UK Advisory Council Meeting – Jan 26, 2023
How do we help non-diverse leaders be the best possible allies?
We have to recognise that executives are apprehensive about getting their D&I approach wrong – particularly when executive teams are themselves often far from diverse. Even if individual executives recognise and believe in the opportunity, fear too frequently leads to inaction. So, what can great companies and great allies do differently that will give them the confidence to push this agenda forward?
This was the focus of Hedley May’s first Advisory Council meeting of 2023. We were delighted to be joined by the Group CFO at a FTSE 250 organisation, who openly discussed their company’s D&I strategies, successes, and shortcomings having recently taken on D&I executive sponsorship.
In an honest and introspective discussion, several key themes emerged.
Have the courage to risk missteps.
The most important first step is to start somewhere, rather than trying to formulate the ‘perfect’ D&I strategy. It is understandable to be apprehensive about alienating some groups by focusing on others first.
One participant in our discussion said:
“One of the biggest barriers I’ve found is that people find reasons to say ‘don’t do it’, often asking ‘what about this group?
What about all these other people you’re going to make feel marginalised if your D&I policies don’t focus on them?”
But our Council noted that sometimes the only way to make a start is by initially focusing on areas where you have the most data to measure change, and then expanding outwards.
D&I requires boldness. It is important that D&I is felt within the business strategy – with tangible goals. Leaders should be incentivised to meet their objectives, but there should also be consequences for failing to do so. Everyone needs to see that the game has changed – and that leadership is changing with it. And while it can be easier to focus on visual diversity than diversity of thought, the latter is critical – and should be highly prized.
This is not something that will happen overnight. Everyone will make mistakes – and the best of plans can be made to change. The crucial thing is to pair ambition with the right intent, made in good faith.
“Mistakes within the D&I space will happen very often, especially for big, global organisations. What works in one place can offend someone somewhere else. Our clients and customers hold us to account for that. But when we make mistakes, we’ve learned that it’s better to say that we don’t know everything. It’s a journey for us. And people are forgiving.”