Could there be a more timely book on a more urgent subject than Belonging (Bloomsbury, £20), a new title from Kathryn Jacob, Sue Unerman and Mark Edwards? The subtitle, “The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work” sets out the author’s intentions from the off, and it is quickly clear to even the casual reader that they have the expertise and authority to take on these frequently complicated, often contentious topics.
Unerman and Jacob are the authors of a previous bestseller, The Glass Wall, and both have corporate experience at a senior level: Unerman as Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom, the largest media agency in the UK; Jacob as CEO of Pearl & Dean’s cinema sales division. Edwards is a Sunday Times journalist who also trains businesses in diversity, inclusion and leadership.
It is leadership that the authors place at the centre of their book, especially the role of men as business leaders. Discussions around diversity and inclusion in the workplace have dramatically increased in volume and intensity in recent years, whether around gender pay gaps, the #MeToo campaign against sexual discrimination, or the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on attitudes to race, ethnicity and heritage. There are few large companies in the UK now who do not place diversity and inclusion at the centre of their corporate messaging.
But while many studies indicate that the most successful and productive senior management teams are those which are truly diverse, the fact remains that there are only eight female CEOs of FTSE 100 boards, and only ten BAME people working in leadership roles across companies in the FTSE 100.
Why, despite the clear shift in attitudes, has progress towards more inclusive workplaces been so slow and, in some cases, apparently halted? The authors’ conclusion, having conducted interviews at 200 businesses worldwide: men aren’t getting involved as much as they could or should be.
We (men, that is) are not engaged with D&I initiatives in the workplace, argue Jacob, Unerman, and Edwards. At the extreme end some of us may feel actively hostile towards such initiatives, and threatened by the changing cultural landscape. Others of us are simply not motivated to change, failing to recognise the roles we could be playing, and the reasons to play them.
Belonging functions as both wake-up call, explaining why it is in the interests of such men to embrace diversity, inclusion, and belonging, as well as a high-level how-to guide, offering practical advice on how best to go about making such changes.
Men in power, the book argues, have a duty not only to society but to their own businesses to help battle racial and sexual discrimination, harassment and pay gaps at every level. Because, they argue, a workplace where every member of staff feels they belong is a stronger and more successful workplace. And to paraphrase Bob Dylan (a man): if you can’t lend your hand, then get out of the road.
Belonging is out now.
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