The diversity agenda and why it matters
A key lesson I learned at the start of my career at Goldman Sachs was that diversity in a team or workforce is a good thing as it encourages diversity of thought. The most important voice to listen to in a room has nothing to do with seniority or background or gender, it has to do with ability.
I’ve carried that lesson forward throughout my career and have learned to actively seek out different points of view and diverse opinions. What I’ve seen is that introducing more female and more diverse voices changes the conversation, it prevents group-think and it broadens the mindset. That’s good for business and it’s good for our customers.
At RBS, we’ve set ourselves bold targets and we currently have an aim to have a fully gender-balanced workforce by 2030.
In 2013, we also set our public aspiration to have 30% senior women in our top 5,000 roles by 2020. Over the last three years, we’ve met that aspiration, seeing this pipeline population increase from 32% to 44%.
We’re taking real action to support women through development, networking and performance support. We’ve delivered unconscious bias training to 80% of all employees; we have training programmes tailored to women in business and we’ve introduced programmes like ‘Come Back’ – developed specifically to retain people returning to work after a period away.
Building on our approach to gender representation, we’ve introduced a bank-wide target to have 14% of black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues in our leadership population by 2025, mirroring the percentage of the working UK population.
Improving representation is only one part of improving our approach to diversity, however – we’ll also be supporting black, Asian and minority ethnic employees in upskilling, with bespoke training and mentoring opportunities.
Great progress has been made in financial services to promote diversity and inclusion. But a lot more can still be done. What more could you do in your own organisation? I suggest three things:
- The first, for those in leadership positions, is to push to make sure that diversity and inclusion is an integral part of your overall business strategy.
- The second is to ensure you have a clear systematic programme of activity in place to drive diversity and inclusion across and down into your businesses. Don’t make it window-dressing.
- Lastly and most importantly, be bold and be public in your aspirations for your business.
So, ask yourself this question: what will your public targets be for your business on diversity and inclusion – and how can you make sure you reach them?