Diversity: the killer app?

Monday, September 07, 2015

18:00 - 21:00

With the link between diversity and success being well documented, the debate is rapidly moving to how to build a diverse organisation quickly. Organisations that are slow to achieve seem destined to become less relevant. A 2015 study by McKinsey found that UK companies with 10% higher gender and racial diversity in their management teams have a 6% higher profit before tax.

Why is this? They make better decisions and innovate faster. They tend to find it easier to hire top talent and connect with customers, and have higher levels of employee satisfaction. But as we’ll explore with some of the leading minds in this field, an intentional strategy can be more complex than one might think.

We had an outstanding panel. We heard a keynote from a woman whose TED talk has been watched by 1.3m people. She was joined by the CEO of a big business, a sustainability expert who has taken on the diversity brief and a portfolio director. Moderated by Axel Threlfall, our panel included:

We discussed issues such as;

  • How important is it to tackle prejudice in a world of porous boundaries?
  • Should we expect the diversity premium to increase in the future?
  • What practical steps can businesses take to promote diversity?
  • How and why should companies report diversity?
  • Is it right to promote some diversity over others?
  • Who should own diversity in the business?

We co-produced this evening with Sky, who have become our ongoing Diversity Partner.


Axel Threlfall Reuters

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Bella Vuillermoz Sky

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Cindy Gallop IfWeRanTheWorld

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Julie Chakraverty Aberdeen Asset Management

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Ronan Dunne O2

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Round Tables

The business case for diversity

A recent McKinsey study found companies with 10% higher gender and racial diversity in their management teams have a 6% higher profit. Building on the panel discussion, we ask this table to articulate the business case behind this - the ability to innovate, hire talent, connect with customers & more. Does diversity offer competitive advantage, and who needs to better understand this?

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This question from a roundtable perspective initially deemed redundant given the presence around the table, that in, all representatives around the table were deeply involved in initiating (in some light or another) a diverse workplace initiative. Isn’t the business case for diversity clear?
The ‘traditional’ structure of business hierarchy instigates a decision making strategy from the top down; all major decisions being made from board members and the CEO who are often predominantly white, males and traditionally minded, this can in many cases bias the structural make-up of a work force to a fixed and un-diverse demographic.
Overruling consensus from this discussion demonstrated a clear absence of constructive input from the middle management strata of a business; the sector of an industry where diversity can have the most effective impact; on workforce mentality, dynamics, social interaction and productivity. It is this sector of industry that needs a diversity injection to align with the Mckinsey reports impressive findings.
Secondly, recruitment has a large factor to play in the development of a more diverse work place. It can be difficult to introduce gender equality into a male-dominant workplace, beyond just presence alone. if a workplace has been traditionally run by a male workforce, the layout and internal-behaviour can be sometimes need a full-redesign in order to attract a female-presence. A case from AB Agri and the introduction of gender equality amongst lorry driving staff had this ‘entire workplace-redesign’ requirement.
Further to this, how is it possible to incentivise a diverse recruitment strategy? Financial incentive to the recruitment body can promote the introduction of a presence in the work environment that is there for the incorrect reason, placed for purpose rather than for their capabilities and best fit.
The final factor to be touched upon is how diversity within the workplace directly translates into making financial ‘business-sense’. By broadening the internal make-up of a business, the ideas-pool of a business encompasses a larger range of opinions from different gender, racial or social opinions; this gives scope to a wider target audience and thus greatens its multiplicity.
This write-up encapsulates the main themes touched on through out this roundtable discussion. The most effective and promising motion that can envisage to instigate this future of change for the better would be a workplace redesign, creating a culture where anybody can be a champion, promote how diversity can align with business aims and show how it make’s financial sense.

Business Case for Diversity
What would you say to convince clients and colleagues that diversity needs to be built into all aspects of business operations from supply chain to customers and everything inbetween?
• Make the business case: bottom line financials, increase innovation, attract and retain talent, understand and meet customer needs and show the data to back it up
• Refer to the business case and story tell
• Reflect the diversity of your customer base in your business so you can beter appeal to them. The customer base is usually going to be much more diverse than the people implementing the decision making
• Make sure that decision makers are not only meeting the bottom line demands of the business but doing so while being inclusive.
• Mandate, mandate, mandate! Convince the Board and ExCo with the business case first have the evidence to back it up. Then get critical diversity actions mandated e.g. inclisve language in job adverts, diverse recruitment panels, all jobs advertised internally, and diverse teams at every level of the business.
• Must change behaviours of management and in doing so recruitment processes will change. Need to position yourself so that you’re recruiting your future company.
What else would you work on to encourage inclusivity?
• More mandate. One attendee suggested that in the yearly appraisal review the diversity question “what have you done to encourage diversity in our business” should be mandated and be more verifiable, so that changes are actually implemented, and it is more than just ticking a box.
• “You can’t sell to a minority that you don’t represent”
• Recruitment is more than just finding new talent; it is about retaining talent as well. Nurturing current employees is very important. Other examples of recruitment were recruiting older people, as well as women back after maternity leave. Experience does not fade for those over 50 or for those who take a few years off to raise children.
• Need to change people’s mind-set, old school ideas need to be left in the past
o Examples include more activities suitable for women and minorities rather than pub nights, football and golf outings that appeal mostly to white men
If you have all the money and the talent, what do you do next?
• Engage across industries
• Make sure that the diversity agenda does not just include gender. It should also include ethnicity, disability, broad range of ages
• It is a common perception that diversity means lowering the bar, when it should be widening the gate.
• Need to educate people about unconscious bias
• Level the playing field, need to broaden horizons to more than just white men
• However, it is important to not punish white men either, levelling shouldn’t be about bringing anyone down, it’s not motivating
• Need to work with your customer base, all customers will have a different argument for diversity as all customer bases have different needs
• If you are going to get diversity on the agenda show which current business challenge diversity can help to solve.

Empowering diversity

This table will discuss key measures for empowering diversity within an organisation. Are Diversity officers necessary, and where should they report? What interventions work at the recruitment phase? How can an organisation position itself as an employed of choice? Is it right to set diversity targets? What obstacles can an organisation expect to have to overcome?

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Table 2a
Presence of diversity officers
Overall opinion: Diversity officers can be important expert that have time to focus on the diversity specifically that can initially sit within HR but this role should develop going forwards so that it can be further incorporated into the organisation. Few points to consider:
- Measuring an organisation’s performance on diversity metrics. Penalise board members for not performing.
- Depends on what stage your organisation is at to how you embed diversity. Target minority demographic to be champions and not the status quo - need all backgrounds to get involved
- Need an expert to be responsible for diversity to champion people to promote diversity within their teams.
- Setting up a women’s network - quarterly sessions where potential female leaders have discussions with the board. A director of change gets buy in from the directors which drives greater innovation. Hesitated in contacting head of HR about programme because there is a risk of it being too formalised and official rather than a grass-roots approach.
HR can be seen as negative sometimes - should affect where the diversity officer sits to have the greatest impact. Good to have officers in the short term but it would be expected that they are not needed in the long term. Possibly sit in a business development and innovation role next time.
Culture is very important - having the role report in to the business is a good bridge between employees and board

Interventions during recruitment phase
Overall opinion: Employers need to re-think their current recruitment practices to attract a more diverse set of applicants - from restructuring application requirements to how candidates are fairly interviewed and selection committees
Remove UCAS points to encourage social mobility and ethnic diversity. People from a more privileged background are more likely to be white, middle class. Facebook introduced unconscious bias training - to help them uncover these biases - actually tackles these issues rather than just being aware of them.
Discuss quotas in the business, it may prove necessary - equal shortlists would be better. Recruiting for teams not just individuals - describe how you want the team to look like would lead to greater diversity.
Would be useful to have equally qualified people - however people shouldn’t be pick up because of background or quota. One person’s opinion shouldn’t be used in recruitment decision. Also, the selection team should be diverse as well.
Another idea, send bullet points of CV rather than full CV so that the decision making panel is aware of candidates competency rather than background.
More open discussions should be conduted at interview about flexibility policies etc. It shouldn’t be a barrier/worry.
Organisation’s positioning as an employer of choice

Overall opinion: Better communication of ideals through highlighting the diversity of the organisation in accessible media - but this is a problem area for a lot of companies
- STEM employers don’t attract women as it should.
- Have to think about the optics - make sure people feel comfortable
- Be open about data - how you perform against diversity targets
- Be visible in communicating, through facebook, Linkedin group around recruitment

Is it right to set diversity targets?
Overall opinion: Goals are a more helpful tool than targets as they are more of a guiding principle than a prescriptive, quantitative requirement. Where they are being developed it may be beneficial to engage with employee demographics and opinions first to guide target setting
Example of a goal - by 2020 want 10% of management to be from minority ethnicity. Not positive discrimination - just tracking it over the period, if failing will make corrective actions.
Analysing data demographically, take employee surveys and then link it to the diversity piece. Goals- aspirational, a journey
No women on our board, need aspirations from the bottom. They feel shy of this fact, will embrace the opportunity once it arises.

Obstacles an organisation expect to overcome
1. Unconscious bias
2. Business culture - people are scared of speaking out.
3. How to practically challenge this problem. People are not very comfortable talking about diversity within the workforce
4. Society as a whole.

• Many Diversity/Inclusion programmes and initiatives are developed centrally and are not often applicable to all areas of the business
• Workshops/sessions on diversity: during workshops and training sessions those involved are enthusiastic, when they return to their own context they revert to old ways.
• Unconscious bias training has been found not to work.
• When promoting diversity, often posed with retort that when recruiting it’s about finding the right person for the job- with the right skill set.
Red Flags:
• Despite being a ‘hot topic’ in many large organisations, it is an issue that goes undiscussed in others
• Don’t get analysis paralysis and over-complicate the problem- start with small actions
• Unless you continue to build capabilities you won’t achieve change.
• The way job scope is written could have been wrong. Sometimes you don’t factor in
• The value of diversity of thought can have incredible power- in being homogenous you could be holding your company back
• Sometimes you can’t just find [insert gender/minority group] with the right credentials
• Doing the ‘right thing’ is it a good enough driver? CSR makes business sense- that’s why we do it, we make money sense- it is the same with diversity!
• Don’t feel that people truly value diversity for the right reasons: it is about diversity of thought, creative processes and innovation and analysis and thoughts
• Unconscious bias: New software exists that enables recruiters to hold blind auditions
• Buy-in from senior leadership is essential: particularly internal and external dialogue
• Setting precedence is important, lead by example.
• Initiatives need to be led by those with a good track record when it comes to delivering projects, and seeing them through. Bear in mind it’s more of a journey not a project.
• Business as usual: When you start it is a programme, but you want to make it business as usual.
• Implement standard diversity policies and measurement procedures: recruitment, balance scorecards. Establish gender check-ins, talk about it during performance review
• Momentum creates its own success and energy
• Accountability at various levels in the organisation, that to report into leadership while maintaining that it is responsibility of all.
• Start at entry-level/grad recruitment! It funnels up: start with the quota?
• Create an inclusive culture that recognizes and rewards good behaviour. Must work within the organization’s context.
• It is not about quotas, rather that people are comfortable being themselves at work. Inclusivity helps everyone for the white guy from Glasgow or the ethnic minority lesbian.
• Promote diversity as a key driver of success - why diverse perspectives are important to business
• Head of People at Google has written a book about their diversity track record. The book describes how the goal is the process, not about quick wins. This is about 10-15 years for then.
• Some companies start with addressing all ‘types’ of diversity, others work on them in small steps- there is no right answer!
• One company ran a campaign on debunking the myths of stereotypes and informing people how unconscious bias works.
• Being local vs global. We are a big international business, we have looked at the topic on a regional basis, diversity plans happen at regions. We are looking for a global voice. There are different views, looking at all topics and demographics. Our company can’t just take a global approach- we need to ask individual questions for individual cultures. Example: Ethinicity might not be important to all regions.
• Internal campaign to help give people a catch phrase to address diversity issues: ‘#Can’t believe I said that’ promoted with internal viral videos in the organizations, catchphrase helps employees admit they said that.
• Idea: develop a showcase taskforce made up of a diverse range of people to tackle an issue in your company and show your leadership how successful they are.

Diversity in energy management

Like many engineering-based specialisms, energy and carbon management tends to be white and male. 85% of those employed in the energy sector are male (Hays). What are the implications for innovation, collaboration, and attracting top talent in an area where change is greatly needed? Should energy teams and advisory businesses be putting this up the agenda to tackle it?

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Academic diversity
o The importance of hiring on the basis of passion and not only competence
o Removing degree requirements opens the talent pool
o Should a work force mirror the population? (in the UK 30% to degree-level education)
o Needs to be emphasised that one doesn’t have to be an engineer to work in the energy sector…
o …the area is often perceived as close to engineers. This is not true, technical knowledge can be gained ‘on-the-job’
• Ethnic diversity
o Does the UK need a target? Should that mirror the UK population?
o …or should it mirror the customer base?
o One contributor spoke of the impossibility of some companies becoming highly diverse due to the lack of corresponding pool to hire from (e.g. in northern England)

Age diversity
o We have an aging in population and workforce in the UK
o Important to note that every age brings something different…
o …and that new skills can be gained later in life
o Anecdotal stories of over 60’s learning to code
o The gap needs bridging – employers need to help older colleagues be aware of the possibilities and that they are attainable

Gender diversity
o Men are more willing to gamble at the level of application, whereas women are less like to just ‘have a go’
o Making applications anonymous is a good way to guarantee any unconscious biases are removed
o Those making decisions will often base their choice on how they got their job (and introduce bias)
o Where does HR sit? Is it the consciousness of the organisation?
o The consciousness should really be at manager level …

The parental influence
o Biases are introduced to children via their parents (conditioning)
o Therefore we need to target school age children to help remove gender biases
o Anecdotal stories of going to schools to get young women interested in stem subjects
o Mention of how the superstore Target has removed gender separation in its toy isles.

Energy and diversity
o Are there are any benefits specific to the industry?
o In an area that is under a lot of pressure to innovate it is important to recruit the best from the widest talent pool.
o A more diverse work force appeals to a broader customer base
o It is helpful that renewable energy is literally a cleaner place to work – it’s more appealing to anyone
We need to shake up management to realise these lost opportunities

Targets are useful but shouldn’t be pushed too hard below board level – positive discrimination is also an issue and current/older workforce should not feel marginalised
• The focus needs to be on getting the right role models and champions into the organisation
…then the right applicants will follow!

Diverse collaborations

This table will begin with the example of how the Natural Capital Coalition is working with over 130 stakeholders on common outcome, and then consider the dynamics of diverse collaboration. Does diversity of objectives help or hinder the process? What behaviour is needed, and what role should collaboration platforms play? Which coalitions are nurturing best practice?

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Is diversity of leadership important?
• Yes, increasingly important to consumers. Important to have a variety of personalities, values, and cultures as this filters down to the consumer level and means a greater diversity of products. This enables change across the board, bottom up and top down.
• Coalition is helpful to drive the overarching agenda. Example used of local authorities all trying to tackle gang culture and crime in their respective boroughs. TSIP brought the heads of the boroughs together to share ideas and learn from one another. Coalitions help facilitate change.
What will drive change?
• ‘What’s in it for me?’ is the motivation. Customise the agenda according to consumer needs. Appeal to consumer incentives on a personal level – give them something tangible that they can see, touch, feel and they will get on board. This will further stimulate change on the ground.
• EPL (Environmental Profit and Loss). It’s all about money in business so we have to talk the same language because idealism will only get us so far.
However, on coalitions, is it truly diverse to gather those who are already singing from the same song sheet?
Surely we need to involve people who are not yet on board, who may not have had the ‘lightbulb moment’?
• Impact is limited when until we engage the ‘agitators’ who through their ignorance and subsequent enlightenment carry the agenda and make it more accessible. They might not care at present, but winning them over will instigate change.
• We need to make the agenda more accessible, both in terms of language (less acronyms) and practical engagement (what does this mean for me?).
• Furthermore, businesses that don’t care about the wider agenda, often have to pay to care (either by paying to fund CSR departments or pay for expertise) so we need to incentivise more effectively so they part with their money more willingly because they can see the long game.
• Diversity of ideas happens when you collect diversity of opinions. The danger of getting lots of like-minded people together is that everyone submits to the unified agenda instead of bringing their own unique perspective to the table. You get a weaker outcome than you would if you were to ask individuals to offer their personal opinion, then cross-check their ideas against one another. This is especially important when gaining ideas from coalitions. Don’t ask the whole room to agree on a agenda, ask individuals to propose theirs and then thrash them out together.
Is diversity for diversity’s sake enough?
• Diversity is an honourable aim but is it enough to aim for?
• Innovation or creativity might be a better name for diversity in come instances because diversity often evokes a negative association (such as pressure on businesses to simply ‘be more diverse’ – hit their diversity quota – rather than hire the right people irrespective of their genda, race, ethnicity. Is it right to put pressure on businesses around diversity?

Closing thoughts:
• We need to understand sector-specific motivations, ideals and triggers in order to establish a unified trigger of change.
• Businesses talk in hard figures. Important to remind business that effective CSR programs are proven to result in more productivity, which yields capital and growth.

The demise of the expert?

Open innovation processes, such as crowdsourcing, offer an alternative to expert-led solutions. They encourage a diversity of ideas, and engage large numbers of stakeholders in the solution. Which companies are using these techniques well for sustainability and other outcomes, and to what extent does the table believe we are witnessing the birth of a new breed of process architect?

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The demise of the expert?

A lot of interest and exploration around the table on the subject of “crowdsourcing”. Is it just a sexy buzzword for taking the age-old practice of consultation (e.g. through surveys or interviews) or knowledge-sharing events (such as the Crowd Forum…) but making it more digital? Clearly there is more to it than that, but a lot of confusion! The digital/online angle reduces cost and enables scale beyond anything that can be achieved with surveys, interviews, meetings and conferences. But beyond that it can enable much more in terms of quality, interaction and results. Possibly it is also useful in breaking down diversity barriers (as bias relating to qualifications, wealth, gender, race, sexual orientation and even shyness is less of a problem in an online environment). Some examples discussed:

- The Curve is a free-to-use data platform and knowledge-sharing tool for organisations from any sector in relation to energy investments (e.g. in energy efficiency, behaviour change or energy generation projects). Organisations use it to track energy investment projects and share that knowledge across your organisation, as well as to keep up to speed with what others are doing in your sector and across business sectors. It can be used to help develop energy strategy, to research particular technologies and suppliers and to provide data for business cases. The Curve is a new initiative from The Crowd and many organisations who attend our events are using it. See http://thecurve.me or contact david@thecrowd.me to find out more or arrange a demo.

- One to two organisations around the table had used “ideation” platforms to put out challenges and solicit ideas/solutions from staff (and sometimes supply chain). Wazoku is one such platform that had been used successfully. It was ususally used for innovation challenges.

- A number of organisations had used online and offline supply chain Hubs run by organisations such as 2Degrees or Anthesis to share knowledge and address innovation challenges collaboratively with their suppliers.

Challenges for making it work: Incentivisation and rewards are key. Need to balance this against credibility (e.g. direct rewards or payment might have a negative impact). Also crowdsourcing and collaboration with supply chain (or peers) probably only work for pre-competetive issues and not for core business issues that provide significant competitive advantage.

So what about the "demise of the expert" (or not)? We only touched on this but felt that although knowledge (or data?) was becoming cheaper and more accessible, there was still a need for experts to interpret and make use of the data. So successful experts will not demise, but will adapt to provide better value expertise in a world of crowdsourcing and big data.

Recommendation for a recent book that gives amazing insight on crowdsourcing, crowd funding, exponential businesses and much more: "Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World" by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Changing a culture

Changing the culture of an organisation is notoriously difficult, yet no culture stays the same. This table will put itself in the shoes of an agent of change in an organisation that is yet to fully understand the need for diversity. What's your personal story for how you came to agree with the diversity agenda - if indeed you do – and how would you go about engaging an organisation?

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Experiences of different diversity agendas
• Gender diversity e.g. setting up a women’s network
o Never used to see men on the stage talking knowledgably about gender diversity, particularly acknowledging unconscious bias as Ronane did this evening
o Interesting the push back on gender diversity dominance in tonight’s conversations
o Millennials/ digital natives are more up-to-speed (e.g. have been brought up by working mothers) – cycles of men will change the corporate world (& visa versa)
o Different sectors face different problems (as can different parts of the same business):
• Airport industry e.g. baggage handlers v. check-in staff – very gender polarised
• Engineering firms often male dominated
• Others e.g. sustainability sector have trouble attracting men rather than women
• Intellectual diversity, diversity of skill sets and attitudes e.g. whole workforce of engineers yet higher up the organisation they are acting as project managers and could benefit from other skill sets
• Class diversity e.g. in sustainability NGOs there are often unpaid internships and low entry level salaries
• Physical disability e.g. deaf applicant that couldn’t have done half the role (engaging the clients)
• Age diversity (as the next diversity fad?)
o Bringing different ages together e.g. scheduled conversations between senior and junior staff, exchanging experience and social media skills, respectively; also beneficial for the senior staff to realise the diversity of the upcoming talent pool (e.g. talented women)
• Obesity - different to other forms of prejudice? E.g. could be seen to be normalising unhealthy lifestyles?
• Drugs and alcohol e.g. zero tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol because of machinery -> turning down 12% of new recruits in UK. How appropriate is this in view of legalization of cannabis in some countries?
• Other prejudices mentioned:
o Ethnicity, trans-gender (as the current diversity issue in ‘vogue’), tattoos, mental health, minor criminal records
Barriers/ perceived barriers to achieving diversity
• Difficult to recruit if the pool is not diverse, particularly in a newer industry
• Slowed down by the aim to achieve diversity in the ‘right’ way
• Not just about recruiting but retaining people, particularly if they don’t see many people ‘like them’ at the top e.g. calculation that for every man that leaves PwC, three women leave.
• Perceived areas of work as being masculine or having a specific culture e.g. ‘boys clubs’
• Small businesses – difficult to ‘afford’ to take on risks, accommodate different needs or different skill sets that don’t match the full job requirements
• Concentrate on where the future leaders might come from
• Turn ‘we’ to ‘I’: be a more diverse person as a leader and a more accepting person as a colleague
• Work with local community to dispel myths e.g. Heathrow Airport work in local area on engineering
• Provide staff with a justification for making decisions aiding diversity e.g. by setting company targets
• Look at the level below to understand the barriers to progression into senior positions
• Provide case studies and individual stories
• Consider framing etc. of work programs and job advertisements e.g. focussing on customer experience in Heathrow (not just the technological aspects) appeals more to women
• Set a positive example e.g. by ensuring your own team is diverse
• Need the big blue chips to lead on this space that can afford it -> allowing people in minorities to get experience and to build their careers
• Job sharing as a skills match rather than just for parenting time

It's a woman's world?

A recent report from The Smith School concluded that white male boards at oil majors is increasing the risk of poor decision-making. Does the table agree that greater gender and cultural diversity amongst decision-makers would benefit business and broader society? What are the leadership characteristics we need in today's world, and should white men fear the future?

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• Collaborative agreement that women feel the struggle to progress into senior positions in business. Some noted that women often question how they have reached this senior position and feel that they have to justify it. There is a subtle sense of resistance by some meant in the team to have a line manager / accountable to a woman.
• Others struggled with confidence issues and some felt their career had stagnated in their position purely because they were a woman and due to family commitment and lack of opportunity for flexible working meant their career had to take a back pedal.
• Another theme brought up on the table was diversity of personality. Some people were shy but felt they had excellent business development ideas, acumen but felt their personality never enabled them to shine in the board room or at senior management meetings.
• Woman sensitivity to critics- some women are naturally more sensitive than men. The case of once bitten- twice shy prevented women for going for opportunities for progression.
• Strong theme that women really have to be of strong character to cope with men in the workplace and also other women being intimidated by progression.
• One member expressed the viewpoint we need to start acting now to introduce women diversity in the workplace. Too much talking, we already know the problem and its time to deliver solutions.
• Solutions – HR team to monitor, openness with boardroom set up. Lack of ideas but certainly a consensus their needs to be change.

Everyone was collaborative in agreeing that YES, there needs to be more diversity in the workplace. This is not just gender but personality, race, background etc. Its time to act and enforcing diversity in the workplace.

Diversity in tech

The tech community has a good understanding of the importance of diversity when it comes to data, but it remains dominated by white and Asian men. This table will explore why this is the case, and what might be the benefits of encouraging greater diversity - innovation, customer connectivity and more. What can be done to change this, and which organisations are leading the way?

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• Whilst there is the goodwill at many companies to recruit equally and to increase diversity in the workplace, it is often difficult to access the right people within each group.
• Diversity needs to be strongest at the points of recruitment and promotion throughout an organisation to have a real impact.
• There are not enough women who are interested in roles within the tech industry despite companies trying.
• Very few girls are studying computer science in school
• It is important to have the right values within the workplace as this can lead to increased happiness and productiveness of staff. These include a sense of family, flexibility within the work place and the openness of staff to help those who need it.
• There is a good opportunity within the tech industry to have diversity as there is not the ‘macho’ problem that can be the case in sectors such as financial services
• There are a number of large tech industries that are tackling the problem of diversity really well E.g. Intel have invested $300 million in a diversity programme
• Another important factor is increasing the number of girls taking STEM subjects however, whilst a lot of companies are already working hard on this area, there is a gap between this investment and the right number of people applying for technical roles
• An important element to making organisations more equal is by providing increased rights to male colleagues. At Virgin they now give men a whole year off for paternity leave on full pay.
• You need a good working policy for both men and women and to make sure there is no ‘unconscious bias’ about hiring people from different genders and backgrounds. E.g. if hiring a woman with children the thought that they would not be available for clients.
• Recruiting women into technology roles can be a challenge. It can be a good idea to write job descriptions in a way that is neutral and so will attract an equal number of men and women. E.g. not displaying salary expectations, not including a long list of required skills and having the advertisement more values based.
• It would also help companies if they ‘changed the optics’. Rather than having a website with lots of white middle class men on it/ or attending events with a limited group it would help to encourage a more diverse selection of candidates for a job if they perceive the company to be diverse. Including both men and women, different ethnicities etc.
• There are often a large number of introverts and technology focused companies. It was discussed that it is important to give the right space and time and to adapt recruitment styles to encourage these people to thrive and to feel confident in the workplace.
• SAP have a very positive programme which looks at recruiting and nurturing individuals who are on the autistic spectrum. They have adapted their recruitment process and working style to accommodate and work effectively with these groups.

Halting the decline in biodiversity

The WWF estimates that ecosystem services generate US $145 trillion in value each year, and that 60% of these services are in global decline. This table will discuss different ways that business can halt biodiversity loss, from policy led initiatives to free market solutions. Which solution is more likely to work, and what is the role of individual businesses in making it happen?

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Introduction by Chair
- We are shifting from boardroom diversity to bio diversity. So the question is how do we get businesses to change the way they behave?
- What we heard in the debate tonight has been about diversity improving business performance and we need to demonstrate that you can change business performance in this area too. That is the secret to this, proving that there is business value in protecting biodiversity.
Does env protection fit within a business model?
- There is a conflict of interest between business viability and protecting the env
- It’s not about env protection being good or bad for business, it is about finding new ways for companies to cater for both env and profit. Eg- having good data and information will help managing stock and reduce waste in super markets but it is also good for business.
- You need to be able to value natural capital so we know our constraints. Otherwise everyone outside of the sustainability circle isn’t going to understand. It’s about explaining sustainability in money terms to the people who don’t think in terms of morals. Eg- using house price variations to value green pace.
- You have to speak the language of profit and business. You can like it or not like it but that is a fact. “Saving the rain forest” people don’t care about, but if you tell them about it in a certain business/intelligent way then you can bring about change.
- Some companies can differentiate themselves by being good at protecting biodiversity. It depends what your business model is. If you need to develop quick, cheap and dense housing then you don’t have to create social infrastructure or environmental infrastructure. So it depends what your business is trying to create.
The role of the consumer and certification
- We shouldn’t lose sight of the consumers in society. Lots of people want to do something about it, but we feel disempowered do to anything. So is this an issue for the government?
- Bio diversity has its own set of issues from GHGs, it is complex. You need to look at these issues on different levels, and we need to understand the systems in a total. So it is hard for business and consumers to understand it all.
- Communications is then important. Certification is useful, but can be confusing.
- But with certifications you are trusting other people to work out the footprint of your supply chain.
- Outsourcing trust is something we all have to do. It happens a great deal with env certification.
The role of government and regulation
- Honestly, if companies are not regulated then they will not pay extra to protect the env. The government need to regulate. It doesn’t make business sense to act without incentive.
- Can the business case or putting a value on bio-diversity be enough to change business behaviour without regulation? So just using the market?
- Are we prepared to pay more for ethical produce? Is it lack of information or is it lack of desire? There is a gap between WTP and actual cost to the planet. This is a prime example of where the government need to regulate because the market doesn’t account for it.
- 12 years ago talking to companies about carbon and climate change was very hard, but there has been a shift, and this will follow for bio-diversity eventually.
How do we balance environmental issues with the development of emerging economies?
- We in the developed world defined the GHG problem as production and we subsequently outsourced all our problems to china and other countries. We need to define pollution in terms of consumption.
What can businesses do to help their staff lead more sustainable lives?
- Changing mind-sets is difficult. Often a large percentage of emissions for a business can be the staff
- Behavioural change through gamification is one example of an attempt at this

Venue Detail

Bank of America Merrill Lynch: King Edward Hall

King Edward Hall | 2 King Edward Street | London | EC1A 1HQ


Bank of America's offices are a very short walk from St Paul's tube station (Central Line). Exit the station at Cheapside/Newgate Street. Go past the BT centre, with it on your right-hand side and take the first available right down Edward Street. Continue down this road for 80m and the entrance to the venue is on your left-hand side.

Do not go to the main reception desk at their offices when you arrive. You are looking for an entrance that leads you directly into the King Edward Hall.
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