Being truly inclusive is a long road and we all need to walk along it
I read, that at the end of last year, over a third of workers believed COVID-19 delayed efforts to improve diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace. But surely now is the time to focus on diversity and inclusion more than ever with lives being thrown upside down? It therefore goes without saying that the companies who already had strong diversity and inclusion initiatives have been in a much better place to navigate these difficult times.
I’ll admit I have sat down a few times to write this blog on inclusion in the workplace and every time it was pushed to one side, finding itself firmly at the bottom of the pile again. It went straight to the bottom of my list I can’t lie. I love reading blogs but I’m not a lover of writing them myself in all honesty – the pressure to be witty and clever, or have the best analogy anyone has ever read leaves my metaphorical pen paralysed mid-air. However, this time it was more about the topic. There is something about the topic that makes me want to not only write ample amounts but also, strangely run far, far away and I’m not sure why. Diversity and inclusion are important, in fact they’re not just important, they’re crucial. It’s also got caught up in much bigger agendas that I just don’t know enough about. The topic on a whole is evolving so much that I just didn’t know how to begin. Perhaps I just didn’t want to make a vocabulary blunder or use the wrong terminology, or perhaps I thought my voice had no need to be heard.
I think as well, perhaps, I have never been negatively impacted by diversity alone, or not so I have recognised, so I guess in many ways I don’t feel I have a ‘right’ to tackle this very important issue. But there’s something about the fact that I am a female leader of my own business, who indirectly had a mentor who broke down barriers for me so early on, that makes me want to keep writing.
Nonetheless, diversity and inclusion in the world of PR is very varied, the world of pensions less so. It remains, in the main, as it was when I started some 20 (*ahem*) years ago – a predominantly male, middle aged, middle class environment. The woman I first worked for in this strange hybrid world of PR and Pensions was a formidable character called Ellen Gracey. Known by all, feared by some – I say this with a big smile as I would say the same to her, and she knows it. She blew away all stereotypes – this small, vibrant, energetic, loud (oh so loud), smart woman was THE PR professional of her time and I was lucky to work with her from the very start of my journey.
On reflection perhaps this is exactly why I haven’t experienced the issues that some have. She taught me professional confidence, that I have as much right to be in the room as anyone else – even if, at that time, I was 20 years younger and a different sex. She taught me that preparation is everything, that BEING young and being female automatically gave me a USP - a unique perspective to some of the challenges and issues we were thinking about with clients not, just from a brand perspective but also in terms of how we talk about pensions and finance. Cutting away the jargon of the City.
As I am writing this, I know not everybody has had the same experience as me. I know that all the strong successful women I have worked with have all had to be stronger and more determined to succeed than their male counterparts, who were doing the exact same roles, due to institutional biases that exist in the workplace. In that sense maybe I have been subjected to a lack of diversity and just not realised it. Now, as a business leader I understand how critical these efforts are.
After all these years I can’t claim the same youth, and even with all these years of experience under my belt it’s still difficult to not occasionally suffer imposter syndrome in the city world of finance, but things are changing. More and more companies are realising that not only is creating a diverse and inclusive workforce – gender, age, backgrounds, cognitive thought - the right thing to do, but it also has a profoundly positive impact on a company’s culture, employee retention, and the overall bottom line.
At KBPR we are fortunate to work with some of the most respected and authoritative people in our industry, women and men of all ages, with different expertise and backgrounds, at the top of their game providing inspiration and leadership to us all. There is a long way to go but we have certainly come along way too.