The first event in the UK calendar was opened by Dive In SteerCo Chair and Marsh Global Director of Media Relations Jason Groves. He introduced the festival’s theme of “Active Allyship”, urging festival attendees to take responsibility by turning commitments into action. Before handing over to the panel, he gave thanks to the 500 volunteers who have made Dive In 2021 possible.
Equality Forward founder Michelle King hosted the opening event, revealing that 96 per cent of us have experienced an inequality moment at work, and that despite the $8bn a year spent in the USA on diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives, 40 per cent of employees still feel isolated or excluded. Before opening the floor to the panel, Michelle encouraged the audience to ask themselves: “How does a more equal workplace serve to benefit me?”
The series of one-to-one discussions began with Lloyd’s of London CEO John Neal, who expressed his worry at the state of D&I in the context of returning to the office environment, citing the need for a change in mindsets at the most fundamental level. Pauline Miller, EMEA Chief Equity Officer at Dentsu global advertising agency and former Lloyd’s of London Head of Culture, gave her take on the meaning of allyship and stressed the importance of participation from all levels, including individuals, middle managers and whole organisations.
Michelle then spoke to Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, who is President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Founding Chairman of the UK India Business Council. He revealed that less than seven per cent of FTSE 350 companies have directors from ethnic minority backgrounds and expressed his support for the Change the Race Ratio campaign, of which CBI is a founding partner.
The event then moved on to a Q&A session, with questions from audience members that focused on the concern of old behaviours and practices creeping back into the office. A key observation made was that colleagues and businesses ‘have to want to move the dial and move it quickly’ and that has to be done through a zero-tolerance policy to negative past behaviours. Audience members then asked how white, middle-class men can be engaged in the D&I agenda and speakers flagged that there is a need to embed a culture post-festival and hold leaders, managers and corporate employees accountable to upholding these objectives.
The panel concluded with closing comments from the guests. Pauline encouraged us all to use our voices to create a better working environment. Lord Bilimoria shared wise words from his father on what makes a true leader: “The trust test of leadership is not in good times; the true test of leadership is in adversity.”. John then closed the session by advising festival attendees to take conversations from the next three days into the workplace and strive to focus on the “act” of active allyship.