ELBA Shares Perspectives in Stockholm
Intersectionality describes the unique way different aspects of identity overlap with each other. With gender pay gap reports showing eight in ten UK firms pay men more than women and the ethnicity pay gap bubbling under the surface already highlighting stark disparities, how do bright Black women ensure that they are visible and valued as they pursue and progress in their careers?
Last month, the T. Rowe Price Stockholm office hosted a client event exploring this concept and its relevance within the financial industry. Teaming up with Kvinno Kapital, a network of women within the Nordic asset management industry, for a lively and passionate panel discussion exploring the intersectional nature of diversity and inclusion.
For this discussion they drew inspiration from the experiences described in the bestselling book ‘Slay in your Lane’ which explores a number of thought-provoking accounts of female experiences within the workplace. It specifically focuses on black British women and the challenges they may face on their path to career success.
The panel included three external speakers; Julie Hutchinson, Stina Powell and Ursula Nyquist.
Julie, Employment & Skills Director / London Works Managing Director at ELBA, provided some insights into the specific challenges young people from disadvantaged backgrounds face when entering the corporate environment for the first time, as well as in their later careers. In her words:
“In my work I see young people from different backgrounds struggling with many challenges which not only relate to gender, but race, class, disability, even the occupations and engagement of their parents in education. Most young people that come through our charity didn’t ‘get the memo’ that some employers place such value on the importance of study at the ‘right’ university or getting the ‘right’ work experience, building the ‘right’ connections, but they still have intelligence and they still have the talent needed for the job.
Company leaders can be educated about the value that more diverse life experiences add. The young person who worked at Tesco, managed financial hardship and got good grades at a lower league university doesn’t always measure up naturally to the Cambridge graduate with work experience at the top-level firms and family connections in the industry.
Certain people, for various reasons have a significant head start in their corporate career journey, if company leaders want more diverse workplace communities, they need to learn to recognise the value that different experiences add to building creative solutions and productive workplaces.”
She also described her experience of gender and race:
“I’ve never felt that gender and race could ever be truly separate. Being a Black woman, race and gender both form an important part of my identity.”
Stina, a researcher on Gender and Equality within institutions at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, provided her academic perspective on these accounts. According to her,
“Research shows that groups of people with different experiences create more innovative teams, are better at problem solving and so on. This has been something we have been throwing away for a long time, but now research is actually starting to show that it is true.”
She challenged the audience to think deeper on the ideas within this, describing the role that intersectionality and criticisms of meritocracy can play in widening our perspectives on what is included within equity and inclusion debates. As she expressed,
“The assumption of meritocracy is that anyone can be anything as long as they are intelligent enough and work hard enough and this assumption ignores the inherent biases that cloud all of our judgements. As much as it sounds nice to believe in meritocracy, in reality, some get a shorter path to success than others.”
She finally urged the audience to take change into their own hands, describing,
“One of the things I keep hearing, and which keeps annoying me is the comment that ‘it takes time’… To me, we’ve had time, and we don’t need anymore… we can change the way things are right now… that takes a bit of courage.”
Challenging their audience to think differently about what it means to be a part of a diverse and inclusive workplace, a key theme emerging from the discussions focussed on the idea that cultural change cannot occur in isolation from the individual. Drawing on this idea, Ursula Nyquist from Amazing Leaders, helped lead the panel toward some solutions and tools for individuals seeking to promote change, presenting the concept of the ‘Green Lens’ a tool for building empathy and understanding when approaching others who may seem different to ourselves. In her words, when aiming to engage others, company leaders of all levels should strive to “be more interested than interesting.”
“What the world really needs right now is role models, and people who can take the lead and set examples for others. Being a good people leader takes empathy.”
As a group they succeeded in highlighting the important role that both female and male leadership can play in creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace. We each have a role to play as well as the capacity to make a difference through stepping up as role models for diversity within our organisations.
For more information on how ELBA can support your company in working towards diversity and inclusion objectives, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org