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Influencing Change from the Senior Level

Dr. John Amaechi OBE

In order for a company to be successful in today’s environment it must reflect society. But generally large corporations don’t move at the same pace as society. Progress has been made but it is slow. And there is a difference between progress and change, progress is a slow and steady incline, change is a platform you can stand on.

The CEO demographic is still dominated by white British men. We hope that this will change rapidly, but unless businesses advance that change they will lag behind society. Their rhetoric needs to match their behavior.

What was stressed repeatedly during this talk was that D&I is not merely the right thing to do, it’s a business imperative. There are a great number of mediocre people in most organisations, this is not news – they are often referred to as the permafrost, the marzipan – their work is consistently satisfactory and never anything more. These employees themselves provide a deep performance prerogative for inclusion, for widening that net to gain more exceptional talent. Inclusion can give you an edge. The data on the benefits of inclusion is uncontroversial and unequivocal, it can literally save you billions of dollars.

Diversity and Inclusion means being able to bring your whole self to work, and not hide behind a persona. And the important thing to remember is that D&I is not just for minorities, but for everyone; for the introverted straight white male, for instance, who though he may hold most of the power demographically, is still overlooked for not conforming to an aggressively “masculine” way of behaving. How people are viewed by their peers affects them. Having to hide your differences builds resentment and wastes energy, both of which will negatively impact the organization in the long term.

D&I initiatives should not take any more of your time or energy, they should just mean you are more diligent with the time and energy you have, but the important thing to take away from this talk is that your behavior must match your rhetoric.  Minorities should not be responsible for their own emancipation.