#ChamberBreakers: Key steps in solving the complex equation of diversity, inclusion, and CSR

Lianna Brinded
·Head of Yahoo Finance UK
·5-min read
Graphic: Yahoo Finance/Verizon
Graphic: Yahoo Finance/Verizon

The world of work has changed forever. From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, to the overdue focus on gaining racial equality in business and wider society, the way in which we live and work will no longer be the same as before.

These huge sea changes in society have rapidly escalated over 2020 and have forced business leaders across the world to navigate challenging conversations on what corporate social responsibility (CSR) looks like today.

It’s for this reason Yahoo Finance and Verizon Business have teamed up to present a six-part podcast series designed to inform and educate professionals with alternative perspectives on CSR in times of crisis.

Hosted by Lianna Brinded, head of Yahoo Finance UK and Xavier White, CSR and innovation marketing manager for Verizon Business, each episode will be a courageous conversation on topics such as how businesses need to understand and help support the mental health of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) staff as well as the importance of fostering an environment of diversity, inclusion, and ultimately belonging.

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The first episode is with Tricia Driver, founder of diversity and inclusion consultancy A New Normal, who gave her insights in a wide-ranging conversation in the new #ChamberBreakers podcast series.

“Quite often people think of inclusion and diversity as being interchangeable and synonymous with one another, ” says Driver in the new episode, while also talking at length about fostering a sense of ‘belonging.’

“For me, diversity is all of the richness and that difference that we bring as human beings… and inclusion is how you make that mix work. Those two things don't work in a business or in society without one another. There is a tendency to think that inclusion is exactly the same thing as an absence of exclusion. And that is just not the case in any world.”

READ MORE: #ChamberBreakers: How business leaders can navigate CSR during a crisis

At the heart of this is understanding how in any situation — including the coronavirus pandemic — people may be going through the same event but are experiencing it hugely differently.

For example, those from ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and racial inequality has also been put in the spotlight, particularly for the Black community, following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the US. This could have a huge mental health impact on staff and if companies do not have a great sense of inclusion or belonging, this could hit staff mental health further.

“There’s an enormous impact to that and some of the marginalised groups that we talk about. If you don’t see visible role models at work, it’s hard to be yourself,” said Driver. You can check out her practical tips for business leaders on how to tackle this on the podcast.

Understanding privilege and the power of advocacy

The lack of diversity in workplaces, particularly in more senior roles, means that allies and advocates are more important than ever to bring about change. The key is understanding how to move from being an actor, to an ally, and then an accomplice for change. Understanding privilege is the first step in becoming an ally and advocate in order to effect change in a company.

“The first and most important thing is listen to the groups that you say you want to support but also don’t think about how it impacts you (personally),” said Driver. As a straight, white woman, Driver says it’s important to recognise what privilege you have but not get “hung up in your own guilt” otherwise you’re not truly listening to others that need help.

“Don’t dispute what they are saying and don’t doubt what they are telling you — you just need to listen and be guided by those people in those groups on what they need,” she added.

The industry gold standard report on diversity by global consultancy McKinsey looked at data from more than 1,000 large companies, across 15 countries, and it showed that “the business case remains robust but also that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time.”

However, gender and ethnic diversity in leadership teams has slowed over the last five years, meaning those who are at the top and generally in a position of power are still predominantly white men. Companies that were in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic diversity were 27% more likely to underperform on profitability than all other companies.

 Chart: McKinsey
Chart: McKinsey

So not only is addressing, diversity, inclusion, and belonging essential for CSR, it is a business imperative too.

She adds, if companies don’t build out incisive CSR plans, the knock-on effect will be felt imminently.

“People will not forget how you made them feel during this crisis,” says Driver. “It might be an employer's marketplace for a while. But at some point we will get back to a place where the employees are the ones that have the choice — and they will choose to vote with their feet.”

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The six-part podcast #ChamberBreakers is out every Thursday, so don’t forget to check out Yahoo Finance UK for the accompanying article, as well as clicking, subscribing, and rating to the podcast here.

Next week’s episode with feature Suki Sandhu OBE, founder and CEO of executive search firm Audeliss and diversity and inclusion membership organisation Involve, about the importance of understanding intersectionality and CSR.