Diversity and inclusion: time to go futher, faster
Full transcript below
Good morning everyone, and welcome to the CBI’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference.
I want to begin by thanking our partners, EY and FedEx, for their support and their leadership on this agenda.
We’ve got an incredible line up of expert speakers to inform and inspire you over the next two days. Starting in just a few moments with our next generation of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Leaders’ panel.
And let’s be honest, it’s their voices, stories, and insights that you’re tuning in to hear. Not mine. Me too! So, I’m going to keep my remarks as brief as I can.
But I did just want to use this moment, my first official day as the CBI’s Director-General. And first official speech in the role. To set out a statement of intent, committing personally, and unequivocally, in everything I do over the next five years leading the CBI to make equality of opportunity in the UK a true reality, not just an ambition.
What a year for this agenda. First came shock; and then came shows of support. But they’re only worth a dime if we now move rapidly to meaningful action and concrete change. Change you can see. Change you can measure. And change that makes a material difference to people’s lives.
To achieve that, we can’t just speak about one aspect of diversity and inclusion without also understanding the importance of all others, and how they intersect to make up someone’s experiences.
But following the killing of George Floyd, much of the push for action in recent months has quite rightly been focused on addressing systematic racial and ethnic inequality. And that is what a lot of my speech will be focused on tackling today.
But as we do this work, I want to assure you that the CBI remains as committed as ever to achieving diverse and inclusive representation, engagement, and participation for all those who face barriers.
Why D&I matters
For me, this is first and foremost a moral question. Not just as a human being, but also as the leader of a business organisation. I have always believed that companies are superb institutions in helping people get in and on in life.
But still too many people, because of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, background, or circumstance, find themselves unfairly held back. Their route barred, and talents ignored. I believe that no-one should have to experience that.
And I believe that business – among all institutions in society – should be best placed to solve this problem. We are fast, we work in teams, we help people fulfil their potential.
But it’s not just moral, it’s money! However, you cut the data, diverse and inclusive firms come out stronger and more agile. They have a better talent proposition and a better customer offer. Diverse companies capture all the prizes available.
You can measure it – and McKinsey did:
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability — up from 15% in 2014. And for companies where there is greater ethnic and cultural diversity, that figure increases to 36% on profitability.
For me, this evidence underlines that diversity and inclusion are cornerstone drivers of the competitive success of your company and the competitive success of our country. If the UK is to thrive outside the European Union, we must take big leaps, not small steps – to write a modern, competitive, and dynamic success story.
And at company level, the same applies. Employees want it, consumers demand it.
So, if you’re not there yet – now’s the time to get on the bus.
Change the Race Ratio
As I hope the next two days will prove – there’s help, support, and guidance out there, every stop on the route. Not least from the CBI.
And here, I want to take a moment to recognise the incredible work of our CBI President, Karan Bilimoria, the CBI team, and our founder partners on the Change the Race Ratio Campaign.
I know this idea – to increase racial and ethnic participation in British business is something Karan’s been passionate about for years, and a priority for his Presidency. The campaign’s growing every week – with 35 employers already signed up, from all sectors and parts of the UK.
The campaign’s ask is four commitments:
First, to increase racial and ethnic representation at board level.
Second, targets for racial and ethnic diversity in your senior leadership team. Supported by a separate target for black participation.
Third, to disclose your ethnicity pay gap and publish a clear action plan.
And, finally, to create a culture where all diversities can thrive.
The campaign is gaining speed and stay tuned tomorrow, for some good news from Karan on others joining.
The CBI Journey – going further, faster
One of the most positive developments this year is that it’s become really okay to be honest that you are still on the journey to these goals. In fact, you’re probably being dishonest if you claim otherwise.
We at the CBI have been on a journey too. Like many organisations, it’s been filled with stops, starts, and stumbles.
Very often, it starts with establishing a proper fact base on how you’re doing.
One of the most important steps our organisation took was back in 2017, using a new HR system to create a more complete picture, of just how diverse and inclusive the CBI actually was and where more focused action was needed.
It required work to build trust with our people, so they felt comfortable sharing not only information but the stories that the data on its own couldn’t tell. Emerging from that work, in the last three years, the CBI has voluntarily published its gender and ethnicity pay gaps and action plans to close them.
We’ve invested in our mental health strategy – and we’ve published our ‘Race at Work’ action plan.
Essential to this journey, are our employee networks – for BAME and LGBTQ+ colleagues, our women’s network, and also our working families’ group who hold us to account, and act as critical friends.
And over the last three years, the number of staff who say that the CBI is committed to building an inclusive work environment has risen from 73% to 90%.
But we know there’s still a distance, to travel. Our ambition is to lead and help others do so too. Not by pretending we are perfect – because we’re really not – but by being honest about the journey we need to go on and being transparent about what we’re doing and how it’s going.
So we do well at Board level. The CBI Board is close to achieving a 50/50 gender split; and 22% from a BAME background. The CBI’s Chairs’ Committee has also increased its gender split, with the proportion of women rising from 32% to 45%.
But, alongside our existing commitments and plans, I want to step up our progress in five areas:
Recruitment, progression, commercial strategy, committees, and culture.
Starting with three specific actions on race and ethnicity – which have rightly been the focus for many businesses in 2020.
On recruitment, I want us to do better than the Rooney Rule. One Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority person on a shortlist is not a success, it’s a minimum.
On progression, we will immediately launch an Exco-led sponsorship programme for future BAME leaders.
On commercial, we will seek to increase the number of — and our engagement with — existing Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority members and BAME-led businesses in CBI membership.
Then, more broadly, to tackle other barriers to inclusion as well.
On our committees and councils — the business groups that shape CBI policies — we will use every rotation as an opportunity to proactively recruit for diversity. And provide opportunities, such as mentoring — to support aspiring talent.
Finally, on culture, all staff will complete training that focuses on tackling exclusion and building allyship to foster greater inclusion for all.
And we will do more than remove barriers, we’ll build a culture of celebration. One of my mentors, Jonathan Sacks, who sadly passed only last month, wrote a wonderful book called The Dignity of Difference.
For me, difference doesn’t just bring us dignity, it brings us joy.
This is the work we will do this year and I will lead. I don’t know how it will go and how far we can achieve.
But I will come back next year with stories and numbers and new and firmer commitments for my time as Director-General.
And then, finally, I want to say something about mental health.
It’s always been in our D&I framework because of the exclusion those who suffer, feel at work. But as the recent ONS research laid bare, the scale of people’s feelings of disconnection and loneliness during this pandemic are now a national conversation.
It’s an issue that comes up in every one of my discussions with CEOs. We knew mental health was an issue that people have struggled to talk about for a long time. Silenced by stigma. Despite one in four of us expected to experience a mental health issue of some kind, every year.
But lockdown has now left us in the cold of isolation, exclusion, and separation. And just as the NHS is at the forefront of our physical health crisis, it's clear that we as employers now find ourselves at the frontline of a mental health imperative.
Because it’s at work – with our colleagues and co-workers, where many of us either fall deeper or get stronger. It’s at work where we find purpose and stimulation. And now it is at work where we look to find the resilience, reassurance, and emotional support to get through this pandemic.
I am so very proud of how businesses large and small have responded. One of my favourites is a small business in the North of England. They have about 100 employees. They’re not in a particularly wealthy area – many live in small flats or housing estates. And being sent home, being locked down, had a really profoundly negative impact on staff.
The family owners saw it immediately. And they decided to bring in a specialist mental health group. Experts, who could reach out to all the staff. With no visibility to management – they realised that people might be anxious about talking to their boss about these things. And the result was a fantastic support service.
It’s a role for every business, I think.
The Government has allowed us to cushion financial risk through furlough. But wellbeing is on us. And we can really make the difference.
This week I am writing to every CBI member to direct them to resources, ideas, and support for their own mental health journey and we will be running webinars on this in the coming months.
Our job is to help business be at its best and to help their people to be at their best.
So we are ready to begin two jam-packed days of discussion, ideas, inspiration, and imagination. But we demand inclusion, obviously as well!
Please take part. Use the platform. Make connections. Send in your questions.
This is an issue where Britain needs to lead. This is an issue where Business can show us how.
I can’t think of a better place to start my leadership of the CBI.
So, let’s get this conference started.