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Shiny Shoes and Progressive People! PIMFA Diversity & Inclusion Awards 2021

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Sam Hall

Sam Hall

With over 20 years of marketing experience across telecoms, Third Sector, IT, Construction and now the Financial Services industry, Sam is a results-driven marketing professional with a passion for designing communication channels that enable an organisations to speak meaningfully and respectfully to prospects and clients.

I read in an article recently that a diverse and inclusive workplace is one that makes everyone, regardless of who they are, feel equally involved and supported in all areas of the workplace. This is regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation or physical abilities, and as such the importance of this and how it is successfully implemented into the workplace was the focus of the recent PIMFA Diversity & Inclusion Awards 2021, which was held in London on 20th October.

But why is D&I so important in the workplace? Many studies have shown the business benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce including:

• Higher employee retention
• A positive ‘tool’ in attracting more diverse talent to your business
• Higher revenue growth

In July this year the Bank of England, Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority, issued a discussion paper Diversity and Inclusion in the financial sector – working together to drive change noting that their joint ambition is:

To ensure the financial system is better able to support the economy through well run firms and sound financial markets that can meet the diverse needs of their consumers. We want a resilient financial services sector, which brings together and responds to different views and perspectives, so that concerns can be raised, and decisions are challenged effectively. Together, diversity and inclusion can reduce groupthink, encourage debate and innovation, and thereby improve outcomes for consumers and across markets, supporting financial stability.

This is an example of how important the regulators feel D&I is for the financial sector and their guidelines should be filtered down into how we do business and run our firms.

But along with the advantages for the business, positive and active D&I in the workplace creates a much fairer workplace community where there is a more consistent and equal experience for all colleagues. This was truly shown during the D&I awards ceremony and the conversations that followed.

Worksmart were honoured to sponsor this event, and myself and a colleague attended the ceremony, along with Emma Howell our Business Development Manager attending as a judge and a presenter of the Best D&I Initiative award, which went to LGT Vestra. This was a lovely event (and nice to wear something other than slippers) but also a great opportunity to recognise not only the firms that are integrating positive diversity and inclusion practices in their workplaces, but also individuals who are making real changes to ensure this is not just ‘fulfilling a quota’ or crossing a requirement off the ‘inclusion’ checklist.

This event also gave me the opportunity to think about how often I have seen real D&I in the places I have worked during my career and whether it was a genuine strive for equality across the board, just added to the ‘About Us’ on the website, or an act of ‘tokenism’.

In the past I had the pleasure of working for a very large international aid agency who worked with communities in some of the poorest countries in the world, and I remember there was an occasion where a steering group had been put together from staff from all teams in the office to look at a new initiative (I can’t remember exactly what it what for), but needless to say it was supposed to have representation from all parts of the business in order to help the poorest people in the world – the majority of whom were people of colour. When we were introduced to this new steering group it struck me hard that not even one of them was a person of colour – not very ‘diverse or inclusive’ in my eyes, especially given the communities we were helping.

Upon raising this with my director, a few days later I was invited to join the steering group (hmmm?) The group was great and went on to do wonderful life-changing things for the communities we worked with, but I was saddened that my appointment only happened because I was brave enough to challenge the lack of diversity, but it also made me believe I was simply put there as the ‘black’ representation, and since then I have always been a little sceptical of the D&I initiatives that I have seen being implemented.

After the awards ceremony I must be honest – my faith in firms genuinely making strides forward in D&I has increased! I was witness to individuals across our industry who had a real belief in the importance of D&I and it’s benefits not only to the sector but also their employees, with some of the winners sharing their experiences of how hard they had worked to get the buy-in and commitment from their firms. Of course, we still have a long way to go, but I was encouraged by the dedication of the industry to make this commitment to move forward and build trust and opportunities, not just for their clients by also for their colleagues to thrive in their roles.

Huge congratulations go to the nominees and winners of the awards, to PIMFA for putting together these inaugural awards, and I know at Worksmart we are eager to continue to be a part of the awards and of D&I initiatives in the years ahead.

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