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How to evolve from ‘feel-good’ optics to creating real and measurable change?

Lianna Brinded
·Head of Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read

This is the year that has changed everything. From the spread of coronavirus irreversibly changing our lives, inside and outside of work, the globe has also undergone a reawakening about the racial injustice that permeates every aspect of society.

Over the last few months, companies have been investing money, time, and resources into finding ways to help tackle systemic racism and make 2020 a real year of change.

Speaking at the DIAL Global Virtual Summit, hosted by Leila McKenzie Delis, CEO, DIAL Global, panellists discussed the importance of turning words into action and how the diversity and inclusion (D&I) focus has shifted beyond the “feel-good” rhetoric and positive optics of diversity.

David Grevemberg CBE, CEO, The Commonwealth Games Federation pointed out that “now in today’s social media world and digitised world, things are measured much quicker — not just in our ratings but the impact we have. We are much more connected and the pandemic has meant we have become even closer as we’re living at work. Every day is a school day.”

The DIAL Global Virtual Summit is support by Yahoo Finance’s parent company Verizon Media. The virtual conference, entitled ‘A Call to Action & Moving the DIAL for Meaningful and Sustainable Change through Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging’ speaks to senior directors and C-suite executives at the largest organisations in the world to discuss how companies can foster a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

Grevemberg, Andrew Denton, CEO, Alfa Financial, Richard Arnold, group managing director of Manchester United spoke on a panel about their own organisation’s journey to create better equality, diversity, and inclusion.

Grevemberg, Andrew Denton, CEO, Alfa Financial, Richard Arnold, group managing director of Manchester United spoke on a panel. Photo: Yahoo Finance/DIAL Global
Grevemberg, Andrew Denton, CEO, Alfa Financial, Richard Arnold, group managing director of Manchester United spoke on a panel. Photo: Yahoo Finance/DIAL Global

For each of them, they revealed that there is no ‘one-way’ to make progress but starting with “courageous conversations and bold actions” should be at the centre.

“We talk a lot about speaking up but a lot of it is about listening and having an open door policy, authenticity, and gaining a track record of saying ‘yes’,” said Andrew Denton, CEO, Alfa Financial.

“It then makes a huge difference how people feel and how people are, but you also gain a track record of credibility” when it comes to being a diverse and inclusive leader that actions on what they speak about, he added.

“The best way to get comfortable about feeling uncomfortable is a trick question. If you’re doing something right, then you’ve got to be uncomfortable. If you’re comfortable, then your head is in the wrong place. There are a number of fears and guilt we have to get over with and we shouldn’t shy away from it. I am aware that my career has benefited from a system that is fundamentally broken.”

On taking action, Richard Arnold, group managing director of Manchester United outlined the football team’s ‘All Red All Equal’ campaign that seeks to make the club and sport more diverse and inclusive.

“We have strong responsibility to do the right thing and put our money where our mouths are,” said Arnold.

All Red All Equal comes off the back of the club setting up an Equality Committee in 2016 — an executive management group responsible for leading equality from the very top of the organisation, in addition to a number of employee inclusion networks. The campaign has an Equality Action Plan at its heart, which continues to integrate equality, diversity and inclusion throughout all areas of the business.

Grevemberg said that the Gold Coast games was an example of actioning for change, not just talking about it. The games saw 6,500 athletes and officials from every corner of the Commonwealth, take part in the largest para-sport programme ever in the history of the Commonwealth Games, a ground-breaking Reconciliation Action Plan and a global first with an equal number of medals for women and men.

He said: “This wasn’t tokenistic. It was a vehicle of how sports can respect, protect, and promote these [indigenous] communities and not just a historical reference point. It challenges the past but also is embracing and celebrating of our present and future.”