Diversity Network’s highly anticipated INCLUSION 2020 digital conference and exhibition on 1-3 December 2020 proved a huge success, bringing together over 1000 attendees from the Human Resources and D&I community for three days filled with keynote sessions, discussions, fireside chats, six networking lounges, a Meet the Speakers session and comprising contributions from 60 expert speakers.
Day One focused on igniting change and the employee experience, Day Two focused on hiring, retaining and developing diverse talent within the workforce, and Day Three focused on establishing a diverse, inclusive workplace.
Here are just a few learnings we took away from the multitude of insightful sessions delivered by our expert speakers, workshop hosts and panellists.
1) 2020 presented us with a unique opportunity to drive change
This year has come with many challenges, but many speakers talked about what we can learn from our experiences during 2020 to facilitate positive change for the future. We worked from home, onboarded new employees remotely, considered the wellbeing of our workforce like never before, and adapted not only our working practices but also the way we live our lives.
Of course, there were also devastating events such as the murder of George Floyd, which put the topic of racial equity firmly in the spotlight across the world.
Many of us have had a unique chance to take stock, reflect, plan, and learn, and we must not miss this opportunity to move the needle.
Louisa Lombardo, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Chubb, talked about the company’s focus on connection, engagement, wellbeing and mental health this year. Louisa mentioned the importance of genuinely connecting with employees to discover how they are really feeling – with Chubb even bringing in actors for workshops with staff. It was also interesting to hear about how Chubb adapts its approach and tone for different countries it operates in, being considerate of cultural sensitivities, local legislation and more, to ensure its global workforce feels included.
2) Allyship is essential – but it means different things to different people
Allyship was frequently discussed, and interestingly, our speakers and panellists didn’t always agree on what it means to be an ally.
Sacha Thompson, Founder of The Equity Equation, talked about how ‘ally’ is a verb, not a noun; it is not enough to simply say you are an ally. She said that to really ‘show up’ as an ally, you have to consider what you are prepared to lose or risk.
However, during our panel discussion about effective Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), our panellists’ view was that standing in solidarity with a marginalised group is enough. If allies do not seem to be taking action, it may be because they do not feel empowered to do so, or are cautious about getting it wrong or overstepping, even though they are keen to support.
Rich Jones, Senior Advisor at Acas, pointed out that the opposite problem can occur – people sometimes ‘wade in’ and speak on the experiences of certain minority groups, usually with good intentions but with misguided actions. Saskia Bewley, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Hachette UK, commented that organisations may need to provide more education for employees, so that they feel enabled and empowered to step up as allies.
3) Accountability is key
If we really want to see change, we need to look seriously at accountability. Captain Jamie Carrahar of the British Army, who is also Chair of the Army’s LGBT+ Forum, said that D&I needs to be built into the pillars of your organisation, with every single employee being held accountable as part of creating a fully inclusive culture. If D&I were a requirement of everyone’s role, we would all have to demonstrate how we were contributing to positive change in order to advance our careers – making it truly tangible.
Our panellists talked about how the public is increasingly holding companies accountable, and calling out organisations that make mistakes or are not doing enough. So, it’s now not only morally right to build a diverse and inclusive culture, but it also has a major impact on reputation and ultimately, your bottom line. If you are not genuine in the commitments you make, there is no longer anywhere to hide.
4) When the focus is on certain under-represented groups or issues, don’t forget to consider intersectionality
The events of this year have led to a global focus on racial equity – understandably so. However, it’s important that we recognise intersectionality and not put employees into boxes in trying to address issues.
Bhavik Pancholi, D&I Consultant, talked about Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and the importance of ensuring they do not end up working in silos. While you may have a Black Employee Network for example, each of the members will have different perspectives, experiences and challenges, and we must acknowledge each person’s unique identity in order to reach a place of everyone feeling that they can bring their full selves to work.
5) The future looks positive
All of our speakers and panellists were broadly optimistic about the future – while there is still a long way to go in many areas, we are moving in the right direction. People are more enabled than ever to play a part in driving change, and 2020 has been a real catalyst for change – probably one that was desperately needed.
Saskia Bewley commented that the generation now entering the workplace generally has a different mindset from those who are currently leading businesses. The younger generation is increasingly viewing D&I as an essential part of their decision-making process when it comes to deciding where they want to work, and holding their companies accountable. This could potentially impact organisations’ or even whole sectors’ ability to hire and retain top talent, if they are not genuine in their D&I commitment.
6) If you don’t measure it, it may not change
Many of our speakers were sceptical about metrics, feeling that where diversity and inclusion simply becomes a tick-box exercise, real change will falter and the metrics themselves may impede growth.
Yet it was universally acknowledged that if you don’t track it, and put pressure on leadership of change to occur, nothing will alter. They felt that currently it’s still too easy for companies to ignore the issue and steer around their inequalities, so we need to keep them in the spotlight. It was felt that diversity and inclusion metrics should be more widely reported by companies, both internally and externally, and there should be greater pressure of companies to release these statistics rather than in keeping them to themselves. Speakers also acknowledged that it is no longer possible for companies to hold back on reporting their D&I figures and just pay lip service to equality without taking action. External suppliers, partners, customers and the general public are increasingly holding them to account.
7) We are all different, yet the same.
Our speakers universally agreed that no matter everyone’s individual circumstances, it is essential to establish an inclusive company culture where everyone can bring their whole selves to work, and for companies to bend to meet the needs of each individual, rather than the other way around.
We heard about the ongoing need to tackle racism and homophobia where it remains, and the steps being put in place to aid greater social mobility. We also heard from photographer Katie Neeves and Balfour Beatty’s Amanda McKay about their first-hand experiences as trans women, and how this has been accepted in their professional lives; Lesley Salem from Over The Bloody Moon presented an educational workshop on the last taboo, discussing how menopause impacts many women in the workplace in many different ways, and why it should not be ignored. Kieran Thompson from Cullen and Rachel Morgan Trimmer from Sparkle Class presented their experiences of neurodiversity and ADHD, while Suzie Miller from Microsoft presented a hugely popular workshop on creating a more accessible and inclusive working environment.
There were so many different topics and perspectives covered during INCLUSION 2020, so we highly recommend viewing the sessions on-demand if you weren’t able to join us! Our experts shared best practice, top tips, and examples from their own work to help you ignite change in your own organisation. If you would like us to send you the links to watch on demand, please send us a message here.