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Series Two, Episode Seven: Inclusivity Without Alienation

In an appetite to drive greater inclusion, how do we avoid the potential for over-swing and risk of further alienation? Robert Baker, Senior Partner and Global Client Director at Mercer, and Steve Brown, Director of Empiric and Group Director of Tourstan Group, join host Julia Streets to discuss the role that technology, intersectionality and alliances all play in driving change.

Robert Baker, Senior Partner and Global Client Director, Mercer

Robert Baker

Robert Baker is a Senior Partner and Global Client Director at Mercer, the major global human resources consulting firm.

Based in their London office, he is a member of Mercer’s Multinational Client Group and is responsible for maintaining and developing Mercer’s relationships with a number of key global clients across all lines of business and all geographies.

Robert joined Mercer in 1978, after graduating from Sussex University with an honours degree in Economics and spent the first twenty four years of his career in Investment Consulting, helping drive the firm’s growth in this space globally and becoming Deputy Head of the Practice.

He moved into the Client Relationship Management team in 2002 and became a Global Client Relationship Director. He has subsequently taken on the relationship management of some of the firm’s most prestigious global clients.

Robert has a strong interest in diversity and inclusion and is a member of the steering committees for Mercer’s Women’s Networks for the European Region. He is also a member of Mercer’s UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. Robert is one of the leaders on Men Matter – an initiative to engage men at Mercer in gender equality.

Robert is also Co-President on the Board of the PWN Global, a leading global network of women and men committed to accelerating progress towards gender balance in business and society. Robert is particularly focused on engaging men to support gender equality, at work, at home and in all aspects of life.

You can follow Mercer on Twitter @mercer.

Steve Brown

Steve started his career in recruitment in 2001 with a global recruiter. Sharing the Empiric vision, he joined Empiric in 2007 as a senior consultant, to assist with Sam and Stephan’s growth plans. Steve progressed through the ranks and built a successful team forming part of the organisation’s London office.

Steve personally develops new and existing client relationships through the recruitment process, whilst also being heavily involved in day to day operational elements and the strategic requirements and logistics of growing a business.

His commitment to the company and results achieved were rewarded and recognised by his appointment to Director in October 2010. Steve’s current remit focuses on the Account Delivery team, servicing and developing Empiric’s major accounts, whilst supporting the business operations.

You can follow Steve on Twitter @SB_EMPIRIC.

Series Two, Episode Seven Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in financial services. In each episode, we seek to shine a light on successful progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer practical ideas to help drive change. Today we’re going to be exploring the topic of inclusivity without alienation.

Throughout the series, so many of our guests have argued for, or have supported the premise, that in order to achieve true diversity, this must be accompanied by true inclusion. In an appetite to encourage greater inclusive representation, how do we avoid the risk of potential overswing, and the risk of alienation?

Today, I’m joined by Robert Baker, Senior Partner and Global Client Director at Mercer, the international human resources consulting firm, and Steve Brown, Director of Empiric, Specialist Recruiter with a focus on data, digital, cloud, and security.

Robert Baker is a member of Mercer’s Multinational Client Group, responsible for maintaining and developing key global client relationships across every business line and around the world. He has a strong interest in diversity and inclusion, a member of the steering committee for Mercer’s European Women’s Network, he is also a member of the firm’s UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. A key part of his focus is to drive change as one of the leaders on Men Matter, an initiative to engage men at Mercer in gender equality. Robert, welcome.

Robert: Hi Julia. Thanks very much.

Julia: Steve Brown started his career in recruitment with a global recruiter before joining Empiric in 2007 to help the management team grow the business. Over the past decade, Steve has progressed through the ranks, building out his London team, developing new and existing client relationships all throughout the recruitment process, whilst also being heavily involved in day-to-day operations. As a director, Steve is focused on helping clients hire more diverse and inclusive talent and to benefit from the performance opportunities that true diversity can offer. Steve, welcome.

Steve: Hi there, Julia.

Julia: At the start of each show, we invite each guest to tell us a bit about what they’re up to. Robert, let me start with you.

Robert: Well, let me just start by saying that actually I’m very proud to work at Mercer, the global consulting firm. In fact, I’ve spent 40 years there, just this January. One of the reasons for that really is that I like the supportive culture we’ve created. I get to work with amazing colleagues and amazing clients, as well. There’s lots of development potential professionally.

One of the things that Mercer’s very committed to is gender balance. In fact, we publish When Women Thrive research, which basically highlights how organisations can thrive by really accessing all of the talent and basically making sure that women get opportunities throughout the talent pipeline and at the top end in leadership.

I’m very proud to be working for an organisation that’s very committed to that. The most recent initiative you mentioned that I’ve been working on is Men Matter at Mercer, where we’ve invited men to support and help advance gender balance in our organisation, and I’ll speak a bit more about that later.

The other thing is that Mercer supported me to join and become a member of the board for PWN Global, which is one of the leading global women’s networks. I took that role on four years ago as the vice president for Engaging Men, and I’m now actually the co-president of the Women’s Network. This is a global network with three and a half thousand members in 29 cities, et cetera, so really delighted to be working in that space and getting the experience from doing that, as well.

Julia: Congratulations, by the way, on the appointment. Just to unpick the acronyms, PWN?

Robert: Professional Women’s Network. It actually dropped Professional Women’s Network. It’s just calling itself PWN now because we want to include men.

Julia: Which makes perfect sense. Wonderful. Robert, thank you very much indeed. Steve, tell us about what you’re focused on at the moment.

Steve: Likewise, there’s lots of things that we’re doing at Empiric. We’re a growing company, and I’m happy that I’ve been there now, this will be moving into my 11th year. I joined when there was only three of us and it was three guys. Now we’re just over 100 people.

Along that journey, or very early on within that journey, we actually worked out that diversity was going to be key to our growth, so we started doing what we could as we grew. As we hit things, as well, when we had our first mom go on maternity leave, she’d been with us for six years and we didn’t want to lose her because she’d been with us as training development manager from 13 staff to 50.

That led us to then review our maternity and paternity policy, so we now show parity for same sex couples. We pay three months full pay after a year, six months after three years, but we now offer the primary parent flexible working for up to 18 months where they can work remotely, but they adopt an hourly rate equivalent of their salary. That’s worked brilliantly.

From an LGBT perspective, we’re Stonewall champions. We go along the Pride Parade as a business, and considering it’s a Saturday, it’s people’s spare time, we have such a high attendance rate. It’s more that people don’t go because they’ve already got other plans rather than that they don’t want to go.

That’s really the key that we’ve realised as a business that to really get the value out of diversity and make it that you present yourself as inclusive is by engagement and involvement. Particularly, gender balance is an issue. Obviously all diversity is important, but the gender balance at the moment, obviously figures float around, but it’s say 17% women in tech.

We’ve got increasing demands from clients that are looking to balance their gender but they’re looking for ways for how, because if there’s only 17% women, we’re a recruitment company and we can just move talent around and we’re quite happy doing that, don’t get me wrong. We then put our heads together at the beginning of 2016 to see what could we do as a business that could utilise our skills and networks to have a real impact?

That’s where we’ve launched, it’s a program that I head up, but was jointly formulated as an idea by my CEO, Sam Kamyar, called Next Tech Girls. We are facilitating tech work experience for girls in school, so from ages 14, 15 plus, out in tech departments across industry.

Since launch, we’re now approaching 350 girls that we’ve placed. We’ve got links with 129 schools across London. In our first year, we engaged 72 companies to either actually host or be ready to host girls. It’s brilliant. The feedback’s been really positive from the girls saying it wasn’t as they expected. They’re now going to explore it further. We’re even getting grass shoots of, “We’ve kept them.”

One of our first Next Tech Girls got offered a place at Ada’s College next year, and that was a girl from south London that didn’t necessarily have the link without our program. We’re then also getting companies’ feedback saying it was an amazing experience. It’s amazing the impact if you’ve got 20 guys on a de team that if you host them two 14, 15 year old girls, the way that it practically has an impact.

Julia: Always the best change starts from within, and I’m really interested in this intersection between starting with a business that starts with three people and then grows to 100, versus an organisation that is global in its scope, its scale, its long heritage, and the fact you were saying you’ve been there a while, Robert.

When you think about everything that Steve’s talked about, and culture really came through very clearly for that for me, and also looking at some of the skills … In your appetite for inclusivity, are there any particular areas you focus on in terms of bringing new talent in when you’re trying to bring others around you to drive change?

Robert: Thanks, and I think what’s absolutely key is that we can certainly recruit women into our organisation, but if we don’t have a culture and we don’t have an environment that supports women, they’re not necessarily going to stay very long.

When you look at organisations globally, you see a real thinning out of the female talent as you go up through the ranks of the organisation. It’s almost as if women find that the environment is not one that’s necessarily conducive to them, and actually, we’re also finding now that men are feeling that that environment isn’t necessarily working for them as well if they can’t work flexibly, if they can’t take enough paternity leave, et cetera.

One of the things that we stress is that it’s good to get the women in and certainly we’re doing that. I think globally, we’re achieving that, but we’ve also got to make it an environment where they feel that they can stay and they can thrive and they can get to the top if that’s where they want to get to. That’s where a lot of the work’s got to be done, because at the moment, we still have a situation where it’s 80% of executive positions are held by men. We have a thinning talent pipeline as we go up.

Julia: The core of that is all about retention. I guess the risk is when you’re retaining, and the number of jobs almost thin out as you go through the ranks, it becomes almost a binary discussion about is it a man or is it going to be a woman if there are limited seats around a boardroom table, for example. Key to that is it’s not about displacement necessarily, it’s about inclusion and getting men to support the career journey of women and not feel threatened by that. Is that something that you look at or you think about?

Robert: Absolutely, because what we’re really pointing out is that unless organisations grow and thrive, there’s not going to be jobs for women, men, or any gender. I think basically what we’ve got to really convince people about is that there’s a business case for doing this. There’s a business case for more gender equality and more gender balance. That actually is that the organisation will be able more easily to innovate and grow. There’s lots of good statistics around that show that companies that have high proportions of women in their leadership actually perform better. The Credit Suisse 3500 study, for example, shows that.

It’s convincing men and women that having gender balance is good for the organisation and then obviously part of what we’re doing as well is convincing men that gender balance is good for them, because it’s not a zero sum game. Actually, the pie can increase for everybody and if the pie increases for everybody, that means there are opportunities for men that get it and women that get it and hopefully then we can achieve gender balance without alienating people.

Julia: How do you do that? There’s some practical things, programs you’re running?

Robert: Well, with the Men Matter program, for example, that we launched, I reached out to men that I thought might be interested in this and might be supportive of it, and then I spoke to female colleagues about men that they thought might be interested and supportive. I sent out a note to all of these men and said, “Look, we men need to help. We need to step up. We’re going to have a meeting and we’re all going to get together and we’re going to discuss how we can do this.”

I wrote out and 100 men put their hand up to get involved in this first meeting. I think in the end, there were about 65 men there in the room. It was kind of interesting to be in a room with all men. It did seem a bit odd, given my Women’s Network work, et cetera.

What was really good was that the men felt almost liberated to be able to talk about what their real ambitions were and it wasn’t necessarily about working 24/7 and going for the ultimate in career progress. A lot of those men wanted to have work life balance. They wanted to be able to work more flexibly. They wanted to take paternity leave. It was almost a relief to know that there are other men in the organisation that felt the same way.

I think it was reaching out to men that we knew would be interested, but then almost uniting them together, showing them that we had a lot of men with common interest. Already what we’ve seen is the whole conversation within Mercer’s changed about being a man within Mercer and what that’s meant is that now the conversation’s changed, the culture’s changing, where men now talk more openly about their commitments outside of work. The women can see that. They’re picking up on that and they can see that the environment’s changing.

One thing we did in this meeting, actually, which was very powerful, was I got a video made, of women at Mercer talking about what it was like to be a woman at Mercer, some of the challenges that they faced. When we played this video back to the men, they were gobsmacked at some of the challenges these women were talking about.

Julia: What sort of things were they talking about?

Robert: Things like being stereotyped into certain roles and it being assumed that they weren’t necessarily hungry for promotion or assumed they were junior in certain situations, et cetera. Really, what these women were saying to the men was, “Listen, we’re as ambitious, we’re as able to achieve as you are, but we need the opportunity. We need you to stop the biases, if you like, against us.”

To say that really opened the men’s eyes. At the end of the meeting, the men came out of it making quite a number of commitments to how they would go away and change their own departments and divisions. We’ve actually seen quite a bit of change coming through as a result of that.

Julia: When was this program started?

Robert: We started last May and we’ve been working on it.

Julia: Very soon, you’ll have your first year coming up. It’ll be interesting to see the results. Are you measuring the impact? What are those metrics?

Robert: Yes. That’s a great question, because I think certainly one of the things we’re looking at is, what does it feel like in the organisation? Does it feel like we are changing the conversation, we’re changing the culture? Are people more engaged around this? Are women more engaged and do they see change? I think from the engagement scores, we’ll see over time that there will be an enhancement in that. Are our teams working more effectively? Do we feel we’re better connected now with the customers? Some of these are softer measures, but actually, the end result is going to be are we working more effectively, are we achieving better results? It’s early days yet, but obviously we’re looking at all of that stuff as we go through.

Julia: A key phrase came out of that, which was, “For our customers,” ultimately. Steve, I think the customers you’re recruiting for, and also thinking about partly the Next Tech Girls initiative that you’ve got going, but also in the world of recruitment, are you seeing some pressure from customers to get engaged with the initiatives that you’re driving? What are those customer pressures that you’re seeing come through?

Steve: Yes, definitely. To be honest, it’s quite refreshing, because just to touch on what Robert’s saying there in terms of the men, when it comes to a gender program, it’s amazing how engaged, obviously we’re saying within tech, there are a lot of senior men, a lot of CIOs, CTOs are men, but they’re really buying into this.

At companies, you’ve got lot of pressure. Obviously, there’s the board level. This is a topic, when you’re actually looking at it, even if you’re not looking at the altruistic and the true diversity benefits, which some people won’t be, necessarily, you can even look at it just at the pure business level, as well. There’s equal measure here. Actually, there should be equality across all strands. Having more balanced teams creates better products, creates better engagement with your customers, and it’s going to improve your bottom line. So it’s like all of these things are now coming together.

Julia: It’s always business performance that will drive change. Thinking of the world of financial services, let’s call it for what it is. These are nice to haves, but ultimately, it’s about increasing the bottom line and gaining a competitive edge.

Steve: I think that’s where change is really starting to take place now, because obviously a lot of companies may have just bolted on initiatives through pressure or through needing to look to be seen to be doing the right thing. When they are these siloed, isolated things, well, if times start tightening up, then perhaps those programs don’t continue, whereas now, if it’s integrated on the fact that, “This is just going to make us a better business and going to make us more profitable,” then it needs to exist. It’s just part of day-to-day-

Julia: Can you give us some examples of where those true benefits have come through? Again, I come back to this whole thing about metrics and measurements, an anonymous customer that has actually got the joke, driven change, and seen some commercial benefit.

Steve: Again, if I just lift out of some of the things from the program, so we started this thing because we just wanted to inspire girls and give them an opportunity to see what’s going on and make an informed decision rather than a perceived one, but actually a lot of the business benefits then come without us realising.

The Department of Work and Pensions, they hosted three 17-year-old girls in the Universal Tax Credit Team. One of them just came up with an idea in a meeting that then everyone was like, “Oh,” scribbling down, and the service design team took that off and explored it further.

From this program, there’s actual benefit there because these are customers of tomorrow. These are teenagers that are more digitally native than we are. They’ve got opinions they’re not shy of sharing, and they’re not bounded by what’s possible. They just say, “Well, why don’t you do it like that?”

Another company were a little bit skeptical of doing work experience. They’re a small fintech startup, but shared it, and they had 30 people come forward saying, “We’d like to get involved.” That was from different teams, so then they weren’t very mature of having any real networks. Well, now they’ve got an inclusive one.

From hosting the girls, three people stood out for their mentoring skills. This is a growing company. They’re hiring junior people, so now they’ve said, “Well, actually, through natural selection, you’re really great mentoring the 15-year-olds, you can have our next junior developers.”

It’s like anything – if you approach it in the right way, then you’ll find the benefits. If you do it as a box ticking exercise, it will just be done and you’ll tick the box. Whereas actually, if you look for the benefits, it’s kind of reinventing work experience.

If you thought of work experience, like, “Oh, we’ve got to put up with someone for a week or two and find something for them to do, get them making coffee, photocopying.” Actually, if we think, “Well, we’ve got an app and these are teenagers that use apps daily, why don’t we get them user acceptance testing it? We’ll explain that’s a job, that there’s a career in it, but also we’ll take all their feedback for free.”

Julia: It’s interesting you talk about that, because there are some very specific benefits from taking a very different approach to engaging with talent. I love the fintech story. Thinking about this from a completely different end of the scale and a global organisation, Robert, your intention, presumably, I don’t put words in your mouth, is to drive the inclusion initiatives at some scale. Do you look to technology to help you do that? Are you looking to combine these two worlds?

Robert: Oh, absolutely. I mentioned earlier just using simple video technology, for example, and showing men what it’s like from a woman’s perspective is great. But actually we went one step further. I was very lucky to meet a lovely lady called Yasmine Boudiaf, who runs a virtual reality experience company.

As we got talking at an innovation event, I was thinking, I’m trying to bring men and women together and build empathy between men and women. Virtual reality can do that, as well, based on some of the things that she was telling me. We said, “Well, why don’t we try working together and seeing if we can actually do something practical and useful to help really move the needle on this?”

What we focused on was some of these microaggressions that I maybe talked about before, which is for example, in a meeting, men might assume that the woman’s junior or ask her to take notes or talk over her or just assume she couldn’t possibly be involved in, for example, a tech project.

What we did was, we didn’t have a huge budget, we invited Yasmine in with her cameras and we filmed some typical scenarios that she’d researched by reaching out to women and saying, “What are the typical microaggressions that you’ve come across?”

It was really interesting, because I’d just read the book Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, and I thought, “My god, this is a book that every man has got to read,” because it talks about what it’s really like, a woman’s experience, some of the harassment, some of the issues, et cetera.

Anyway, we put a couple of programs together, and one actually was called Tech Project, funnily enough. We filmed from the woman’s perspective an interaction between the boss, who’s a man, coming in, and talking to the man and the woman who have been working on the project. The boss that comes in spends all his time talking to the man about how well the project went, and even said to the man, “We need someone to lead it. Would you be prepared to do it?” And completely ignored the woman.

Then, we played that back to men and they could see from a woman’s perspective what it’s like to be involved in an interaction where you’re completely ignored and your contributions dumbed down, et cetera. Most of the men that have seen that virtual reality experience have been shocked by what it’s like to be treated in that way and it’s really opened their eyes. They’ve said, “Gosh, I really do need to now check my behaviour, check my attitude, how I work and interact with female colleagues.”

We were very lucky, we got invited to the Oslo Innovation Week in September last year to talk about this and really show how it worked and we had people with the goggles on, et cetera. It was just a really amazing experience. I think actually that’s something you can do at scale with a workshop.

We’re working on how we can do that, and of course, because it’s using the new technology, virtual reality, it’s quite a sexy thing to be doing, as well. A lot of men are quite interested in putting these goggles on and seeing what it’s like. Actually, we’re finding it’s quite a powerful way to get that message across. The men are wanting to do it. They want to put the goggles on. We’re not alienating them. We’re not saying, “You must put the goggles on.” They’re actually volunteering to do it. It’s a good way to really build the empathy in a way that is inclusive with them.

Julia: Given everything we’ve talked about here is about gender, obviously one of the things we think about in the podcast is the entire spectrum that is diversity and inclusion. Steve, from your programs working in gender, how do you look at the rest of the spectrum and drive change from what you’ve learned so far?

Steve: The way we’re doing that is we want to look at all of the diversity trends. Some are a bit more challenging than others, but internally, and everything tends to start internally, it’ll either be that we’re experiencing something or know that we’re likely to. When we were three guys, we didn’t have maternity per se to consider, but when it hit us first time, then that drove us into action.

From an LGBT perspective, we hired an openly gay director. Having him come into the business and starting imparting his perceptions, his views, his opinions of some of the things that are going on within the business, it got us to reflect and then apply changes, what could we do. We’re always look at how we’re doing things internally because we want to attract the best talent internally for our growth, and then how can we then filter that out.

From the Next Tech Girls program, that’s come about because internally, we were looking at our gender balance, because all of a sudden, we looked around and it was like, “Hang on a minute, there’s more guys, and why is that happening? What can we do to make it different?” We launched a women’s network internally. That then threw up some things that we didn’t even notice, and it made it real and practical, which I think is the key.

Julia: Can you give us some examples?

Steve: One of the things is in our office, as you come in through our lifts, we’ve got a bar, a Formula One car, and a golf simulator. Now, when we actually implemented them, it was to make it a ‘jazzy’ office. There’s not many offices you walk past a Formula One car in reception, but the feedback was that it was quite masculine, unintentionally, though, because actually, ironically, there’s a lot more women that jump in the Formula One car than men. It does balance out a little bit.

We’ve got some key quotes on our walls, so in our boardroom, we’ve got Warren Buffet’s, “It takes 20 years to build a relationship. It takes five minutes to ruin it.” We’ve got Steve Jobs in another, and it was one of the women that picked up that all six of them are men. Again, we didn’t do it intentionally. I think that’s when you then click that it’s like, “Well, that unconscious. It genuinely was an unconscious bias.”

Often, when you talk about unconscious bias or approach it, people I think can be a bit shut down of, “Oh no, it’s this mumbo jumbo,” or, “I don’t get it,” or, “I’m not it.” When you get an example like that, well, yes, we decorated the office. We didn’t intentionally do it to put off women. But actually, if they’re picking up on those little vibes, those little pointers that we’re missing, that can be putting them off.

Julia: The environmental dynamic really has an important role to play in that.

Robert: Julia, I was just thinking actually as you were talking, Steve, about this. I have a son who has Asperger’s syndrome, and I’ve been working with groups who are trying to get people with Asperger’s syndrome into work. Of course, Asperger people are extremely good at spotting patterns, et cetera, so they often have a real tendency to flow into technology-type employment situations.

What’s really been interesting working with that group is about the adjustments you need to make in the working environment so that somebody coming in with Asperger’s syndrome feels comfortable in the office environment, that people understand, for example, that they like things to be the same. If you start moving their desk around and changing things that are unexpected, that can really freak them out.

I think when we think about diversity and inclusion, it’s basically, as you say, due to all different types. I think increasingly we started to think about, “Okay, so how do we get neurological differences and how do we get people with different ways of thinking into our organisation?”

Julia: This is the perfect moment to turn to Cynthia and Robert, who have been looking out for industry research to support our discussion today.

Cynthia: We’ve recently come across the term ambient belonging. Ambient belonging is feeling comfortable in a space, somewhere you are accepted, valued, and included. With subtle design choices, office environments may unintentionally discourage people from unrepresented backgrounds from feeling like they belong. Why does ambient belonging matter?

Robert PF: In the study, Ambient Belonging: How Stereotypical Cues Impact Gender Participation in Computer Science, researchers examined the impact of ambient belonging by setting up two different web design offices. One was designed as a stereotypical tech office with Star Trek posters, video games, and beer bottles, while the other was designed with more neutral themes, like nature posters, coffee mugs, and water bottles.

When participants in the study were asked to look at the office spaces and choose where they’d like to work, women were far less likely to choose the company with the stereotypical office than men were. When women entered the stereotypical office, which contained objects that both men and women in the study rated as strongly associated with men, it led them to question whether they would belong in that organisation.

Cynthia: It will be interesting to see how ambient belonging plays out in the interiors of banking and financial institutions.

Julia: Thank you, Cynthia and Robert. Links to the references and research can be found on our website,, where you can also sign up for early notifications of future episodes. Please do follow us on Twitter @DiverCityPod, and you can find us on BrightTalk and all good podcast channels. If you’ve enjoyed the show, we’d really appreciate a rating. It all helps promote the series.

Now, let me just go back to this question about driving change. We’ve talked about corporate performance, we’ve talked about culture, we’ve even talked about environmental conditions. Are there any other key drivers that would encourage the next generation into the world of financial services, into the city, where they may be feeling excluded?

Robert: Well, I think the key actually is to get to girls and boys early, so that the stereotypes that conform in their view or the view of their parents or their teachers about what girls do, what boys do, for example, aren’t too hardwired before they get older.

One of the things that I was really delighted to be able to do last year was to go into an all girls school in Tulse Hill, which was 80% black, and talk to the girls there about ambition and career prospects. Particularly, I focused on how the world of work is changing and how actually, they’re crying out in the tech world, as we’ve heard, for girls that can code, for example.

Rather than thinking about maybe more traditional things that they might have been focused on in the past, dare I say it, like being hairdressers or beauticians or whatever, to think maybe about getting the kind of skills that would really make them invaluable to organisations. I think really to have a higher ambition for themselves and to really embrace the education opportunities that they had.

For me, a lot of this is about organisations reaching out to those schools and creating the connections with them, because often, those girls’ parents maybe don’t come from the city from financial institutions, so it behoves us in the city to reach out to these schools and to really start to get the message across that they’ve got opportunities, we need them, and how can we work together to help change their ambitions and bring them through.

Julia: That completely aligns with one of our previous guests actually, Miranda Brawn, who came on and talked about the importance of role modeling about setting ambition and encouraging girls, girls and boys in fact, to be much more ambitious in their expectations and to show that there is a career path there, which I think is wonderful.

Thinking about your world, Steve, which is around data and security and technology – let’s wrap it up in a neat bundle of technology. Is this what you’re seeing, or are the dynamics different?

Steve: Yes and no. Through the initiative, I totally agree with Robert. Having spoken at many schools, you get exactly the same thing. One of our key drivers is around social mobility – you can’t be what you can’t see. If you’re in that family that hasn’t got mum and dad potentially working at all, well then that’s going to limit what you believe is possible for you, whether you’re a boy or girl. Equally, those links to them.

Then in terms of, say, the experience into the market, yes and no again, because if you look at a lot of foreign countries, say India for instance, they’re very quick to jump on outsourcing as an opportunity. You see a lot of Indian developers, coders, project managers, the whole spectrum of the tech world.

Obviously the challenges can then be communication skills and so on, that can be the barrier. But actually, the competence and being able to do it and actually in their country having the skill and talent pipeline coming through, they’ve got it, but it’s then being able to bring that over to the UK or into other countries and have it that it’s recognised and utilised to the same level and the same degree.

It’s all about engagement for us. You can put a job out up on a job board and have people apply. The key is actually going out to market to build communities within these talent pools, within those areas, and that’s across all strands.

We host many events to have it that we’ll have women only events if it’s so determined in their community, and there’s a lot of communities out there, like the DevelopHer Network, Ada’s list, within the women’s space, but then equally, there’s groups and communities across all areas. We look to have it that we engage and host and support across all those spectrums so that then, as well, our brand’s aligned to those communities to have it that the CV’s then come to us.

Julia: Do you think we have a way to go in each of those areas, or will the unlocking moment be when those interest groups begin to interact, so the inclusion comes together, or is that too soon?

Steve: I think some are more developed, and obviously we’ve spoken a lot around gender balance today. I think at the moment, it’s really up there. To say it’s in vogue is probably the wrong way to describe it, but it is. It’s on a lot of people’s agendas, so it’s getting that spotlight so it’s getting the momentum.

There are other more challenging ones. We support a transgender group called Transformation. We host groups with them, host events. Again, it’s eye-opening. It’s probably a more challenging area of diversity.

I think for organisations, it depends where they are in their maturity level. If you’re starting to look at diversity, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying you might not look at transgender being your first topic, because it might be too much for people to comprehend and understand.

But actually, if you look at gender balance in tech, for instance, well, it’s very evident, it’s very clear, it’s very understanding. Most people tend to get it as well in the sense that there will be lots of mums and dads out there that have got daughters that would want them to have the same opportunities.

Julia: Actually, we had a guest on another podcast, Ruben from the Makers Academy. One of the arguments that he was putting forward was that it could be a very leapfrogging moment. When you begin to understand diversity and inclusion through the eyes and the lens of somebody who’s going through that transgender journey, you begin to realise actually some of those unconscious biases are so prevalent, that it can actually be very enlightening.

Robert, what are the big things that you’re thinking about at the moment in the context of that entire spectrum?

Robert: Yes. I think what we’ve been reflecting on is the way that the workplace is going to change, the kind of workforce we’re going to need in the future. When I talk to major companies about what they’re looking for, they’re looking for employees that can basically up-skill themselves with support where they’ve got a mentality of lifelong learning. Because whatever gender or whatever spectrum of diversity and inclusion we’re on, we all need to be able to develop our skills for the future world where 35% of the jobs, for example, don’t even exist yet.

So how are we going to change in that environment? We need to be able to empower all of our people with that ability to learn, develop, adjust their careers, and what they’re focusing on so that we can have the workforce that can work alongside the robots, work with the automation that we’re going to see in the new world that’s going to come. I think adaption, lifelong learning, up-skilling, those are the key messages that I want to bring.

Julia: Robert, Steve, we’re going to leave it there, I’m afraid. I just want to thank you both for taking the time to join us today. Thank you for your time.

Kieron: This episode of 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.

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