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Discriminating: Is Diversity The Mother Of All Creativity?
When
Wednesday 27 November
Registration from 5.30pm
Main event from 6.00 – 7.15pm
Networking and drinks reception to 8.30pm
Where
Exhibition Room
University of the Arts
272 High Holborn
London WC1V 7EY
Speakers
Chair: Michael Wilson, Business Broadcaster and Writer,

currently hosting Jazz FM’s daily Business Breakfast show. He is Britain’s longest serving television Business and Economics Editor.

Ben Murray, CEO of Carbon Smart, an Midtown-based organisation set on helping businesses take on the challenge of sustainability in the 21st century, Ben has been working in sustainability and business efficiency for over 19 years, leading wide-ranging programmes to achieve performance improvements, behavioural changes and sustainable results.

Sonia Campbell, Partner in the Dispute Resolution department at Mishcon de Reya, and Head of BAME Diversity & Inclusion, specialising in complex commercial disputes (litigation and arbitration), including breach of contract and tortious claims.

Sumita Singha, award-winning architect, academic and author, founder of Eco=logic, founder of Architects For Change, the Equality forum at the Royal Institute of British Architects and a past Chair of Women In Architecture – Sumita is a champion for gender equality within architecture.

Jennifer Healy, Chief People Officer for Mindshare, Jennifer has over 19 years experience as a HR Professional, and is passionate about the development of people and providing an environment where talent can thrive.

EVENT OVERVIEW

It’s often said that an organisation’s most valuable assets are its people. But like any asset, their collective performance depends on a range of factors.

As the 80 or so attendees of the third event in the Midtown Big Ideas Exchange heard in late November 2019, many businesses still lag behind their peers in recognising that not only is diversity good for society, it’s crucial to business success.

"Are you genuinely respecting the person in front of you? This could be the most simple way to address diversity and inclusion."

Sumita Singha, Founder, Ecologic Architects and Architects for Change, RIBA

During the event at the University of the Arts in Midtown, panellists who represent businesses both large and small discussed the benefits and challenges of working to achieve the 10th UN Sustainable Development Goal – reduced inequalities – in an enterprise context. Whilst there were a variety of ideas on what businesses can do to become more diverse, the overwhelming consensus was clear: any good employer that wants to remain competitive, serve its disparate client base and attract the best talent, should embrace and support diversity and inclusion.

Sonia Campbell, Partner and Head of BAME Diversity and Inclusion at Mishcon de Reya, the law firm that is headquartered in Midtown, explained that diversity is about embracing the differences between us all, recognising people for who they are, celebrating different cultures and breaking down the barriers to action. Return to work programmes, flexible working and extended maternity and paternity leave have helped to improve diversity at the higher levels of the legal profession, where traditionally it was very male-dominated, she said.

Whilst this is an item that needs to be at the top of the agenda for businesses, achieving this goal is not only confined to the office, as media and marketing services company Mindshare’s Chief People Officer, Jennifer Healy, noted. Jennifer, who has created a schools’ engagement programme to support diversity and social mobility, outlined the need to engage with future employees as well as existing staff members, to encourage students to raise their aspirations and expectations.

There is growing awareness, often highlighted by diversity training programmes that are themselves becoming ever more popular, of previously hidden issues such as unconscious bias. Once recruited, the offer of training and flexible working for employees is also helping to reduce inequality as well as promote diversity. Attitudes are key, according to Sumita Singha, founder of architectural firm Ecologic, who said it is necessary to always apply as a guiding principle that all people should be treated with respect. Sumita, a former Chair of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Women in Architecture initiative, said that progress is undoubtedly being made, with women working in the sector now making up about 30% of the workforce.

Ben Murray, CEO of Midtown-based sustainability consultancy Carbon Smart, described the impact that building a diverse and inclusive organisation has had on the success of his business. Being a diverse and inclusive employer is fundamental to the growth and success of a business, he said, adding that diversity in his team is their “secret weapon”. This is due to the increased level of creativity and innovation that is brought by having employees from a range of backgrounds.

This “secret” weapon is perhaps no longer so well kept. Businesses seem to have opened their eyes to the changes that need to be made and the vital importance of fostering a more inclusive environment. Jenny stated, “Business has woken up to the fact that diversity is absolutely necessary for survival,” and all panellists agreed.

The final event in the four-part 2019/2020 Midtown Big Ideas Exchange series, titled “Live, Work Play: Balancing Our Demands On Place”, will take place at Connected Places Catapult’s Urban Innovation Centre in Clerkenwell on Wednesday, 29 January 2020. To learn more or register to attend, click here.

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