Why Diversity is the Buzzword at SBN

21 Jan

Why Diversity is the Buzzword at SBN

Christine Esson called me the other day for a chat about diversity. Like many organisations, the Scottish Business Network (SBN) is aware of its importance and benefits, but is unsure about what changes to make to improve its own diversity. As someone who has seen the impact of diversity and inclusion first-hand, she asked me to share a few thoughts for businesses and networkers alike.

Firstly, why bother?

Well, apart from the obvious - that it’s just the right thing to do - here are 3 key considerations:


2.  Businesses in the top quarter of companies with the highest racial diversity are 35% more likely to experience higher profit than their competitors. Businesses in the same bracket with high gender diversity were 15% more likely to experience higher profit than their competitors.

3. A clear policy on diversity and inclusion is a key decision-making tool for Millennials and marginalised groups looking for work or as clients looking to buy. Boards and investors are also beginning to ask for a company’s diversity stats as a KPI.

We all know:

Scotland is a vibrant and culturally diverse country, and this should be reflected in the workforce and the way we empower that workforce. The promotion of diversity of race, gender, age, and culture creates positive and productive workplaces where collaboration and innovation thrive.

(but) did you know:

  • 12% of Glasgow’s population is made up of minority ethnic people?
  • Diversity of socio-economic backgrounds is often forgotten?
  • There are now 5 generations in the workplace, all with different values and approaches to their employment processes?
  • Diversity in the workplace ensures diversity of thought - (and what company doesn’t need that)?

What’s the difference between Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity is about who’s at work - who you recruit and promote - it should be made up of “the full spectrum of human demographic differences”. Ie, diversity isn’t just about being able to say that your company is made up of 50% women!

Inclusion is about how people feel at work - do they feel valued, respected, accepted, encouraged? It’s a measure of your workplace culture that enables diversity to thrive.

The main Challenges

  • Acceptance and Respect.
  • Accommodation of Beliefs.
  • Ethnic and Cultural Differences.
  • Gender Equality.
  • Physical and Mental Disabilities.

Top Tips for Employers

Case Study

[AAI runs workshops which put employers in the same room as women from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. We facilitate exercises/networking to bring out the barriers on both sides.] One large company asked the women; “why don’t you apply to us? We need people like you.”

One of the women responded; “Your website made me feel like an outsider, I didn’t think I’d be welcome.”

Another said: ”I’ve never seen your job posts - where are you advertising exactly?”

What is your company website saying behind your back? Who is staring back out at your potential employees? A few women but no-one of colour? Think about checking language too - how attractive are you to diversity?

Where are your job posts being advertised? Do you know? Breaking away from your immediate network is key for attracting invisible talent.

Case Study

I had an employer ring me and ask why I’d sent him a candidate with no hands to interview. I asked him if he had asked the candidate how they proposed to do the job but it had clearly been too uncomfortable for an open conversation.

Facing a disabled person, or someone you suspect is neurodiverse, over an interview desk can be challenging but knowledge removes the fear. There are questions that can be asked without upsetting anyone, steps that can be taken easily to avoid you losing out on the skills you actually need.

AAI is not the only organisation running workshops to take away this fear and embed awareness in the workplace so that everyone gets comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

The One Thing You Need to Do if Nothing Else


Case Study

An enthusiastic HR person spoke to me about the changes she hoped to make in her company, but her boss was worried that skills would go out the window if they focussed on improving diversity.


Diversity starts at the top. Is that you? It can’t just be based on clever HR diversity initiatives that get discussed once a month. It has to become part of your DNA and your culture. Your team has to know what you want. If you have doubts about diversity, you won’t be alone, but talk to an expert and get a second opinion. You have to be behind it. Quotas clearly could cause issues, but targets? Nothing wrong with targets.


We feel safe with people that look and talk like us. It’s human nature and so, at events, we naturally end up chatting to people of the same sex, race, age, status, etc. By surrounding ourselves with similar people, we make it harder for ourselves to make new contacts, and thus new business. It’s us being unconsciously exclusive rather than inclusive.

Whereas workplace diversity and inclusion encourages respect amongst colleagues as they learn about the different cultures and generations, it is equally important in networking where exposure to different styles of work can open new opportunities. Diversity is the key to building a powerful network.

I’ve seen the benefit of this first-hand from my time in the Foreign Office and working abroad and I now have an in-built radar for a new face or a different accent. On the flip side I also like to barge in on groups of men - have you noticed ladies how they are often in groups according to height and/or age? Just me? And yes, I know, women can be just as exclusive.

In a Networking Nutshell

Build a network of contacts who don't look like you, sound like you or have your background. The one thing they can have in common with you is being good at what they do. Create a personal network like that, and you'll have a resource that can help you succeed at anything.

Diversity and Inclusion leads to more creativity and thus more profit. We all have something to contribute and we should celebrate our differences and learn to use them to their greatest potential.

AAI’s Diversity Background

AAI Emplayability - https://www.aai-talent.co.uk/

As a social enterprise, AAI has always attracted diversity in its applicants for all the jobs it posts for employers cross-sector. As a team, we’ve been running our unique ‘Diversity Works’ workshops for over 3 years and continue to apply the learnings from these projects in our day-to-day recruitment service - we help employers to design more inclusive job adverts, encouraging them to consider wider audiences in their decision-making processes, and more inclusive on-boarding practices.

You can learn more at https://www.aai-talent.co.uk/

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