I'm sitting on the train home thinking of the topic I will blog about - diversity networks. What purpose do they really serve and are they worthwhile? Looking around the carriage, there are so many different people, and I wonder if any of them belong to a diversity network or group?
Working in the City, I believe having diversity networks within the workplace is important, because people should feel a part of or have an affinity to something – whether it’s a shared sense of purpose, or an opportunity to connect with like-minded people.
At Deloitte, where I work, we have nine diversity networks which cover faith, multicultural, lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT), parents and carers, and disability & mental health. With more than 4,000 members combined, our networks help to build bridges between Deloitte employees and communities outside the firm. Supported at partner level, each of the networks has a leader, and group who help manage the network, volunteering their spare time to create an inclusive workplace culture.
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Having completed sixth form in 2011, my year group was the last class to pay £3k per year to study for a degree. Some may see this as lucky as the unfortunate ones an academic year behind us would be indebting themselves treble that amount. However that wasn’t enough to persuade me to accept the offer and pack my bags for university.
The state of the UK economy has made it very difficult for young people to be able to fund themselves for university and find paid jobs. Having taking that into consideration, I unleashed what I like to call my ‘inner-fearless-risk taker’ and set out on a mission to find myself a full time job. If I wasn’t working for Deloitte today I’d either be piling up the debt of university and drowning in books or struggling to find my feet in the world of work with the 957,000 other 16-24 year olds in the UK who were unemployed in June-August 2012 (source: ONS).
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When I started as a young professional footballer at my local club Charlton Athletic back in the late 1970s, racism in the game was alive and kicking. Being based deep in the heart of south London, far-right groups such as the National Front were particularly active as they looked to use football stadiums as recruitment hubs.
In this era, the term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) meant very little to people like me and most of my peers. In terms of football generally, it was more or less non-existent.
As the 80’s ensued, football seemed no closer to embracing social cohesion projects. By this point I’d become the first black footballer to feature in the Italian leagues, and was on the verge of signing for Celtic. I spent two seasons in Glasgow before joining Chelsea, and by the time I’d arrived at Stamford Bridge, the winds of change were beginning to blow.
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The opening words of the new social mobility report launched by the All Party Parliamentary Group on this topic area states that the report was produced to “discuss and promote the cause of social mobility; to raise issues of concern and help inform policy makers and formers”. Whilst the above objectives are certainly admirable, I guess it also helps to highlight the fact that the UK has not progressed as effectively as we all would have liked in regards to creating a fairer platform for all groups to push on in life. We remain in economically hard times with very high levels of unemployment. Upon this backdrop we must ask ourselves whether or not there is truly an appetite to get Britain socially mobile amongst those who have power. There is a great difference between the words appetite and desire. One can live with a desire to have something, but an appetite is a lot harder to ignore.
The findings of the parliamentary group’s report are almost identical to the findings of a report we recently launched in Parliament titled; Race to the Top. Our report was launched in partnership with Deloitte. It focused on the experiences of black students within Higher Education, and their outlook on employment as a result. We found that black students are three times more likely to be unemployed upon graduation than white students, and that they were likely to earn 9% less after 5 years doing the same work. We also found that 60% of black students anticipated experiencing some form of discrimination when trying to progress in their careers. I guess the most interesting finding of the report for me was that students felt that government and policy careers were the most discriminatory to break into.
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Once every four years, London gets the chance to choose its Mayor. This year's election campaign has been one of the most exciting since the Mayoralty commenced in 2000, and that sense of excitement was palpable at the “Mayoral Hustings in the City” on 2 April, which I had the pleasure of chairing. About 250 people attended the event, all of whom either lived or worked in London and all of whom wished to probe the representatives of six of the seven candidates on their policies.
The questions put to the politicians ranged from the commitment of City Hall to cultural events and festivals in London to policies for reducing youth unemployment in the capital. All of the questions asked were relevant to Londoners as a whole, and yet they were also reflective of the specific concerns of the predominantly multicultural audience that evening.
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