What do Meghan Markle, Stormzy, Mo Salah and I have in common? Spoiler alert: it's not that we invest in multi-asset portfolios. We’ve all been nominated for the Investing in Ethnicity Awards for championing diversity. So what are the steps everyone can take to make a difference?
The Investing in Ethnicity Awards celebrate those who are striving to ensure that all people are afforded equal opportunities regardless of race or ethnicity. It's one of many initiatives that have emerged in recent years to recognise those who are championing diversity. So the financial industry is seeing its name alongside celebs, and certainly making huge strides in diversity.
While these breakthroughs are encouraging, they should not be seen as a fait accompli. Yes, we’re making improvements, there is awareness and representation is improving. But there is still a long way to go, and those of us in management roles really do have so much work to do. Here are some of the steps I believe we can take to truly make a difference:
Read this and tell me, do you think you have biases? Well I’m going to go out on a limb and say to those of you who said or thought no: think again. Regardless of our race, background, age or gender, we all have our own biases. However, rather than taking what I will call the 'three As approach' (acknowledge, accept and address when questioned about our biases), the instinct is to deny that we have any, and therefore treat people all the same. This belief that 'one size fits all' for management needs to go – instead we need to acknowledge the different backgrounds, cultures and biases of those that we manage and think about how we communicate with and give feedback to those within our teams.
The term BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) has truly taken on a life of its own. BAME tells us that there are a huge number of us who fit under the minority category, yet it essentially lumps all minorities into a single group. The reality is that each minority group has sometimes vastly different experiences, and bring different viewpoints, concerns and opinions to the table. We must acknowledge this and ensure that our management approach is tailored to deal with the myriads of experiences, ideas and expectations that BAME employees bring onto the investment floor.
With increasing numbers of initiatives coming into the workplace, we’re coming up against diversity fatigue and a real scepticism about what the initiatives will truly achieve. A 2017 Ernst and Young study of 1000 US workers of all backgrounds found that 35% viewed the increased focus on diversity in the workplace as overlooking white men. Of this sub-set, 49% believed that white men were being excluded from diversity initiatives, with two thirds feeling that their company focus on diversity had no business significance. Additionally, over 60% felt that white men would likely be overlooked for advancement in favour of more diverse colleagues. I’ve personally experienced this, with some of my white male peers within the industry expressing concerns about their career progression in an environment where diversity initiatives were being prioritised.
If we are promoting diversity and inclusion, it is vital that everyone feels included. To do this, we need to have some really frank conversations about how our biases and beliefs can be hurting rather than helping our colleagues. We need to ensure that the initiatives that we are pushing forward enlighten and educate without alienating or excluding anyone, encouraging team bonding and creating opportunities for team members to truly get to know and understand each other at a social level. We also need to make sure we are sharing the quantifiable, clear evidence about the undeniable benefits that diversity brings to the workplace for both businesses and employees.
I’m truly honoured and humbled to be nominated for this award, and we really should be buoyed and motivated by the great progress we are making. However, we can’t get complacent. Commit to continuing to do some really heavy lifting. This means having the difficult conversations, pushing boundaries and fighting to create a genuinely diverse and inclusive industry that we can truly be proud of. I’m looking forward to raising a glass with my fellow nominees on the night of the awards, but after that it will be straight back to work. If the need for a more diverse city doesn’t really rest, neither can those of us championing it!