Watch the webinar
- Tony Danker, Director-General, CBI
- Ife Onwuzulike, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, CBI
- Lord Simon Woolley, Founder, Operation Black Vote and former Chair of the Race Disparity Unity
- Liz Moseley, Editor and partner, Tortoise Media (chair)
In this session:
Tony Danker started the conversation by talking about the importance of the date, coming one year after the murder of George Floyd. He said that, for many colleagues, the anniversary is a reminder of that incident, but also of the “totemic, broader issue” of racial inequality. However, Tony said it’s also an important opportunity to reflect on the progress made, and what more can be done.
Tony spoke about the momentum and awareness that has been building within companies, and in particular in his conversations with firms since last year, but recognised the challenges they face.
Because having these conversations is “hard”, Tony spoke about the importance of helping firms to have those conversations and making commitments within their own workplaces.
Tony mentioned a few recent examples of positive change he’s encountered in firms, and the fact that – throughout his business career – he’s “never heard so much from firms about the importance of Diversity & Inclusion” – which is why the CBI is putting so much resource into helping members.
Looking forward, Tony highlighted the importance of all firms “starting the journey” on improving D&I in their workplace, because of the wider and growing expectation from the public and customers.
Lord Simon Woolley said that the rising prominence of this issue was the culmination of long-standing racial inequality, the unequal effects of the impact of the pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd last year. In his 35yrs of activism, he said that he had never seen such support and empathy for the real-life experiences of people from a BAME background.
He also commented that, in the past year, business has been the driver of change – something that is very different to previous experiences, and potentially a “gamechanger” for resolving the issues. The reason this is important, Lord Woolley said, is because access to a decent job is “lifechanging”, and so bringing in more diverse talent is a “win-win” for businesses and individuals.
However, Lord Woolley was keen to stress that – whilst he has seen positive change – he still encounters strong resistance from parts of the business community. For some, Diversity & Inclusion “still means gender”, so Lord Woolley feels the conversation need to look at racial diversity across senior management, boards and how recruitment policies need to change to attract more diverse talent.
Ife Onwuzulike talked through the measures the CBI has been taking, to make the organisation more diverse and inclusive. This includes reporting on the CBI’s own ethnicity pay gap, because “data is key” and this reporting allows the organisation to know “how we’re doing, the action plans we should put in place, and allows us to hold ourselves to account.”
Ife also spoke about the CBI’s “race at work” action plan, which outlines who the CBI engages with, how the organisation has those conversations about D&I, and how the CBI sets its own representation and recruitment targets – for example implementing the “Rooney Rule” for all CBI management recruitment positions.
Alongside this, Ife spoke about the “BAME sponsorship programme” that the CBI’s senior leadership has implemented, to support the development of colleagues, as well as “learning more about what the journey looks like for our employees from a Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic background”.
Ife also mentioned the CBI’s work on the “Change the Race Ratio” campaign, which the CBI founded to accelerate ethnic and racial participation at senior levels within business. More information can be found here.
Finally, Ife recognised that – from speaking to lots of businesses about this issue – many firms understand the importance of it, but are still “scared” to speak about race in the workplace. Ife stressed that it’s important not to shy away from the conversation so firms should 1) start the conversation, 2) look at the data within their own organisations, and 3) listen to the views of their colleagues.