I’ve been rocked back on my heels many times, stunned by the powerful messages from all of our speakers. It’s been uncomfortable listening at times but the attempt to learn and grow often is. The revelation that education isn’t enough to change the world was a big one for me. We need to see and act through a united effort to bring about radical change – a much more complex affair involving direct action.
I’d like to single out the attendees this year whose exceptional contributions made many of the discussions as valuable as the presentations – a big thank you to you. Comments made from personal experience are as hard-hitting as any research and as memorable.
Another thing we learnt this year is that history is critical to understanding the present. DIFF emerged from a women’s executive group involving some of the best and the brightest women in the mortgage industry, driving a need for change and the recognition that you need to be able to bring ‘your whole self’ to work. DIFF has grasped the baton, broadening that message and formalising our determination to mark out real change for all in this industry.
This was just the beginning.
We look forward to seeing you all again next year.
DIFF 20-21 Review and learnings
How to embed diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Frank Starling, (pictured) founder and chief executive of consultancy Variety Pack guided our audience through a workshop like no other, detailing the discomfort, allyship and determination needed to imprint permanent change
Five session takeaways
• Get ready to be uncomfortable and create spaces for difficult conversations where people can talk without fear of judgement or attack
• Be disruptive and challenging to examine both our own privilege and understand how we exclude others
• Challenge hiring practices and shortlists to overturn institutional bias
• Choose to be an ally and live a life where you dismantle racism
• Think about how to hear and listen to the opinions of other employees and create actionable points for change
The relevance of the past in challenging and overturning racism
At the first event of the year, DIFF attendees joined us for two electrifying events led by speakers Sable Lomax (pictured) from Fearless Futures and Damien Thompson from Aldermore and Lloyds Banking Group’s Jasjyot Singh. The battle to understand the dimensions of the racism problem in the UK begins with recognising where it came from and how far there is to go before we even get out of the starting blocks
Five session takeaways
• Living in constant fear has undermined generations. Only systemic restructuring will make a difference on racism, not pushing individuals into the limelight
• It is a lifelong process to discover and overturn your in-built privileges when the world has been designed for you
• Expect the ‘what about me?’ argument because those with privilege don’t always know they have it
• Forcing diversity and fighting racism involves six business-led steps: Recognising the problem, addressing it and finding solutions, implementation, monitoring agreed targets and reviewing progress
• If you search for and hire people with ‘contrarian’ perspectives, you will end up with a more diverse workforce
Deep-diving history will create a better future
British convention and traditions play into both the modern recruitment process in the mortgage industry and the fact many of the Black Lives Matter protests became focused on historical people and events. Examining and disrupting the origins of those conventions is the best way to create a different world, as highlighted by all our speakers, Pete Gwilliam, owner of mortgage sector headhunter Vitus Search and CEO of Sesame Bankhall, Michele Golunska, with special thanks to historian David Olusoga (pictured).
Five session takeaways
• Disrupt the recruitment process by downplaying traditional work histories and assess candidates on what they would do instead of have done
• Examine company culture and set quotas to create diversity
• Conduct exit interviews and wider analysis to uncover the reasons employees don’t stay long at your company
• Understand that British Banks predominantly lent the mortgages to buy the land and slaves in the deep south in the United States and other traditions such as tea drinking from China cups emerged from our colonial past
• The UK government has sidestepped the issue, but financial reparations could become an option for organisations to make amends and address inequalities in society
Covid, the ‘she-cession’ and the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on working women
The pandemic has left a painful aftermath for many and sadly, women are also once again likely to emerge the financial losers. Many thanks to all three of our speakers on these hard-hitting sessions: Felicia Willow, interim CEO, gender equality charity The Fawcett Society (pictured), Denise Fowler, CEO, Women’s Pioneer Housing and Julie Budge, CEO, My Sister’s House Women’s Centre.
Five event takeaways
• Unequal pay and part-time employment are the foundations of gender inequality at work. Mortgage lenders must reassess affordability checks to guard against financial discrimination
• Visibility is key when it comes to pay increases and promotions, so hybrid working from home arrangements are likely to undermine equality efforts further. Guard against this
• Salary secrecy contributes to unequal pay so be explicit on pay when recruiting
• Our speaker warned employers not automatically target those on furlough for redundancy because that would overwhelmingly hit women
• Every organisation should have a trained individual able to signpost toward immediate help if a victim of domestic abuse asks for support