity. She’s one of the UKs most prominent figures in gender equality and advises government and corporate organisations seeking to attract, develop and retain their female talent. In 2018, she was awarded her OBE for services to women and the economy, because at the height of her successful 25 year career in financial services, she launched the award-winning WeAreTheCity.com, a vehicle to help women progress in their careers. She now has more than 120,000 members and provide resources, conferences, awards, and jobs to women across the UK. Vanessa is also the founder of a UK-wide diversity forum called Gender Networks that brings together diversity leaders from 85 cross-sector organisations all to share best practise. They meet on a quarterly basis to consider change in the industry. She’s also the author of her book, Heels of Steel: Surviving and Thriving in the Corporate World, that tracks her and shares 13 chapters of tips to succeed in the workplace. She was on our second ever show. Vanessa, it’s wonderful to see, you welcome back.

Vanessa: I’m honoured. Thank you very much.

Julia: I’m really looking forward to this discussion. I want to start off with which I ask all our guests, here we are, 2021, what are you particularly focused on right now? Yvonne, let me come to you first.

Yvonne: My focus for 2021 is really about keeping my network engaged, keeping all the members coming back, talking, being there and just helping them to progress, the whole COVID and lockdown thing, it’s become a bit of a serial nightmare in so many ways for so many people. It’s just important for members to have somewhere to go to, somewhere with a bit of sanity, a group that they know can help them to support them, to be cheerleaders, whatever it is they need. So that’s going to be my focus throughout 2021 and staying healthy basically.

Julia: Absolutely. it’s wonderful to have you on the show actually, because one of the things we’ve been thinking about is some of the assumptions that perhaps get made about what employees need. So very keen to hear the voice of your networks and what people are thinking about right now as well. Before we do that, Vanessa, you’re never idle, What are you focused on this year?

Vanessa: This year, my focus really is on recovery and build back better for gender equality. For example, in 2020, obviously with the COVID lockdown, women were massively affected, the women that lost their jobs in lower paid positions, we had the impacts on childcare home-schooling. So a lot of that will have a knock on effect into other years. So for me, it’s looking at that recovery plan and making sure that firms are taking notice on what needs to be done to make sure that we don’t fall back. The pathway to achieving gender parity from the World Economic Forum is always set at 100 years. I’m fearful as to how that’s gone up, even in the last six months of 2020.

Julia: It’s going to be really interesting. We’re going to be paying a lot of attention to the data that’s coming out to see to what degree the industry shifted. I’m a bit concerned if I’m honest, which is about talking to a number of different corporates as they’re making their plans for 2021, particularly as they were reflecting on the end of 2020 as well. I wonder whether we are at risk of making some lazy assumptions. What I’d love to get into in this episode is are we at risk of adopting old attitudes to working models? And if there’s any advice to give organisations, leaders, looking at it through an entrepreneurial lens. Yvonne, very keen to come to you first of all, with your thoughts about are we at risk of old models, new times?

Yvonne: To be quite honest, I don’t think there is going back to old. I don’t see how you can go back to old. Everything is so forward-thinking now, everybody’s had to pivot forward. I mean, during the lockdown, I think the saying, “Necessity is the mother of all creation,” really applies certainly from an entrepreneurial point of view. I think corporates need to think about how their employees can become intrapreneurs, because with everybody, I’ve had a few talks with organisations, such as Facebook, as Google, Deloitte, a lot of corporates, and they’re all talking about not being able to go back to what we might call the “new norm” for 18 months to two years. As soon as one thing happens within six months, there’s something else new that you need to move on to. So for me, there really isn’t any going back. People can be lazy in their thinking and those that are lazy in their thinking will not be the ones that are going to be at the forefront of change.

Everybody needs to be at that vanguard of change, because if you’re not at the vanguard guard of change, you are moving backwards, you’ve got to keep moving forward otherwise, you just go back. And there’s so much happening in the world and it’s all happening at such a fast pace that we’ve just got to keep on top of it. I don’t see how there can be lazy thinking and the better not be, otherwise they won’t be around for long.

Julia: I think that’s really sage advice, because every organisation right now is, particularly as we enter interesting economic times as well, we’re going to come on to why diversity and inclusion matters right now, later in the show, but you have to be all over this. I think that’s really almost like a clarion call to the industry, which is think differently and be more intrapreneurial as you say. Vanessa, you’re involved with so many networks of networks and I wonder, are we at risk of organisations making assumptions about how employees are fairing and what advice, when you’re talking to leaders and heads of D&I and also business leaders is what advice are you giving them?

Vanessa: To go back to the point that was made a moment ago, I don’t think we can ever compare the way life was in terms of what the future looks like. I think we’re starting almost from a blank slate with some really strong positives that came out of COVID. The fact that people were able to work from home, that almost happened immediately. All of the things that we said could never happen, for example, back in my banking days, if I would have suggested a trading floor being at home, I would have been met…, actually they would have marched me out of the building, but it would’ve been the regulation side of things, it can’t be done. There’s a lot of things that we’ve done during the last part of 2020 that I think they’re the focus areas for 2021. When I’m talking with leaders, there is a much bigger shift to people’s mental health, I think there is a much greater focus on leading with empathy.

One of the things that I’ve seen, obviously we see a multitude of events at WeAreTheCity at Gender Networks. So we get insights of what external networks do, so what internal networks are doing. Even the shift in terms of what they’re talking to their people about has been much more around, anxiety, mental health, how do we balance it all? Rather than here’s business skills, and we’re just going to push them at you. I think there’s been a huge shift. I think firms need to, let’s not lose that as buildings open back up and we get back to whatever that new normal looks like, what we can’t afford to do is say, “Well, that stuff was great when we needed it during lockdown, but let’s try and go back to presenteeism,” to all of the bad stuff really, that was culturally wrong about the world that we used to live in. That’s my advice. Let’s be open-minded, let’s look at what’s gone on in the past year and see where we can pull some of the good bits out of that and build that into our cultures.

We know productivity works with people working from home, we know that people are still making connections. Yes, we miss that face-to-face, let’s touch and be in a physical space with other people, but that’s not stopped a lot of businesses still continuing to thrive. Obviously, our issue is now in the entrepreneurial space, which Yvonne will talk to around people losing their jobs. How do we morph and change and share experiences so that we all have this level playing field?

Julia: Well, it’s pretty interesting, isn’t it? Because I think there are some risks of bringing back corporate structures we were just talking about that applied in historical times and that don’t necessarily apply now and thinking about whose advantaged and who’s disadvantaged? So, if we return to a world of presenteeism that would disadvantage many. As I’m out talking to many, many different people, I’m always thinking about who are we most at risk of alienating, ignoring or at worst discriminating against? Yvonne, I’d love your views on that.

Yvonne: Through the talks that we’ve been having, through Win Trade Global talks that we’ve been carrying on since the COVID hit, we’re finding more and more that it is the minority. It is minority workers or traders who are on the front line of dealing with customers on a daily basis who are now either affected directly. I mean, when COVID hit last year, we had the Minister for Business come online, talking about specifically encouraging minority entrepreneurs to pick up the bounce back loans that were available, the grants that were available, any and everything that the government was offering at the time was not being taken up by minority-owned businesses. And that was for so many different reasons. Either they didn’t think they were entitled to it, they didn’t think they would get it, they didn’t think the banks, or they thought the banks would discriminate against them.

For me, that also applies the next step down to that is for women-owned businesses, because we are still in that frame of mind, and I hate talking about imposter syndrome, because I don’t know how many of us realised we had or thought we had imposter syndrome until that whole phrase came about. Then all of a sudden we all had it or we all believed that we had it. But I think it goes a long way for women entrepreneurs in general, as well as minorities. It’s just a two-tier society in so many ways. I think there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. Last March, I was just before, in fact, I think it was the week before COVID, the lockdown came, I was in Norway speaking at the SHE Conference, and there were 3,000 women there. My presentation was about the gig economy. It was about agile working, it was about thinking about working from home and being diverse in the way in which you go about your business. And for a moment, I thought to myself, “Am I really saying I’m presenting the right thing?”

The next week, it was exactly the information that these people needed, because all of a sudden, everybody was in that situation, needed to work from home, needed to learn how to survive, needed to learn to build their resilience, their emotional intelligence. And there have been a few who hadn’t made it through. All of that discipline that I talked about at the SHE Conference was exactly what was needed. I think it’s going to be needed for a long while, because just as we think we’re coming out of it, there goes another lockdown.

Julia: Well, that’s right, isn’t it? If I think about the end of 2020, where we thought we were one journey, then of course in November, there was a lockdown. And as we look ahead at 2021, it’s not unforeseeable to imagine that this could be a cycle or actually we might be fine and then all of a sudden there’s a blip. The world has been turned on its axes around us all the time. I think your point about resiliency is really interesting, because certainly that’s probably one of the biggest things that came out of all our interviews in 2020 was the need for resilience. So that’s also where diversity comes in, because if you have actually diverse workforce, it could bolster you for a resilient workforce, attitude and also organisation as well. Let’s pick up on this question about entrepreneurship. I’m quite taken by your remarks earlier, Yvonne about that there are minority groups who don’t think they were entitled to grants and funding.

I wonder when we think about social inclusion in entrepreneurship, what do we need to change in order to encourage greater ethnic minority entrepreneurship, and what role therefore, given this is DiverCity podcast can financial services play to help?

Yvonne: I think my story is a typical route into entrepreneurship. I had what I call one job, and my one job was at CBS records nearly 40 years ago. I was there for seven and a half years, and throughout that time in the music industry, not only was it sexist, but it was incredibly racist as well. I felt that, not I felt, I knew that every time I applied for a job, which I might have subbed for or held whilst the job was vacant, when I applied for it, I didn’t get it. I then realised to me, the only way for me to move up was to move out. So on the third time of applying for a job and not getting it, I handed my notice and three weeks later I was gone and I never looked back. For me, my destiny was in my hands. I knew I had to make it. And I did that with a five-year-old in tow. So I started my business with what I call a triple whammy.

First of all, in fact, it’s probably more. Not only am I female, I’m black and a single mother, and then I’m going to start a PR firm. 40 years ago, who knew what PR was? It wasn’t really made popular until the Blair years. For me in the black community, there are still so many firsts to be had. I started the first black-owned PR company. I started the first black women in a business network. I started the first legal black radio station. There are many firsts. I was involved in the first black monthly glossy magazine in the UK.

For me, there’s still so many firsts within the black community. It’s changed a lot now, because when I started business, I couldn’t find other black women in business, which is why I started the network. Luckily I had the access of a radio station at my fingertips. So I was able to promote the network, get a lot more women involved and it took off from there. I think right now, as far as black entrepreneurs are concerned, there’s so much more opportunity. Everything, there are no more gatekeepers. I started my business when bank managers still expected you to go to the bank, to apply for a loan, with a man, to sign to sponsor it or whatever, to endorse that loan. That’s how I started my business with 2,500 pounds with my brother’s signature on it. 40 years ago, that was still happening. You cannot believe that was still happening.

But for many black entrepreneurs, I think right now there’s so many different ways of raising money. We’re so much wiser or the young people, the future leaders, the future entrepreneurs, the future, I know Microsoft’s or whatever from the black community is still waiting to be found or to be born. Everybody has the access now at the click of a fingertip. It does take resilience, it takes nerves, it takes vision, it takes determination. All the things that you, I and Vanessa are doing now, it takes passion. And for me, I think the thing that got me through was my passion through most of these things, whether it’s being an activist campaigning for equality and diversity or equality, which I’ve been doing again for at least 30 years, you have to be passionate about it, otherwise it will never happen, because at the first stumbling block you will give up. For me, it’s all about passion. I say, my passion keeps me up late at night, wakes me up early in the morning and sleep gets in between.

Julia: I love that, that’s a great way of describing it. I think one thing that’s very, very encouraging, and we are a group of female entrepreneurs. I mean, all three of us. Vanessa, I’m going to come to you in a second, talk about everything you’re doing with WeAreTheCity and feeding the female pipeline. But I think that there is something that’s very interesting that I take away, well, since the many episodes we’ve had focusing on race is, it feels like the world has shifted in encouragement and that, whereas, we have had the conversation about Stephen Lawrence for many, many decades now. The institutional racism, that conversation hasn’t gone away. How corporate behaviours are discriminating against minority groups that never goes away. What feels like it shifted to me, certainly in the last four to five months is a realisation from the financial services industry that actually they need to step forward and make funding capital available to support minority entrepreneurs.

While I’m talking, I can see Yvonne nodding, which is very encouraging. We’ll come to Vanessa in two seconds, but I would love to hear your reaction to that suggestion from me that does it feel like the banking world has woken up to their role to provide capital?

Yvonne: They have woken up a bit, but they’ve also moved backwards, because I remember probably 20 years ago, most of the banks had a black business banking manager and they used to particular, and I say most of the banks, I definitely knew with NatWest and HSBC, because those are the two banks that I was with. They always had a manager that specifically looked at black businesses and encouraged black businesses. But also, since Black Lives Matter, a lot of the banks are under a lot of pressure because all these stories are coming out now that most of those banks are built on black blood, black sweat, and black tears, from the Bank of England, right through to some of the really big institutions are built on the slave trade, money from the slave trade.

Whether it’s something they need to think about from an economic point of view, I mean, there’s all sorts of research now that McKinsey did about having diverse employees when it’s women I think they’re 15% more likely to do better than their counterparts. I’m sure I’m getting this all wrong. But when it’s a more diverse from race, it’s 35%. So, it’s proven what is stopping them? What is the blockage? A lot of the black entrepreneurs now I think are beginning to look more widely at blockchain and other ways of funding their business.

Julia: It’s interesting, isn’t it? But I think that different models and if the financial services industry can’t keep pace, that we’ll find different models. It’s wonderful to hear your response to that actually, because again, we’re always trying to cut through the rhetoric. What I am mindful of is that there’s some easy language and easy conversation about how the world is shifting allegedly in sport and to hear your point of view is very important. Thank you so much Yvonne, thank you for that. And so, Vanessa onto another entrepreneur who woke up one day and said, “Let’s talk about the female pipeline.” Feeding the female pipeline, WeAreTheCity is amazing. I would love to just talk us through some of the highlights and things you’re focused on in 2020. Then also, what best practises are you seeing in the industry that is now supporting, and often looking, not only supporting women in their career journeys, but also some of the less appreciated, other social groups that we should be paying attention to?

Vanessa: I think the focus in 2020, was to survive, it goes back to as a female entrepreneur, we pivoted very quickly. I think it was mid-March. Our first thing was how can we help other people? So we set up these free webinars, WeAreVirtual, and it was a pay-it-forward thing. I put a note out on LinkedIn. We’ve worked with lots of coaches, lots of speakers over the years that WeAreTheCity’s events and said, “Look, can someone give me an hour to talk about a particular skill set, a feeling, something that would help these people that have all of a sudden been locked down in their homes.” By the Monday I had 46 responses. I think we’ve done 100 of those webinars now, which I mean, incredible, and they’ve reached over 30,000 people globally.

I think the first thing was, how can we give oxygen to others, because that’s what our community does. And then pivoting the various things that we did, obviously, we have a big WeAreTechWomen arm. So pivoting that. But we continued in the mindset of innovation. We have to innovate in different ways using tools that we’ve always had, but we didn’t realise the value of. Doing things like our awards virtually. We’ve launched a podcast ourselves, for WeAreTechWomen. We’ve just launched another networking group for women in tech leaders. We’ve got a mentoring platform that should come into life in 2021. We survived, but we had to keep pushing forward, and I think it was that busy-ness that has created even more passion to see this through. I want to be able to talk about what happened last year like I refer to Betamax videos or the fact that women couldn’t vote.

Back to my point earlier on that, we’ve learned a hell of a lot from that. I think there’s lots of things that we did and how to Yvonne’s point again, how resilient we were that we can capitalise on in future years, because if we’ve been through that and we’ve made it through, there’s no end to where we could potentially go. It’s been very interesting talking to a number of the women’s networks and what they did in 2020, because again, they’ve had to pivot very quickly to virtual events. They weren’t an events company, like say, me and Yvonne have done events for years. So we were able to do that really quickly, but they had to learn new tools, would their countries be engaged? Even from a meeting at the end of 2020, when we got all of the networks together, it was resoundingly positive.

They said that they’d reached people that wouldn’t have otherwise come to the women’s network events. They’ve had more senior leadership engagement. They’d had more male engagement. They’d been asked to do more with less. The great thing about that is how they take that forward into 2021 and beyond, because now they’ve realised from an inclusive perspective, how perhaps un-inclusive, some of these networks were being, because all of the events were being run out of London, which don’t get me wrong, my home city, a great place to be, but there are people out there in the regions, there are people in other countries. Also when you’re designing an event that is incorporating lots of other countries as Yvonne will tell you, there’s a lot of cultural things that you need to consider. It’s put a big diversity lens on everything they do that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.

I think there’s been a huge amount of learning from what’s going on in 2021 that we can carry forward. And I also think it’s given voices to many, because people have put on events that wouldn’t have otherwise been brave enough to, because of the costs that they’ve incur, because of getting people to attend. Everyone was at home. Everyone’s an event manager these days. We’ve heard from voices and parts of society that we wouldn’t normally have heard from. It’s given the entrepreneurs a wider reach I think, to get their products out there, because people are in their space, they’re in the room online, we’re all online every day. So from that perspective, I think 2021/ 2022, we’re seeing a much different landscape. And again, for an inclusion and diversity perspective, it can only be a good thing if we continue to move some of these initiatives forward.

Julia: Wonderful, I think that’s a great moment there to turn to Cynthia for some research to support today’s discussion.

Cynthia: Women are more vulnerable to COVID-19-related economic effects, because of existing gender inequalities while most people’s lives and work have been negatively affected by the crisis. Analysis shows that overall, women’s jobs and livelihoods are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the July 2020 McKinsey article COVID-19 and gender equality countering the regressive effects, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39% of global employment, but account for 54% of overall job losses. What is good for gender equality is good for the economy and society as well. The COVID-19 pandemic puts that truth into stark relief and raises critically important choices.

Julia: Thank you as always to Cynthia for that research to support the discussion and let me just take a few moments to remind everybody how to find DiverCity podcast. You can find the links to all the research on our websites, DiverCitypodcast.com. Don’t forget that’s DiverCity with a C, not with an S, where you could find all our episodes and sign 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. And by the way, we’d love a rating, because it does all help to promote the show.

As we go into the last section of the podcast, I can’t tell you how much you’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation as well. I mean, not often I get to sit with two amazing entrepreneurs and talk about not only the impact of what’s going on with your particular areas, but also what it’s like as female entrepreneurs getting up and being resilient and delivering. A couple of things come to mind for me. One of them is about this conversation about corporate empathy.

Right now, leaders are having to think differently businesses are having to structure differently. That’s one piece that buzzes out of the first part of the conversation. The second is again, I keep returning to this point about who we’re overlooking? The question of social mobility and social inclusion. I wonder Yvonne, if I could come to you first of all, which is we’re at a time when there’s so much potential to be had, as you were saying in some of your earlier remarks, what are your thoughts about how do we make sure that we are thinking about social inclusion as an economy as we go forward in 2021?

Yvonne: With entrepreneurs, making such a huge contribution to the UK’s GDP, it’s incumbent not only on the corporates through the CSR, but I’ve recently coined a new phrase, PSR. And the PSR is Personal Social Responsibility. I think it’s incumbent on any entrepreneur who’s doing well, whether they’re doing well, or as long as they’ve got a business, they can make a contribution towards someone who needs a hand up, a leg up, some sort of help, whether it’s mentoring, coaching, sponsoring, advice, or just being there. Because right now the most helpful thing you can do for most of the entrepreneurs who are on their own is just having a sounding board, being there to help them. So for me, PSR is just as important as CSR, the social mobility.

Julia: That’s wonderful, because actually that’s really about citizenship. That’s about personal responsibility. That’s about stepping forward as entrepreneurs to support others, paying it forward. Vanessa, you’re a big supporter of that, I’ve heard you Vanessa in other events talk about purpose-led businesses and the frame of entrepreneurship and how organisations are, or how individuals are setting up businesses as well. Love to get your thoughts really about what are we seeing in terms of purpose-led? And when we think about social inclusion, is that bubbling up as well?

Vanessa: I think, like Yvonne, I see a number of entrepreneurs setting up and I think, we live in a much kinder society and again, last year, very much played to that. I see both women and young men setting up their businesses, where there is that underlying purpose of making the world a better place of donating percentages to profits, of being aware of the environment and things like that. I think, and to Yvonne’s point, despite companies having big CSR departments, which do great stuff, let’s go and build a wall and let’s go and paint this and paint that, I think they should actually be taking more of a leaf out of the entrepreneurs book and really seriously looking at their business models to work out, how can we be more purpose-led? And if that means, getting in a room with a bunch of start-ups and entrepreneurs and seeing what they’re doing, I mean, you imagine they’re building their businesses from the ground up, they’ve got a hell of a lot to teach some of these, what we would say is not archaic institutions, but institutions that have been around for years, but do what they’ve always done.

I think, to bring a more purpose-led ethos into some of the businesses that we see into the financial sector and to actually talk about some of the work that’s being done, because one of the things I do find, there are some companies that are already doing this, but they don’t shout about their successes. We know how it works in the city. People get a bit competitive, this is a good thing to get competitive about. Let’s see more purpose-led initiatives within businesses, tap up the entrepreneurs, they clearly know what they’re doing, and they’re building a society that we all want to live in, in terms of business.

Julia: I think that’s incredibly inspiring. Because everybody’s thinking about where are the opportunities? We were talking earlier in the show about, let’s uncover the opportunities and it sounds like there is one right there which could engage, not only entrepreneurs, think about the society and employees who are stepping forward and building businesses and where the city can step up to, which I think is amazing. I can’t believe how time flies. I’d like to finish with it with a final question. I’m asking everybody, because I’m personally deeply concerned that right now, as we are heading into, probably one of the toughest economic years ahead is that diversity and inclusion could fall down the corporate agenda. I’d love to hear from each of you compelling reasons why diversity and inclusion must remain high? Vanessa, can I come to you first of all?

Vanessa: Well, I would say that any firm that puts inclusion or diversity at the back of their agenda, will lose the war on talent. That’s the first thing, because again, people coming into the workplace, they want to join firms that have got that at the heart of who they are. From my perspective now is not the time. You hear mutterings of conversations at the back end of 2020, budgets being cut, and it’s always in D&I and it’s always in CSR, it’s known as the fluffy, nice to have stuff. It certainly isn’t fluffy. And it certainly definitely stuff that you should have. So no cutting budgets. Now more than ever with what went on in 2020, that we need to focus on the diversity of our people, and we will only do that by being inclusive.

Julia: And to see us out. Yvonne, why don’t you give us your compelling reasons why diversity and inclusion matters right now.

Yvonne: I think it’s all the things that Vanessa has said. I mean, she wrapped it up really, really well. But as somebody from a very visibly diverse background, I’ve got the two ticks, so I’ve got race and I’ve got gender. For me, and I can have another tick, I’ve got age,  I’m over 65 now. I think that there’s so much that diverse people and diverse talent can offer to keep this economy going right now, especially as we are with the whole COVID and lockdown. 2021 and 2022 is going to be the time to build. For us, we need all the help we can get from all corners of race, gender, all the strands of diversity. And as Vanessa said, this is not the time to cut back, because there are so many diamonds in the rough out there waiting to contribute.

Julia: That is just the most wonderful, inspiring way to end the show. I can’t tell you how much I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, but it’s always a joy to have you on the show. You are on our second ever episode three years ago, and talking about, WeAreTheCity. I’m a massive supporter of everything you’re doing. It’s been great not only to hear about how you’ve been so resilient this year, but also to hear about the incredible impact that you’re having. Thanks for joining us today.

Vanessa: Thank you.

Julia: Yvonne, thank you for all your insights. I can’t believe you’re over 65. I’m just reeling at the shock of that. You have energy and vibrancy, I hope and aspire, and all the listeners I hope you can hear in the passion in your voice as well. Thank you for everything that you do for being such an amazing role model as well. Yvonne, thank you for being with us.

Yvonne: Julia, it’s been an absolute pleasure and I want to know why I wasn’t asked earlier, so I could be on my second round! Maybe invite me back in two years’ time or three years’ time. Thank you, you’re done a great job and I look forward to engaging with you all. I hope it’s been useful.

Julia: It has indeed. It won’t be the last time we speak for sure, I’m certain of that. Thank you as always to all our listeners who have tuned into DiverCity podcast, I’ve been Julia Streets, thank you for listening.

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.

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