Diversity In The Bored Room

I really enjoyed listening to Lenny Henry at the recent Changeboard Future Talent event. His talk was funny and powerful – I was live blogging on the day and first shared some of what he spoke about here.

Something which really struck me in the talk, and which has stayed with me, was a focus on the lack of diversity inclusion and representation, both in the media, and in the wider world of work. This extract is from my earlier blog post about the talk:

Lenny called out the lack of racial diversity in the room. He told us of recent times in the media, where figures show that for every BAME person who lost their job, two white people were employed. This is partly why Lenny Henry continues his campaigning in the media for greater diversity, inclusion, and representation.

Diversity in the boardrooms – that’s where change starts.

If you think you can’t change it yourself? Apply pressure to those who can.

It’s easy to spot the places and people taking diversity, inclusion, and representation more seriously. They put real jobs, and money behind it!

Out of curiosity, I started to take a look at the very top levels of some of the organisations sponsoring and speaking at the event. I’ve always had a sense of the inequality in the upper echelons of business, but never sat down and taken a good look at it myself. In doing so, I recognise that diversity has many facets, and as my friend Laura Tribe suggests, ‘looking diverse isn’t being diverse’, however what my small piece of research uncovered is a much more distorted picture than I had previously imagined. Here’s what I found (what follows is an edit of a thread I shared on Twitter):

I went to an event this week where diversity and inclusion was high on the agenda. One of the speakers said change has to start in the boardrooms. This point got me curious, so I’m currently looking at boards and senior leadership teams of some of the event sponsors and the companies represented by some of the speakers at the event. What I am seeing is white faces everywhere.

I appreciate there are elements of diversity and inclusion which go unseen, but what I observe so far, is overwhelming sameness. Here is just one example, there are plenty of similar ones to choose from.

Photos of the current board of directors at capita plc. 6 white men, 2 white women.

 

Here is another board of directors represented at the event. There is a little more gender diversity among the the next hierarchical level down, the executive team, but it is still overwhelmingly white.

Photographs of the main board of directors at Aviva plc. 5 white men.

 

Here’s another board, the first one I’ve come across so far with a woman CEO. At the executive level, one down from here, there are two women and nine men in the group of 11, no people of colour.

Photos of the main board at royal mail. 6 white men, 3 white women

Life From A Window : Our London

Keira’s school recently had a ‘Take Your Daughter To Work’ day, which we managed to coincide with an experimental day of live painting at the London offices of AECOM. We were invited to explore the theme of ‘Our London’ for the day, and we duly headed into town on the Overground train during rush hour (I was keen to give Keira the full commuting experience!) to get to work.

We set up in the main reception area on the 16th floor, overlooking the city of London. The view from the window is spectacular – even on a wet cloudy day like the one we had. Keira and I were keen to contrast the wide panoramic view of a wealthy city as seen from the window, with a more close up view of the streets immediately surrounding the building we worked in. We also wanted to involve other people in our work.

People began to show curiosity in what we were doing, so we engaged them in conversations about the view, and about their experiences of London and the local area. We spoke about how the view changes according to time of day, seasons, weather etc. Several folk suggested a series of works to reflect these changes. The view at night came up a few times, and we sought to represent that in a painting. We also invited people to take photographs out of the window, without being any more specific than that.

People also spoke with us about the streets of London, and transport came up a fair bit so we made a street scene using paint for the ‘map’ and polaroids taken by Keira at street level, to represent some of what we heard in the conversations.

We made some geometric abstractions of buildings/cityscape – and experimented with some tracing overlays too, as a way of acknowledging the different ways people described ‘Our London’.

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We had planned to turn everyone’s photographs into a collage cityscape, and we ran into some technical printing difficulties on the day, so that part of the project remains a work in progress.

Life From A Window

The idea was to invite people to engage, thank you to the many people who responded to that invitation. We used what we learned to inform and conduct some small experiments, and we observed how we and others responded to what was going on.

We had a really interesting time. There was no grand plan at this stage, just an opportunity to drop something different into the working day, a small stone which set off a series of ripples.

Acknowledgements

This work would not have been possible without Keira, and the support of Malcolm, Hilary, and Sharon at AECOM, thank you all. The team at reception supported us well, and encouraged folk to interact with us, thank you. Thanks to everyone who took time to speak with us, suggest ideas, and take photographs.

An Apology

Last week I answered a call from a friend who wanted my help. Would I step in to a conference slot and give a short talk on resilience? I agreed unhesitatingly, a friend in need and all that, and since then I’ve been preparing and practicing, preparing and practicing. Focused on the task at hand.

Today’s the day, the big event. I’m off to London soon, nervous as I always am before speaking in front of an audience. Yet something much bigger than the event has stopped me in my tracks. Today is International Women’s Day, and even though as a card carrying member of the Women’s Equality Party, I like to think I keep equality in mind at all times – my awareness is heightened…

I’m staring at the speaker line up for today’s event. It is overwhelmingly male. Of the seventeen people listed, including chairs, panellists etc, two are female. Yes – you read that correctly. Two. Awkward.

Usually when I am asked to speak, I make enquiries about the line up and specifically how I will complement and contrast. This time, win all my haste to get ready, I forgot. Today, of all days, on one level I am simply adding to the white maleness. Sorry. I promise to look harder next time, and do better in my endeavours to develop and sustain greater equality.