Below please find key take-outs from our October 27th panel with June Sarpong OBE, BBC's first director of creative diversity; The Right Honourable Baroness Grey-Thompson, winner of 16 Paralympic medals and Campaigner; Ursula Burns, Teneo Senior Advisor, former Chairman and CEO of VEON, and former Chairman and CEO of Xerox; Matt Forde, Comedian, Podcaster, Author and voice of Boris Johnson on Spitting Image; and chaired by Principal of Teneo’s Situations and Politics practice and former Downing Street Director of Politics and Communications, Craig Oliver.
- While the killing of George Floyd and further acts of police brutality against African Americans has reinvigorated the fight against systemic racism, we shouldn’t see this as either the beginning or end of this fight. We need to build a sustained campaign which is relentless in its pursuit of equality for all those who suffer discrimination – whether race, gender, physical disability or class. The key to delivering this campaign is for those who enjoy privilege to act as allies and advocates to ensure a change to the status quo. We also need to recognise that Covid-19 will likely further embed inequality and discrimination.
- In response to these acts, the panel praised business for stepping into the role that should be played by government in campaigning against systemic racism. Whilst many companies have done extraordinary things in support of Black Lives Matter and other campaigns for equality, there is still much more to do. Whilst companies are seeking to improve diversity at management level, we need to focus on ensuring there is diversity at board level as they can set the direction for business and mandate targets.
- The panel agreed that there was a clear process business should look to follow in acting to improve diversity - Act, Measure, Monitor, Modify. Businesses are adept at setting targets when it comes to financial performance and they need to take a similar approach to improving diversity. To deliver on this, the panelists suggested that improving diversity should be an issue which sits beyond just an HR function. Diverse businesses deliver greater financial returns and so this should be an issue which is near the top of the executive team’s agenda.
- Through the panel we heard some truly harrowing stories about the discrimination faced by people suffering physical disability. Whether in work, society or interactions with health services, disabled people face significant discrimination. Businesses, government and people need to do more to create the kind of equitable society that works for everyone. The London 2012 Olympic games was identified as a best in class example of where leaders recognised that building a diverse workforce would drive increased revenue growth as it would encourage ticket sales from people across all communities.
- Businesses, governments, people and communities need to be ambitious and brave in responding to systemic discrimination. The panel agreed that this isn’t just about breaking the glass ceiling, we need to smash the status quo. Despite the challenges, the panelists all concluded on an optimistic note, recognising that young people across the world were standing up and refusing to accept the status quo. Whether protesting, marching or taking action within companies, this passion can ensure a better future for all.