The Key Learning Points:
1.How a lack of diversity affects the employee experience for minority groups
2.The impact of D&I focused internships
3.How companies can shift their mindset to become more inclusive
Today on the Risky Mix podcast we’re joined by Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, co-founder of Redington, an investment consultancy, and Mallowstreet, a platform for education and convening in the asset management industry. Dawid is also the co-founder of 10000 Black Interns, a not-for-profit organisation that is finding 10,000 internships for black graduates across 24 sectors over the next five years and in this episode, he will take us through the story, the successes so far and the things he has learned that could help organisations striving to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.
Dawid begins by sharing his early career and the initial hurdles he faced. He qualified as a junior barrister in 1987 and was accepted onto a pupilage with The Bar, however, was informed that there was no chance of this developing into a job, as they’d ‘already hired a black person last year’! Nevertheless, Dawid went on to have a 30-year long career in the city, working as an in-house lawyer for banks, before eventually transitioning into investment banking and then founding Redington in 2006.
Dawid noticed that, though he never faced any outright racism during his time in the City, he was often the only black person in the room. He was approached by one of his junior staffers, Grace, who was also of black heritage and shared a similar story. As the daughter of a single mum, she had worked hard to get a job as an actuary in the City but felt that her confidence waned as she was outnumbered by mostly older, white colleagues - she didn’t know how to ‘be’.
Dawid tells us that at the time, out of the City's 3,000 asset managers, only 12 were black. Thinking introspectively in June 2020, deep in lockdown and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Dawid wanted to take action. He spoke with his asset management contacts and asked them to take 1 black intern for 6 weeks during summer. After phoning up 30 companies, 30 had accepted. Eventually, over 200+ firms said ‘yes’ to 500+ internships.
The response, Dawid tells us, was incredible and messages from ecstatic interns flew into his inbox. Dawid tells us this inspired him to grow the scheme to set up 100 internships over 20 sectors for 5 years - hence the target of 10,000 emerged. Dawid reminds us that firms ought to do more than simply accept BAME interns, but it's a step in the right direction, showing that when people come together, change can happen quickly. He tells us he used the 'here comes everyone' approach to persuade bosses and keep momentum, saying ‘everyone is doing it, so why don’t you!’. Amazingly, 30% of the interns placed got a job and those that didn’t were inundated with high quality offers from other firms. He reminds us that a hallmark of inequality is a lack of contacts – afterwards, the interns had a flood of LinkedIn requests. Dawid tells us that the programme changed the way in which firms work and think about recruitment – placing less emphasis on educational background (important, given that black people are underrepresented at the top universities).
We finish by asking Dawid what can be done by organisations to create a more diverse workspace. He acknowledges that there are plenty of well-meaning people in organisations who want to enact change, but there is a pervasive belief that success is entirely determined by how much work people are willing to put in. Dawid reminds us that this simply isn’t the case – take the fact that there are only 6 CEOs in the FTSE 100 are women. If corporations want to make a difference, he tells us, they need to make it their no.1 item on their agenda. A company can have a high stock price and great retention – but diversity is also crucial for business success.