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Ebony Hughes

“Do the best brains work in the same way?” – D&I at IMPOWER

Throughout October, colleagues across IMPOWER shined a light on inspirational and influential black people for Black History Month. I have enjoyed reflecting on our posts, but I can’t help but feel something is missing; our reflection on why this is important and what diversity and inclusion means for us as a business. It is great to pay homage, but what are we learning?

I recently read a very thought-provoking article in Women’s Health called Stacked Odds (no link available, unfortunately), which highlighted racial inequalities in the treatment of black women by the NHS. A Parliament-commissioned report highlighted that black women were five times more likely to die in childbirth, and 78% of black women believe the NHS does less to help them than their white peers.

These findings were really eye opening for me. They made me think about the potential that IMPOWER’s work can have, when challenging ways of working at the front line – whether in adult social care, children in care, or at any interface between public services and people. How can we, through the work we do, contribute to reducing discrimination in society?

Diversity and inclusion is high on everyone’s agenda right now – this is reflected in the everyday conversations we are having with clients and the number of related keynotes at sector conferences. Recent sessions at Solace’s Virtual Learning Week and Public Finance Live provided real food for thought and helped us to consider different perspectives. Our clients are diverse, and their communities are diverse. It is clear that reflecting that diversity and making sure no voice is excluded will help us have greater impact and achieve the best outcomes.

Diversity is of course broader than our visible differences – our lived experiences shape how we think and act and bring a variety of invaluable perspectives. As John Amaechi OBE challenged the audience recently at Public Finance Live: “do the best brains work in the same way?” Our best work as a consultancy happens when we engage with diverse groups to develop ideas, rather than with a narrowly framed group of people with the same perspectives.

On a personal level, I recognise how challenging it can feel to offer up a perspective that stands you out as being different, yet we need that diversity of thought – to create the conditions that enable more, different perspectives to be heard. After all, had the individuals recognised throughout Black History Month not had their voices heard, we would all be poorer for it.

Whilst we continue to reflect and learn as a company, we have stepped up our internal programme of activity to create a more diverse and inclusive organisation when attracting, retaining and motivating staff. Promoting diversity authentically and valuing everyone equally gets the best out of people and strengthens our performance.

We recognise that we have a long way to go to build a more representative workforce. However, we are now consciously challenging ourselves and are on a journey to doing better. We have started with a staff survey – some of which I’m sure will hold up a mirror that may be challenging to look into.

Our challenge now is to work on what the survey tells us– and to practise what we preach through our client work. Acting on this is absolutely the right thing to do, and will bring a wealth of benefits for us as a business in shaking up the status quo. We need to ensure that diversity and inclusion is something we continue to get better at, not just something we celebrate each year during Black History Month.

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