Farrah Qureshi, CEO, Global Diversity Practice talks about diversity and how the UK is leading the way to tackle the widespread prevalence of stereotypes that are often also perpetuated through advertising and content.
There isn’t yet a Wikipedia page for inclusive leadership, though the presence of ad words in a browser search tells us that this is now very mainstream. Concepts around inclusive leadership are widespread. Arguably, they are becoming commoditised, repeatable. Commonplace. The Wikipedia page is therefore really only a matter of time.
This was very much not the case when I started working as a diversity consultant 25 years ago. Inclusive leadership was an alien concept to the board members and senior personnel in corporations and government across the world that invited me to discuss whether diversity was something that could improve their performance.
Here were the beginnings of what became the principles of inclusive leadership, which are now the topics of books, how to guides, quizzes and a range of online resources and consultancy to help businesses perform better. And yet, despite the commoditisation of concepts such as inclusive leadership, there is no question that the world is still not an entirely equal place, though I believe that it is more equal than it was 25 years ago.
The introduction of gender pay gap reporting in the UK is a unique and vital first step in cutting through the language of good intentions that is so prevalent in corporate web sites by obliging organisations to measure and publish their gender pay gap data.
In terms of media, creative and advertising, the data showed there is still work to be done to ensure gender parity.
Another vital exercise was the publication of the Race Disparity Audit in November. This catalogued the very real extent to which people of race are marginalised and excluded in Britain today, and the challenge to access the same level of services, support and opportunities as those from other ethnic backgrounds.
I am not the first to say that it is impossible to manage what can’t be measured, which is why the government endorsement of these national statistical benchmarks are a huge step forward in the battle towards equality. Combined with the very real energy that I see among employers across all sectors, there is a real sense that we can drive equality in the UK – and indeed by example beyond.
However, this will not be possible without innovation and creativity, as well as rigorous assessment of need before solutions are designed. This is where I think the world of media and advertising have such a strong role to play in acting as a ‘lightning conductor’ for awareness and change.
Over six months ahead of the deadline for gender pay gap reporting it was remarkable and noteworthy that the BBC went public with their data and spoke candidly about their issues and the challenges they faced in trying to resolve them.
After years of what could often be seen as ‘token’ diversity, the world of advertising has exploded with genuine and authentic creative treatments enabling brands and businesses to explore how people from all backgrounds, genders, walks of life, interact and explore their products.
Is there more work to do? Of course, there is! But every day that individuals across the world, in their personal lives, in their work, make genuine efforts to include everyone, to reach out beyond their circle of familiarity, we get one step closer to achieving the goal of equality.
Because in reality, leadership is not about seniority. It is not about hierarchies and titles. It is about inspirational, sometimes challenging behaviour, that encourages others to think and behave differently and more equally.
With their enormous reach and influence, the world of media and advertising has a huge role to play in providing leadership in their own right – and then to sponsoring leadership in others. In brands, in production companies, among creatives, within technical teams.
If behaviour encourages one person to rethink how they act, and to become more inclusive as a result, that is leadership.