Webinar on The Future of Business Needs to be More Diverse
Jude Kelly CBE, talks about why it’s more important than ever for businesses to create diverse and inclusive workforces and how that can in turn drive creativity and productivity.
Equality is not about women, it’s about all of us
The great thing about spending time with Jude Kelly is that she leaves you feeling provoked, inspired, informed and more convicted at the end. It’s always great spending time with people whose lives are spent tackling societies real issue rather than too much time "making the irrelevant more efficient" as our friend Lars Kolind has said in the past.
And this really is a core societal issue. Women still fall a long way short on equal pay in most societies. As they progress through life women increasingly ‘fall down the scales’ financially and by the time they are 65 will be on average five times poorer than their male equivalent. Women remain under-represented in management and parliaments across the world. And as we are all too aware, gender-based violence remains prevalent and Covid has dramatically increased the occurrence of domestic violence.
Yet as Jude says, equality is not about women, it’s about all of us.
An hour with her on equality, inclusion and diversity left us all with two big questions that I think we should find our own answers to:
What role can I play – do I really do enough or stand back?
What role can the workplace play – this is where work really can re-imagine its purpose?
Let’s pick up a few themes of the conversation:
In the past the word activism has been associated with ‘a frightening’ place to be. Invariably front line and in danger. Now it is a positive place for all of us. Indeed, Jude challenged us to think of replacing the word volunteer with activist – something to which you wish to give your energy and time. There are certain issues, equality included, which need all of us to take on each-others battle, because they are essentially our battle.
So, what is ‘my version of activism?’ What is it in my workplace and in my community? What would my peers and my friends see me ‘take a stand on?’
We often hear about following dreams or dreams becoming a reality. I’ve been reading Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls with my 10 year-old daughter recently and it is all about girls and women who follow their dreams invariably in the face of historic male advantage. So how are we encouraging or discouraging dreams in others? Too often we associate the word dream with someone’s flight of fancy – “that sounds great but just get your GCSE’s first,” or, “I love your ambition but lets’ just hit 2020 budget before we think about that!”
In fact, Jude highlighted that girls dream less ambitiously, we have constrained them through history.
This is about unlocking the imagination and creative potential of ourselves and our people. Equality and inclusion can be about bringing everybody’s dreams and vision into the workplace. So, do you ask them, or do you just tell them what those of the exec are?
Anger and optimism
Many movements in the past have been founded on anger around an injustice. It is as good a place as any to start but as Jude said, "there is no point being so angry you get nothing done." Anger simply turns into despair. The WOW movement is founded on optimism. Festivals of stories about girls and women putting their dreams into reality in a positive environment. As Jude says, “optimism gives you stamina”. And it is because the job is not done, and we need to do this for generations to come, that stamina is the critical ingredient.
I love the idea of a ‘festival of stories’ in your organisation – brilliant positive stories of equality and inclusion already at work in your work. Could this be your form of activism?
How often do we hear this! “This will only work if ownership moves beyond HR." If this becomes an "HR initiative" it’s already failed!”
The reality is that a lot of activism and change (where people are concerned) starts in HR and then gets real traction when ‘individuals take on each-others battles’. This is not an HR thing. It’s not even a female thing, or an ethnic thing. Gone should be the days when the gender equality group at work was just women and the ethnicity group was just BAME. It is about moving beyond the ‘always having a woman on the shortlist’ and deeper into building a proper pipeline. It is about leaders being deliberate about forming social groups at work to encourage diversity, inclusion and a richer life experience through work that they can then take into their communities. Jude shared how Unilever have been very good at this - not surprising since Paul Polman and now Alan Jope pointed the company toward a higher societal purpose.
Taboo subject – Child-rearing!
Another friend of Wavelength, Victor Adebowale, said “Our futures will be decided by the conversations we are avoiding.”
Jude talked about how the job of child-rearing invariably falls on women. She spoke really clearly about gradual erosion of confidence that often happens as women balance work stress and childcare. They become ‘underpaid and overtired’, which leads to self-doubt and in many cases opting out of work, relationships and family. Dreams no longer becoming reality.
So what role is our workplace playing in this conversation? Are we shifting or propagating the current reality?
Just even writing this and reading it through I’m challenged by the role I have historically played in re-enforcing the reality as well as trying to shift it. Yet I’m also optimistic about the role I can continue to play as an activist of change. And I have the stamina.
Written by Matt White, Associate of Wavelength
Jude is also part of SpeakersHub and one of our most sought after speakers on leading diversity and inclusion. To view her full biography to book her to speak at your own event please click here.