At Big Society Capital, we know there is more that we can do than just cover the basics when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
It’s been almost two years since a diversity survey was sent out across the sector on behalf of Big Society Capital and the Social Impact Investors Group. In order to address a number of the issues identified, we launched the Diversity Forum and are now publishing our Diversity and Inclusion plan.
The findings were presented at a break-out session of The Gathering, a meeting of social investors that took place in February 2017. We were both surprised and grateful that 227 people from more than 30 organisations took the time to fill it in.
It was the first survey of its kind for our sector. And the picture wasn’t great.
To cite two examples, just 28% of Executive and Leadership roles were filled by women with only 9% BAME representation at that level. We had to do something about it.
To help address a number of the issues we were facing, the Diversity Forum was launched to provide leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion for the social investment sector and to share best practice. The Forum continues to share resources, commissions research and also convenes the ‘Diversity Champions’ – and I am proud to be Big Society Capital’s.
Since we published the results of that initial survey, we have taken a number of actions to do more on diversity and inclusion at Big Society Capital. First, we spoke to other organisations who are further along on this journey than we are, organisations like JRF, The National Lottery Community Fund and Power to Change. We measured and published our gender pay gap. We started using the Applied recruitment platform, we ran internal programmes to help eliminate unconscious bias in recruitment, and opened the session up to partners and the intermediaries we work with. We saw our first gender-lens investment proposition come to our Investment Committee and we signed the Criterion Institute letter of intent seeking investment that address gender-based violence. But all these measures felt a little piecemeal. We needed something more structured, looking further ahead, and something that we could measure ourselves against.
So today we publish our Diversity and Inclusion plan.
At Big Society Capital, we know there is more that we can do than just cover the basics when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We have an opportunity to put diversity and inclusion at the forefront of our organisation and our sector, to achieve impact through a cultural change as well as through our investments, demonstrating that diversity isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a route towards excellence. And an opportunity to re-examine what excellence actually looks like.
McKinsey’s 2018 report Delivering Through Diversity highlighted the business case for diversity, with a measurable relationship between diversity and business performance in companies that commit themselves to diverse leadership. We can make our organisation and sector more diverse through our behaviours, our culture, the support we provide to other organisations, the people we reach in our events and campaigns, our investment decisions and our capital. We have to send a strong signal, to commit resources, and to work closely with others to demonstrate best practice, even if what we discover is sometimes uncomfortable.
Some of the measures, such as not taking part in all-male panel discussion, are easy. Others, such as supporting the development of a mentoring scheme for groups experiencing barriers to progression, are harder. But with a longer term strategic path, we can make the sector more diverse.
And what should be in our 2020 Diversity and Inclusion plan? If you have any thoughts, I’d appreciate you sharing them with me, as well as any views or experiences you think that could help us make social investment more diverse and inclusive.