Chief executives of all organisations have a duty to build inclusive workplace cultures following a “poor record” on women, ethnic minorities and sexual orientation, Inga Beale, Chief Executive of Lloyd’s of London, said at a dinner hosted by Odgers Berndtson last night.

Over 100 leaders of business and sports organisations attending the dinner in London heard the first woman running London’s principal insurer call for culture change to become a “business priority” - and recognise the human and organisational costs of failing to tackle prejudice.
“We should be ashamed that in 2017 people feel they can’t be themselves at work,” Ms Beale said.“It’s incumbent on all leaders, in sport, business, anywhere, to create environments in which employees feel supported when they ‘bring their whole selves to work’. The buck stops at the top.”

Odgers Berndtson recently ranked as UK’s top executive search firm, is today also publishing a set of personal perspectives on the journey in gender diversity, focusing on the 20-year struggle for women to reach the very top of UK businesses.

“The real challenge is in senior executive roles, where we need a step change for women and all diversity candidates,” Kester Scrope chief executive of Odgers
Berndtson said. “Embedding a more inclusive mindset into organisations is a massive challenge, and leaders who have struggled themselves can be especially powerful agents of change.”

Recalling her early career, Ms Beale said it was unrealistic to expect people to perform well if they don’t feel respected and valued for their contribution and their difference. “I am at the top of the insurance profession now but it nearly lost me in my twenties, after an incident at my then employer,” she said. “It made me understand that those who behave badly should be aware of how the affected person feels.”

“When I became Lloyd’s first female CEO in its 330-year history nearly four years ago, I faced a challenge,” she continued. “I inherited a venerable institution steeped in charming or anachronistic tradition, depending on your perspective, and that lacked real diversity. We’ve since put in place a talent strategy modernising our whole approach, and the response so far has been terrific.”

Simon Cummins, Head of Odgers Berndtson’s Global Sports practice, said the firm actively works with all clients towards greater diversity and inclusion. “There are particular challenges in some sectors but, by taking a lateral and global approach to talent, and applying best practice, there are many ways we can help,” he said.

The government has imposed more rigorous expectations on companies to develop talented women as they progress into executive roles. This followed a review by Hampton-Alexander, reporting on its first-year next month. Other new requirements oblige organisations to make public the pay of senior men and women
in comparable roles.

This tougher regime particularly focused on progress for women comes 20 years after the first woman was appointed Chief Executive of a FTSE100 company in 1997. The latest Odgers Berndtson Corporate Leadership Barometer, “Diversity: The 20-Year Journey on Gender”, is a series of personal perspectives looking
forward and back at this transition and its implications for wider diversity.

For more information, please visit Odgers Berndtson Diversity page.

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