Inclusive cultures will move the dial on diversity
I have been outspoken about the scourge of mental health issues in business and particularly in the City. These problems are often a result of unsupportive cultures which alienate people and make them feel like they cannot speak out. This in turn creates barriers to bringing in greater diversity of people and thought.
The efforts to attract greater diversity in financial services in recent years have been genuine, but at the same time if everyone is expected to spend long hours at the same desk and operate within a command and control structure dominated by people who are very traditional, we will fail.
As business leaders, we have a responsibility that this most extraordinary of years is remembered not only for the lasting impact on business caused by the pandemic, but also as a catalyst for change prompted by the demonstrations associated with the killing of George Floyd.
This caused me to step back and realise there is much I did not know. The catalyst for me was an email from one of my employees. This individual wrote to me and told me about her experience – she gave me an insight into her world and it opened my eyes, lit a fire and I knew we needed to make a change. As a leader, I had to admit that I did not truly understand what our black colleagues and colleagues of colour were going through.
Like many organisations, it has prompted us to take further steps to generate change, open-up conversations and learn from each other. This includes safe spaces created by employee networks; visible support in individual teams and locations; changes to recruitment practices; and training for line managers to create a more transparent authentic leadership commitment to supporting all aspects of inclusion.
There is an abundance of resources for businesses looking for help and support to improve diversity and tackle racial inequality. This includes excellent guidance released today by Mental Health First Aid England, as part of its ‘My Whole Self’ campaign, to help employers ensure they are putting diversity and inclusion at the centre of mental health and wellbeing.
The link between racial equity and mental health is abundantly clear; whatever our identities and life experiences, everyone should be able to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work and feel included. At Quilter we are leading with inclusion because it is the root of the problem. We can only ensure that colleagues can thrive and reach their full potential professionally, personally, emotionally if they feel included, irrespective of race, gender or sexual orientation.
The past few months have proved to be a period of fast-paced change and reflection on the way every strand of society acknowledges and supports black people and people of colour. The onus now is on businesses and business leaders to make meaningful changes to ensure there is a lasting legacy.