One highly-anticipated panel was the morning’s session on ‘Workplace ethics and D&I initiatives to attract new talent to the industry’, moderated by Martin Fullard, Editorial Director at Mash Media, with Gabby Austen-Browne, Co-Founder of Diversity Ally and Diverse Speaker Bureau, and Asad Dhunna, Founder and CEO of The Unmistakables, as speakers.
The session provided plenty of food for thought, alongside actionable advice for eventprofs to implement in our own organisations. Read on for some of the key takeaways the speakers shared with attendees.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WATCH THE DISCUSSION
THE PANDEMIC HAS BROUGHT MORE EMPATHY TO THE WORKPLACE
We all experienced loss, fear, and anxiety over the last 18 months, with the silver lining being that wellbeing and workplace support have become much easier to talk about. There’s now more of an emphasis on creating inclusive environments at work where everyone feels comfortable, can be their authentic selves, and is able to take time to look after their mental or physical health.
It's a significant step in the right direction, as our speakers acknowledged, but now the same empathy and willingness to engage needs to be applied to issues surrounding diversity.
MAKE SPACE TO TALK AND LISTEN
We’re constantly reading about issues of inclusivity and diversity in the news, and it's important we make space to talk about it at work and use those conversations to drive change. In particular, we need to open up the conversation to talk with people from different backgrounds, and ask what's positive about our organisations' cultures and what could be improved.
However, the speakers pointed out that speaking up comes with more risks as a minority, so we need to make sure we're creating a safe environment to have these conversations. Creating surveys or anonymous feedback may help people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, and will give you an idea of what your team really feel.
REALLY CONSIDER WHAT DIVERSITY MEANS
Organisations often say they want to be representative but few really stop to think about what they’re being representative of. Our speakers stressed that it's one thing to hire people from a diverse background, but it’s essential to create an inclusive workplace so that anyone you do bring in feels comfortable.
Additionally, we need to be looking to hire new talent in different ways, like reaching out to communities, colleges, and other sectors instead of only taking people on from certain university courses. Now that the world's shifted away from solely in-person events, skills in tech and production are really valuable in the industry, which opens the door to new talent.
"Speaking at universities, the students are asking better questions than my clients, and they’re the ones who are going to come in and change the industry."
DON'T SHY AWAY FROM MAKING MISTAKES
People are also often fearful of using the wrong language or making mistakes when trying to implement D&I initiatives, and that can be a distraction from some of the core issues. However, organisations like Spotify that share what they've done and what they still need to change set a positive precedent that encourages others to try doing something themselves. It's important that you can be open and honest about gaps in your policy and what you’re still working on, and that you learn from your mistakes rather than hiding from them.
SPREAD THE CHANGE TO OTHER SECTORS
This is an amazing moment for the events industry to really think about what it means to bring people together. People have become so much more attuned to what they spend their time doing and how they’re interacting, and we have the opportunity to bring D&I into that mix so that change filters through every level.
As an industry, we’re in a fantastic position to be able to harness that diversity to help other businesses achieve their objectives through diversity of opinion, ideas, and life experiences. The events world crosses such a wide breadth of industries and we have an opportunity to really influence what goes on within them.
"I would love a business like mine not to have to exist because if we’re all doing that inclusion at the core and by design, you don’t need the support."
How do we promote D&I initiatives to our stakeholders and encourage more diverse representation at their events?
GABBY: This is why getting the internal piece right around what’s key to your culture and your values is so important, so that when you do approach your clients to make recommendations, you can explain not only the business case but also the moral case to them. We’ve got an opportunity to encourage our clients to think the same way that we do, but we need to know why we’re recommending those policies and practices or representation.
ASAD: What I hear in this question is how do you go about bringing this up without being on tenterhooks, and that’s about finding the same language together. It doesn’t have to be “Oh my gosh, there’s no people of colour on this panel” because that can be so affronting, but it can be “Have we considered this? Have we looked at it from this angle?”. If you’re running an agency, maybe it’s about running a session with your clients to speak about what you identify and mean by diversity, and what you stand for as a company. As soon as you start to have those conversations, the culture starts to build because people start to feel more comfortable and you exercise a muscle that gets stronger over time.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
ASAD DHUNNA, FOUNDER AND CEO, THE UNMISTAKABLES
Asad is the Chief Executive Officer of The Unmistakables, an award winning consultancy that delivers inside out inclusion. He leads a team of strategic consultants that partner with client partners such as Fremantle, HSBC, Penguin Random House and Unilever to create inclusive cultures and campaigns that are led by nuanced insight. Asad is also a trustee of akt, a leading LGBT+ homelessness charity in the UK.
GABBY AUSTEN-BROWNE, CO-FOUNDER, DIVERSITY ALLY
Gabby Austen-Browne is a diversity and inclusion expert, delivering consultancy, education and training to the events and hospitality sectors in her role as Co-Founder of Diversity Ally. Gabby brings her breadth of experience as an events professional producing and delivering B2C events, managing venue operations and developing sales strategies for premium hospitality venues, to inform, support and advise on D&I strategies that are relevant to the sector.
MARTIN FULLARD, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, MASH MEDIA
Martin Fullard is the editor of Conference News and editorial director at Mash Media. Martin is a leading figure in advocating for the UK’ events industry, having appeared on the BBC, LBC, CNN and in other national titles. He believes that the business events industry is more than just a series of individual events and experiences, but that they a vital market component and a prime asset in levelling up the UK regions’ economies. He was also a central figure in the creation of industry coalition One Industry One Voice and its public campaign #WeCreateExperiences. As a journalist, Martin has previously covered breaking news, sport, automotive, and travel.
While it's clear that there's plenty of work still to be done in the sector, the foundation is being built for a more diverse industry. If you'd like to find out more about the work our speaker's companies do in the field, you can check out The Unmistakables and Diversity Ally for consultancy on D&I in the events industry.
In the meantime, there's plenty more to learn from our other panels at EventLAB 2021 - check them out on the Hire Space blog and keep an eye on our socials for more content.