Purpose: Good business demands diversity
In the next post in our Purpose blog series Dan Bond discusses the need for brands to foster a truly diverse workforce in a time when more organisations are waking up and realising the social, cultural and commercial imperatives in a bid to be more ‘purposeful’.
You’ll likely have read about Beyoncé’s reported shut-down of a potential partnership with Reebok due to the pitch team lacking diversity. To quote:
“She had a meeting at Reebok and they had a whole presentation of everything, potential products, how this could all look and she kind of took a step back and said: ‘Is this the team that’ll be working on my product?’ And somebody said yes and she said: ‘Nobody in this room reflects my background, my skin colour, and where I’m from and what I want to do,’ DePaula recalled. “And so she kind of took a step back and left and it did not come to terms.”
As one of the many in awe of Beyoncé, in general and following Homecoming – an at times overwhelming film of her headline Coachella performance and the “emotional road from creative concept to cultural movement” she journeyed – I was exhilarated by her stance and the reception it brought about.
As someone working in PR and comms – an industry, like many, with its own diversity challenges – it resonated for a couple of other reasons:
- An unwanted acknowledgement that, however much we want things to change, today’s reality is still one where it’s just too easy for a lack of diversity not to be apparent, day-in day-out
- That this was about the quality of work too. Commenting on her eventual partnership with Adidas, Beyoncé states: “Adidas has had tremendous success in pushing creative boundaries. We share a philosophy that puts creativity, growth and social responsibility at the forefront of business.” There it is: creativity, growth, social responsibility and business – all intertwined.
A similar situation recently emerged with the British Film Institute, which came under fire for its ‘Playing the Bitch’ programme – “a season of films and events dedicated to tough, difficult women who use everything at their disposal to get their way”. Criticism, in the form of a written letter of protest from academics and critics, targeted the use of the word ‘bitch’ as a means of reinforcing gender stereotypes rather than subverting them.
Crucially, the backlash also focused on the total lack of female directors within the line-up. Again, the focus on the work itself was central – the relevance, suitability and ability of this body of work to represent the subject at hand. How can, and why should, a series celebrating female control and empowerment come from the male gaze? How can, and why should, a team alien to Beyoncé’s past help guide her future commercial direction?
It’s something that so obviously needs addressing but that’s challenged boardrooms for years. Still today, we see investor groups calling out major organisations with only a single female director. And that’s just one element. The state of being ‘diverse’ cannot afford to be about gender in isolation. For example, Paul Grover, Associate Director at Arup*, the global engineering consultancy, elegantly discusses the need for better representation with a focus on neurodiversity in the workplace. Paul outlines:
“Just one in 10 companies say consideration of neurodiversity is included in their recruitment and people management policies. The issue is particularly pressing for construction companies. Those that lack the policies or culture to enable different types of thinking fail to reflect the neurological makeup of the cities in which they operate. If we are to improve how cities function – and how construction firms rise to the challenges modern cities create – we need organisations and individuals to think differently.”
There’s a responsibility to foster a truly diverse workforce – especially, for Paul, within those organisations shaping our cities and society as a whole. But his point applies to businesses in all sectors. This isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s essential to delivering something that actually holds value in our world today.
This is challenging, important work and it can require expert due diligence to really get it right. That’s why we at Brands2Life are forming a panel of leading independent consultants with the proven expertise to help organisations address issues of diversity – and other areas critical to being more ‘purposeful’, including sustainability, skills and operations. Many organisations are waking up and realising the social, cultural and commercial imperative to tackle these challenges, and we can help to facilitate this.
Delivering an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to participate is key. That’s something, surely, we can all agree on.
*Arup is a current Brands2Life client
Written by Dan Bond, Associate Director, Corporate & Business Communications
Get in touch or find out more about our purpose communications team here.