CBI Diversity & Inclusion Insights

Insights: The CBI’s Diversity & Inclusion Conference, June 2019

On Thursday this week I attended the CBI’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference in London.

There were many excellent speakers and panellists sharing their perspectives. Below are a few of the highlights from the event.

Older Workers

Andy continued to say that while at Aviva they realised that the language in their job adverts was directly aimed at young people. They also changed their images in adverts which made a significant difference in attracting older people.


Shifting Bias

Another Andy – Andy Long – CEO of Portland Brands, described how few women were in senior roles. He took the brave step to introduce targets and make his executive team accountable. He also looked into their recruitment practice. In terms of their interviewing, rather than the casual internal interviewing they had done for years, they shifted to a properly externally facilitated process. This exposed inherent bias. And so, followed a programme of unconscious bias training throughout the organisation. He now has 33% female executives and 37% in the next layer down which is an impressive turnaround.


Gender Difference in PDPs

Another excellent speaker was Lucinda Wakefield from BNY Mellon. A woman returner herself, she heads up D&I. One fascinating insight from Lucinda was to do with analysing personal development plans. She found that women would request further experience or skill building, e.g. project management skills or learning about a different aspect of the business. Whereas men’s plans focused on careers and moving to the next level. It wasn’t that women didn’t want to progress, but more that they were not sharing and articulating that desire.


Need for Data

Almost every speaker talked about the need for data. Understanding, not only at a top level, but digging down into the layers below by department, location, level. However, it’s not enough to have the data, it’s about the action that is being taken with the data that is key.


Mentoring Circles

Alok Sharma, the Minister of State for Employment then joined the stage to share more fascinating insights and actions. He also referred to the need to support older workers, sharing the following powerful statistic. By 2035, older workers (those over 50) will make up over 50% of the workforce.  Alok talked about a new initiative to help youngsters of ethnic backgrounds get into the workplace. Job Centres across the UK have connected with businesses to drive mentoring circles (KPMG, Google, Barclays to name a few). This is aimed at helping with CV writing and interview skills and has had a strong impact on helping those young people. He requested more business leaders to sign up.


Referrals, Mentors and Sponsors

One other highlight of the day for me was hearing Josh Graff the Country Manager for LinkedIn. Their Gender Insights Report found that women will apply for 20% fewer jobs over men. And even more interesting, women in the UK are 22% less likely to ask for a referral. Did you know that hearing about a job is 9 times more likely to come through a referral? It’s essential that women continually build their contacts and that all-important power base. In my experience, many women avoid networking. My advice is to find the networks that are aligned with your values and go and learn some skills in how to network effectively.


Josh continued to share that whilst mentoring is powerful, sponsorship is even more impactful. The difference between the two? Mentors talk with you, Sponsors talk about you. Have you a Mentor? A Sponsor?


The day continued with breakout sessions on the impact of mental health in the workplace and how to create diverse working cultures. The day was wrapped up by hearing the inspirational story of Surinder Arora founder of the Arora Group. Check him out – a wonderful entrepreneur with such a big heart.



For me, there is one person in particular I’m looking forward to seeing again. And that’s the chairman of Astriid. A stunning charity looking at how to provide individuals with long term health problems with meaningful work. It’s a completely different perspective on how to really embrace diversity and flexible working. (Check out He and I will be meeting for coffee soon.


I was impressed at the tremendous amount of work happening in the D&I space. From Government through business and into the non-profit sector. There is much work to be done, but many wonderful stories of success and best practice. The CBI have now produced their Gender Pay Gap Toolkit and I’ll be doing a webinar with CBI about that very soon.  Watch this space.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.