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Q3 Forum: Embracing diversity in leadership

Whilst there has undoubtedly been an upward shift in recent years, the current diversity at leadership does not accurately reflect the population and is certainly not close to where it should be. Each of our panellists spoke openly on the theme through their own unique lens, curating a clear set of values to help you be successful as you work towards your goals for diversity.

  • Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, Co-Founder of Redington, Mallowstreet, and 10,000 Interns Foundation, kicked off the event with tales of his early career in law, knowing he had to work harder than his peers but was not expecting to miss out on key opportunities due to potential employers ‘already hiring a Black guy, so can’t do it again’.
  • Sonia Chawla, Head of Legal Investment Transactions at Schroders, shared Dawid’s experiences as she was (and largely still is) the only Asian woman in a predominantly white male environment, and was often marginalised from social aspects of the job due to her cultural background which resulted in being bypassed on opportunities that were presented to her social-ready counterparts instead; and our final panellist.
  • Tim Pointer, voted #4 Most Influential UK HR Leader in 2023 and Operating Partner at private equity firm Three Hills, shared invaluable insights gained on how to support and promote diversity opportunities from his 30-year plus career within the financial and professional services industry.

The power of mentoring

The intrinsic value of mentoring was a recurring theme throughout the discussion. Drawing on her personal experiences, Sonia spoke about the importance of mentorship she’s received over her career and how this was the catalyst for her to change the approach to mentorship within her team. Not only does it enable individuals to feel more comfortable in their surroundings, but they become more willing and confident to share ideas, fostering increased levels of innovation. Leaders should also consider embracing reverse mentoring as it provides a huge opportunity to learn from those around them and continue building on those vital soft skills, like emotional intelligence and empathy.

Stop looking in the mirror

Building a team that mirror your characteristics or backgrounds can seem like a more efficient approach (and is often a result of invisible bias and influence) but it can easily lead to a team’s demise. Leaders need to get comfortable with challenging themselves to actively look for ‘not like them’ and get better acquainted with leading diverse teams. Dawid highlighted the teams he has worked with across his career where diversity was more apparent are the teams that were most effective and successful. These diverse teams have greater mixed opinions and views that better identify potential risk in company strategies, compared to teams built of like-minded and similar individuals.

Diversity is intentional, not a choice

Achieving positive and sustainable diversity is no longer the sole responsibility of senior management but instead needs to be a community-wide effort that everyone within a business is responsible for. Tim noted that it serves benefit for initiatives to begin with senior leadership teams to truly ignite them within a business, and that businesses need to decide and openly promote their long-term diversity goals to ensure collective effort and determination. Forum moderator and Dartmouth CEO, Terri Loska put it simply that “if you don’t have an early careers strategy, you don’t have a diversity strategy”. Starting any diversity initiative with junior talent is fundamental for a business to create an organic profitable pipeline of diverse talent to work their way up to their leadership team. Unfortunately, this requires long-term strategic planning which many businesses do not have the resource, capabilities or experience for setting up and managing. The Dartmouth Early Careers team solves this problem by opening the talent pools to wide demographics of individuals from all backgrounds and experiences and partnering with our leading Classroom to Boardroom Foundation.

How can we drive diversity further?

For progressive change to happen and for there to be increased accuracy in representation of diversity, change is required to current leadership structures. A fresh approach is needed to bring together new opinions, views, and experiences to enable diversity to foster and support organic growth over time. This is also extremely relevant when developing hiring strategies for attracting new talent. Our 2023 Gen Z Hiring Report found that 68.6% of Gen Z respondents consider the diversity of the leadership team when deciding on their future employer. So, for businesses wanting to increase relevancy in attracting this key talent – the future senior leaders - their senior leadership must be able to talk the talk and walk the walk. At Dartmouth, we’re experts in developing diversity strategies and helping businesses to improve the structure of their teams to support their initiatives. If your business needs to refresh its current diversity strategies or build from new, then please do email us at info@dartmouthpartners.com and one of our specialist teams will be happy to talk you through your diversity and hiring goals.

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