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Diversity, equality and the importance of opportunity

Shire Leasing PLC

The world's oldest and largest national broadcasting organisation, the BBC, employs more than 35,000 staff and is a recognised news brand across the globe.

Though relied on by many as an informed and impartial commentator on local, national and international affairs, it also has its critics.

So, in July when it published its “Best paid stars” list, it must have been bracing itself for a backlash.

The public and the rest of the media didn’t disappoint. Across social networks, online forums and in chatrooms people berated Auntie for wasting licence-payers money and called for management heads to roll.

What the BBC refers to as its “talent”, they clearly thought of as talentless and accordingly over-paid.

Mind the gender gap

Setting aside the subjective talent debate, what is an indisputable matter of fact is the gender gap the list highlighted.

In terms of what we finance people call “volume and value”, only 2 of the top 10 in the list were women and Claudia Winkelman (the first to make an appearance at number 8) only earns around 20% of that of Chris Evans at the top of the leader board.

From broadcasting to tech

Two weeks later Google was to hit the headlines when its chief executive, Sundar Pichai, fired a software engineer after he wrote an internal memo questioning the company’s diversity efforts.

Accusing the tech giant of failing to recruit those that didn’t fit with its “left-leaning” ideologies, he also asserted that the reason for so few women in technical positions is a result of biological differences, rather than discrimination.  

No immunity

Two high-profile failings but they are far from alone. While diversity and equality seem to be on every progressive business’s agenda, it’s disappointing to learn that the gap we all aspire to close is still some considerable way from becoming a reality.

According to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report*, which takes data from across 144 countries and in four key areas - health, education, economy and politics - at the current rate and given a widening economic gender gap since last year, it won’t be eradicated for another 170 years! 

Taking steps

We didn’t believe that rolling out diversity and equality training across our organisation was an imperative.

With hindsight that complacency should in itself have sounded a warning.

Afterwards, the entire management team agreed that the training had been both fascinating and eye-opening.

It threw in to sharp relief pre-conceptions we were not even aware of, and so in no position to challenge.

Becoming “a diverse and equal employer” is a tricky achievement to measure.

Our focus and determination instead is to guarantee equality of opportunity for every single Shire Leasing employee, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or any other social or personal characteristics.

That may mean thinking outside of our normal box when it comes to recruitment, or taking a chance on an employee for promotion.

Otherwise, like the BBC, we risk not representing (or even alienating) the very diverse group of people and businesses we should be serving.

Listeners or viewers, even customers, they all have the option to turn over…even turn off.

Mark Picken
Managing director
Shire Leasing PLC