16 May Why are you here?
I’m often asked why I took up the role of the Chair of The Equal Group whose mission is to support companies to embed Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI). Whilst the question is framed far more subtlety, the bottom line is why is a middle-aged, middle-class, straight, white man interested in EDI in the workplace? I’m sure some will question whether it really matters to, or affects, me or even think it should be someone else’s problem.
Valid questions – so why do I want to be involved in promoting EDI?
The workplace reflects our society
First, let’s look at the bigger picture. The way we behave and interact with our colleagues at work is often a reflection of our society, so a lack of EDI in the wider community can frequently be replicated in the workplace. Conversely, but linked to our behaviours and perceptions, representation in the workplace, especially at senior levels, does not reflect the make-up of our people. This interrelationship between our society and our employment is so strong that progress in one will translate into the other. So, I firmly believe that addressing EDI where we work will bring wider societal benefits, as equality must be at the heart of any successful, productive and inclusive society. Just look at the IFS recent study on inequality for evidence of this.
It’s a business problem
In this period of talent shortages, it is critical that we cultivate and maximise potential throughout our population irrespective of background, gender, ethnicity or beliefs. Furthermore, the ever-increasing pace of change in business necessitates diversity of thinking to drive innovation – companies that cannot rapidly evolve or do not draw on knowledge & experience from many perspectives will fall behind or fail. As a previous Chief Executive of an energy and data consultancy, I know the importance of encouraging differing views to challenge the status quo, and how being more inclusive can stimulate growth.
We can change it
This is an issue we can really tackle as it is about our behaviours. I know it will not be quick or easy as a cultural change takes commitment and time, but effective, realistic steps can be made to drive EDI in the workplace. These steps must be proactive (it won’t just happen), simple & visible, and be able to demonstrate tangible progress. On saying that, I know how easy it can be, when running a dynamic business, for EDI to fall down the list of priorities. However, I believe organisations, such as The Equal Group, can help to provide useable, effective tools by seeking to harness tech and the power of data. Small, simple steps can collectively stimulate transformational change.
It’s about us all
So, despite, or perhaps because, of my background I know that the progression of EDI is essential for today’s society, particularly against the backdrop of the political, societal and environmental challenges we face today. Addressing EDI where we work is a key part of that. It can no longer be seen as a “nice to have” or subject to discretionary attention. As such, this cannot be seen as someone else’s problem or not a matter for me or you because of my/your position. It is an issue for us all, for the benefit of us all. And that’s why I want to be a part of it.
The time is now
History tells us that fundamental change happens when the need for change is embraced by the people of influence and/or power. Ironically, it is often these people who can do the most, by definition, favour the status quo. Frequently they are the last to see that change is needed. But leadership is all about having the courage and commitment to implement change. With the help of diversity and inclusion experts with the passion and tools to help transform the workplace for the better, business leaders have an opportunity now to make tangible strides forward in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for the benefit of their company, their employees, their family & friends, and society.
David Thorne is the Chair of The Equal Group, an organisation dedicated to optimising equality, diversity and inclusion efforts within the workplace. The Equal Group specialises in creating EDI focused technological platforms as well as providing innovative consulting solutions to help organisations get to grips with their EDI activities.