Looking ahead to diversity and inclusion in 2017
2016 was a tumultuous year. The political turmoil, the rise in hate crime, the refugee crisis, and much more besides. And yet, as the new year starts, I’m again struck by the passion and power of those who continue to focus on what we can do to build more inclusive businesses and communities.
When I’m coaching, I often ask my clients: “What is your creative response to this?”. It’s a question that requires – and provokes – the notion that there really is a positive and creative way through. This can, of course, be a tricky prospect to hold onto, especially in the midst of current complexity and some very tough challenges ahead.
But that’s why I love January. It’s a time to grasp the possibility for change one more time: personal, organisational, and societal. Now that the festive break and its build-up has passed, we have more time to address the big questions:
“What is my theme as a leader going to be in the next year?”
“What areas of the business am I going to focus on in 2017?”
“How am I going to affect change we need to happen?”
“When am I at my most powerful in the work I do, and the precedent I set?”
Discussing the gender diversity agenda in UK transport
This week I attended a Gender Diversity Dinner to discuss how to implement the government’s Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy.
The event brought together a group of senior leaders in transport and those who run organisations that encourage women and other under-represented groups to work in the sector. Kindly hosted by KPMG at Canary Wharf, it was chaired by the indomitable Valerie Todd, Talent and Resources Director at Crossrail.
It’s an event I was only too keen to be a part of. To me, changing representation in the transport sector is as business-critical as it is challenging, and events like this give me a chance to use my experiences and expertise to good effect.
We packed a lot into the two hours. As a group we could see that there was so much experience in the room that we had to come up with more than a bland set of statements about the business case for fairer levels of representation. Bernadette Kelly (Director General of the Department for Transport’s Rail Group), Kru Desai (Partner, UK Head of Government and Infrastructure at KPMG) and Adeline Ginn (Founder of Women in Rail) threw down various gauntlets:
“How best can we address the need for greater gender diversity?”
“What practical steps will ensure we meet the targets?”
By the end of the evening, we had met, eaten, laughed, expressed our frustration and excitement, and come up with some innovative and practical ideas for creating step-changes that matter. We’ll meet again, as the song goes.
I left the event buoyed by possibilities. In 2017, it’s my responsibility – and that of every other leader – to find positive ways through. And no, it’s not being naive; it’s being resilient, creative, and tough.