My first experience of diversity and inclusion was over 20 years ago. I was running Fixed Income Sales at a global bank in Europe in the late 90s, and we were losing a lot of female talent because we couldn’t offer any flexibility with the way we worked.
Back then, the only option was long, full-time hours in the office, so I initiated a project to enable women in our area of the business to job share. It took a lot of effort and persistence to get the scheme underway, but it proved to be a big success. At one point, we had four pairs of women in full job shares, which was completely revolutionary at the time, but it enabled us to retain female talent and demonstrate that careers within Fixed Income didn’t just have to fit one mold.
It's interesting that as we emerge from the pandemic, flexibility and retaining talent are once again high on the agenda. A new risk for inclusion is apparent, as we unintentionally prioritize the people present in the office. Those who have embraced the hybrid approach risk being out of sight, out of mind, unless we actively find ways to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“Everyone has their own experiences and unique perspective, beyond our lists of attributes, and every single voice is important”
It serves as a good reminder that the Diversity and Inclusion space is ever evolving.
We work hard to promote Diversity and Inclusion at Standard Chartered Americas, but here are some of the lessons I’ve personally learnt on my journey.
Understand the history
When George Floyd was murdered in 2020, it sent a shockwave across the world. Being British but living in the US, the strength of the reaction to the event made me realize that I hadn’t grasped the intensity of the specific scar tissue that still exists in USA. It was an opportunity for me to reach out and connect with people so that I could understand more, and it brought a sense of urgency to our D&I work and the part I had to play in it.
We all need to be part of the solution
There are a lot of different ways to get involved in change in the D&I space and they don’t all have to be grand gestures. It might be something small, like recognizing that some of your language isn’t inclusive or people leaders simply ensuring everyone contributes to the meeting -- regardless of whether participants are attending virtually or physically. It may also mean individuals have to seek out training opportunities to fill in the gaps in knowledge or experience. We need to work together to find the barriers to inclusion and keep breaking them down. Everyone has their own experiences and unique perspective, beyond our lists of attributes, and every single voice is important.
Global organizations need a local lens
At Standard Chartered, it might seem like we have no issue with diversity, as we have an incredible global footprint across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. But what we have realized is that the American experience of Standard Chartered is unique. And while it’s clear that we are incredibly diverse globally, we do have local diversity challenges that need to be resolved. In global organizations, it’s often the way that programs like this are driven from the center, but the US perspective, and the need for rapid change, are unique and urgent, and that means we can’t wait for a central approach – we need to drive it from here. In doing so, we also have the opportunity to share ideas and best practices with other regions. It can be extremely powerful when various regions connect and inspire each other with their local D&I activities.
Make Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Diversity networks compelling
Our ERGs are a key aspect of our approach to Diversity and Inclusion, and they enable hundreds of colleagues to get involved in different programs and workstreams. They work on so many levels. They are full of inclusion experts which people at all levels can draw on. They engage people and bring them into the D&I conversation, broadening perspectives and providing excellent development opportunities. But our ERGs have also become a fantastic way to build a network within the Bank, helping people become connected to the fabric of the organization. In many ways, they’ve become the way to network, which means we’ve interlinked D&I and success, which can only be a good thing.
One of the key things I’ve learned is that there’s no onesize-fits-all approach to D&I. Sometimes it’s the small things that will move the needle. Sometimes it takes a historic moment in time. But from what I’ve seen over the past twenty years of pushing forward the D&I agenda, it all adds up.