When I was asked to write an article on diversity and inclusion, I decided to do something that’s maybe a little unusual for Pensions Aspects. Diversity, for me, means having a variety of opinions and, therefore, I thought you should hear from someone else in this article and not just me. So I asked my daughter to write a short piece on how she sees diversity as, in just one generation, her upbringing has been quite different to mine. Kate has written her piece on what she observes and what she wants to see change.
KA: Diversity is equal representation at every single level. It is decision making and equal opportunities. Diversity is a celebration, and it is a continuous process and ideal that we must work towards.
In order to strive for diversity, in the workplace or elsewhere, it is essential that we recognise our own privileges; whether that be in our gender expression, our race, our sexuality, our class or as a non-disabled person. In recognising the privileges that we have been afforded as a result of our identity we are able to make space for those who have not been afforded the same privileges.
LA: Looking through the lens of President of the PMI, a body that promotes and supports lifelong learning and development, I share Kate’s aspirations. I want to encourage a culture of inclusion that reinforces mutual learning and appreciation among our members and supporters. That starts with PMI’s governance bodies and filters through the organisation and out to everyone who engages with PMI.
KA: Women have a lower employment rate than their male counterparts, with female employment levels dropping as seniority increases. Of all women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women are most consistently underrepresented in the workforce. As of March 2020, only 5% of CEOs in the FTSE100 were women and, of these women, none were of an ethnic minority(1).
Diversity is not relying on the false myth of a meritocracy. A famous experiment carried out by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) found unconscious bias recorded at every level. It concluded that applicants with British sounding names were far more likely to be called to interview than their ethnic minority counterparts(2). A vast imbalance continues to exist within employment when categorised according to race, with white people always being the most employed out of any ethnic group, in every category(3). A meritocracy cannot work until everyone has equal opportunities. It is up to us to recognise this and create those opportunities.
LA: There are a few basic elements of diversity that we can capture as standard. For example, I want a gender balance on our platform and panels, and diverse views represented in our publications. I want to see a much greater BAME involvement in the work of PMI. I don’t want people to point critically at the PMI, as they have at the UK Government’s team for Glasgow COP26 UN climate summit, which doesn’t include a single woman!
An ancient proverb of unknown origin states “The fish rots from the head”. This means that in any organisation or group, the leadership sets the tone and the culture for the whole and is responsible for its success or failure. When it comes to trustees, this means the role of the Chair is vital. Much has been said about diversity on trustee boards in recent years but do we have data to support that real change has occurred? We naturally gravitate to people who are the same as us which can lead to group think, and far worse if we study our history books. Are trustee boards getting governance processes in place which foster diverse representation on the board, encourage different perspectives in debate and discussion, and are reflective of the workforces to whom they are responsible? Does the trustee board have a proper diversity policy that prompts action and accountability? A diverse trustee board ought to demand equal diversity among all its advisers, asset managers and agents. It takes time and effort to understand others’ perspectives, where they differ to ours, but it must happen.
KA: Diversity is not just satisfying a quota. Diversity must be an active process; one in which people support each other, celebrate each other and learn from each other. Diversity is about giving others a platform, and appreciating the range of skills, insight and human experience that can be brought by those who have completely different lived experiences. Diversity is celebrating difference. Only a multitude of different perspectives will ever give you a 360 degree view.
LA: COVID-19 has taught us many things including that being adaptable, flexible, innovative and creative is essential to our wellbeing. These attributes are not the purview of a particular section of society. We will all do better if we include the contributions of the many. Linus Pauling said “the best way to have a good idea, is to have lots of ideas”. I’d say the best way to have lots of ideas is to have diverse input. In the spirit of diversity and inclusion, I am encouraging PMI members to share their ideas on how we can make diversity and inclusion a reality in our day-to-day experience.
Rome wasn’t built in a day but we ought to have got past the foundations by now.
Last update: 26 February 2021