BER21: Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I): The Wesleyan Approach


This blog post was produced for inclusion in the Birmingham Economic Review for 2021.

The annual Birmingham Economic Review is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and a high-quality resource for informing research, policy and investment decisions.

This post is featured in Chapter 3 of the Birmingham Economic Review for 2021, on the city’s labour market and current and future challenges

Click here to read the Review.

Our ED& I History

Wesleyan was founded in Birmingham in 1841 and has a strong history of helping people achieve social mobility. We were originally founded to support workers coming into the city during the Industrial Revolution. Over the past 180 years, we have continued to support the growth and prosperity of our region, our industry, and the sectors that we operate in.

As a mutual we are committed to doing the right thing for our members, customers, colleagues and for the communities in which we all live and work. Our business has always been underpinned by a culture of care as a mutual. Since its launch in 2017, we have contributed over £3 million through the Wesleyan Foundation to a wide range of good causes and community groups looking to create a more equitable society. Our EDI & I investments have included:

Aston University: a five-year partnership to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into medicine including the creation of seven new ‘Wesleyan Foundation Scholarships’ at Aston Medical School. Plus, an annual donation to support Aston University projects aligned with the Wesleyan Foundation’s own focus areas of health, education, social development, and innovation.

Bernice Johal, a Wesleyan Foundation Scholarship recipient studying MBChB Medicine at Aston University, said: “I am a part of the first generation in my family going to university. This scholarship has been immensely helpful to me and I am so grateful. I have been using the money to help pay for the ever-increasing rail fares to enable me to commute to Aston. It has also helped me with funding for necessary equipment such as a stethoscope and textbooks”.

Growing our diverse talent pipeline

Wesleyan has always focused on developing our internal talent. Throughout the national lockdowns, we have continued to support and develop our people in agile and flexible ways:

  • We have 35 internal apprentices, 15 of whom are male and 20 who are female with stronger female representation - 5 females at level 7 (equivalent to a Master’s Degree) and 2 males at level 7, complementing our vision for gender parity throughout our organisation and extending to the most senior levels at Wesleyan.
  • We have shared our apprenticeship levy to support 20 external apprenticeships, ensuring that we continue to develop underrepresented future talent within the communities in which we operate in.
  • We recruited Naheem Ahmed, our ED & I Practitioner, as a full-time dedicated resource to inform our approach in building a fully inclusive and diverse workforce where we reflect the communities in which we operate and the professional doctors, dentists and teacher segments that we serve.

Using insights from data to inform our approach

Lockdowns did not impact our commitment to ED&I. In the last 16 months, we have collected meaningful diversity data, introduced focused inclusive recruitment practices, and promoted activities and events to enhance our culture. We engaged our people to understand what works for them and what we can do before we step into the ‘new normal’ world.

Our ability to continue being agile, listening to the employee voice and taking positive action has allowed Wesleyan to create tangible actions that are measurable. We have increased our diversity representation for BAME and Gender at the most senior levels of our organisation by setting targets that we want to exceed, and increased diversity across the organisation as a whole, not just because we want to reflect our clients and the communities we operate in, but because it is the right thing to do.

Moving forward

We will continue to focus on providing opportunities for underrepresented people, such as the 10,000 Black Interns Initiative, recruiting people through the government’s Kickstart Programme and making our end-to-end recruitment process inclusive for everyone, no matter what protected characteristic they do or do not hold and regardless of their social-economic background.

Wesleyan has recognised that for us to move forward, we must do so in a way that is sustainable; our commitment recognises we are on a journey and that our approach will leave a lasting positive legacy.

Naheem Ahmed