Not only does my job within the group legal team at Ultimate Finance offer me the opportunity to interact with everyone around our business, I also recently added another facet to my interaction with my colleagues through becoming a member of our internal Equality Diversity & Inclusion (“EDI”) Champions team. The team works in conjunction with Ultimate Finance’s established HR policy on EDI and adds an informal element to the structured procedure already embedded in our workplace.
Why is EDI important anyway?
Martin Luther King will always be remembered as the man who had a dream. His dream was that his four children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. I was inspired to join the EDI Champions team because I felt compelled to “throw my hat in the ring” in the fight against racism. My compulsion was powered by the Euros 2020 finals (I’ll say no more). However, that quickly evolved from just fighting against the abhorrent effects of racism to celebrating the true meaning of EDI.
EDI can be mistaken by some as a placard that victims of inequality use to fight for the right to equality. In my opinion it’s not only that but so much more. I believe that we have all been given a rare seat at the table to witness a snapshot in time where the world is united in its truth that we are all facing the same pandemic. I would be remiss not to highlight that although the virus is non-discriminatory, the world’s reaction to it is peppered with discrimination. From the somewhat tribal reactions to vaccine vs no vaccine, masks vs no masks to the bigger issues such as access to care and vaccines across the world, it is clear that some attitudes on how to navigate through this time, have left a bitter taste of inequality However, a more important effect of Covid-19, is that it triggered a unique opportunity to raise awareness that irrespective of external characteristics or religious beliefs or sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing factors, we share the same gene – the human gene.
How do we embed EDI here at Ultimate Finance?
On the back of the company-wide formal training sessions organised throughout the last couple of years, we launched our first EDI informal dive into what it means to be inclusive in October with the celebration of Black History Month. This included both celebrating cultures as well as holding informal sessions that could be joined by anyone in the business. I was so pleased by how open and ready my colleagues were to discuss these uncomfortable issues such as racism and especially appreciated their willingness to share their own feelings about it.
As we have learned through time, (and rightly so) the practice of racism has become synonymous with a degenerate thought pattern. Whilst we all know that topics of this nature are not conversation starters designed to lighten the mood, I am a firm believer in not ignoring the metaphorical elephant in the room but rather in calling it over, hearing what it has to say and ushering it out. In other words, talking about a topic however seemingly uncomfortable it is, will always teach the listener something.
In my capacity as an EDI Champion, I had resigned myself to being open to hearing opinions that may not be aligned with my own beliefs. What I found though was that because I chose to do this, it opened me up to receive the opinions of others and even change some of my own previously held views. This was somewhat mirrored across all the participants in our informal sessions because we were all able to put down our work “hats” and learn from each other.
And the results were…
We recently completed our Q4 employee engagement survey. One of the statements has us rank Ultimate Finance’s support of EDI as a business. This was the highest scoring positive statement in the entire survey with a whopping 94%. The result tells me that what we are doing is having a positive impact and is successful. We combined our formal EDI policy with a more animated informal approach through, inter alia, talking to each other and learning about topics that are outside of the normal office “chit chat”. We gave each other an equal voice in the conversation and agreed to work together to secure a more inclusive future where everyone can bring their authentic self to work.
Learnings from an EDI Champion
At a surface level, it may appear that having a small percentage of employees from diverse backgrounds would automatically equate to a lack of inclusion and diversity. However, if we scratch the surface, we can see that to be fully inclusive requires more than a superficial representation of our diverse society. In my experience true equality diversity and inclusion comes from an understanding of each other’s differences and finding common ground with each other.
Behind every good EDI policy is a great tool to implement it – I encourage everyone who reads this to take a look at what is being done within your workspace to ensure that no employee ever feels unequal or excluded. If the answer you come to is similar to “not enough” then I hope this empowers you to become the changing force it needs to make things better for everyone.