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The power of Diversity - Harnessing Talent

Creating and leading the Diversity programme for Fiona Woolf CBE, the former Lord Mayor of London....

Over the last couple of years I’ve had the privilege of working closely with the former Lord Mayor, Fiona Woolf CBE by creating and leading the Power of Diversity Programme, one of the key pillars to the 686 plan.  I would like to share an overview of what we did, what we have found and the next steps.

The City depends upon being able to draw the best talent from an increasingly diverse and inclusive pool for the innovation that society now needs.  The Power of Diversity programme was designed to discuss and highlight the critical steps that the City and all management levels must take to maximise the energy and innovation that diversity can bring to business.

Although one year is not a long time to shine a spotlight on the cultural changes required to create truly inclusive and diverse companies, progress has been made and legacies committed to.

Throughout the year we brought together CEO’s, Chairmen, Senior Leaders, Managers at the mid level responsible for the talent pipeline, Affinity and Network Group Leaders and people at all levels to discuss the challenges and identify the steps required to create sustainable change.

The programme launched with three London Buses embossed in our ‘Dedicated to Diversity’ strapline, with all 36 of our founding member companies logos included, leaving Guildhall yard to continue their bus routes throughout London for the rest of the year.  The programme continued with four Senior Leader Forums, five Power of Diversity Breakfasts and two conferences bringing leaders of all levels together, harnessing the energy and passion to create change.

In preparation of the mayoral year a survey was conducted in the City to gain an understanding of perceptions of diversity by city workers.  Surprisingly we found that 87% of people surveyed didn’t think that their company’s efforts on diversity and inclusion were having any impact on them at all. This was an important wake-up call.

Further surveys throughout the year found that:

·         84% of employees agreed that their companies made a commitment from the very top to create a diverse and inclusive working environment

·         However, only 15% of mid-level managers felt that their leaders’ actions were consistent with their words

·         Only 25% of leaders responsible for creating the right culture in their companies had any form of measure relating to diversity and inclusion in their performance plans

This led to some valuable insights to ensure that future action on creating more inclusive and diverse companies is focused and impactful:

·         There is currently a lack of consistent, effective measurement that really gives a sense of progress and challenges

·         A lack of measures and objectives relating to diversity and inclusion within Performance Management plans at all levels suggests lack of accountability and responsibility within many companies

·         The lack of ‘change management’ disciplines is hindering progress;   'initiatives’ are rarely embedded and sustainable

·         The perceived ‘conservative’ nature of managers when identifying talent.  Hiring or utilizing people with direct and transferrable skills rather than ‘just like me’ is key to creating a sustainable pipeline

·         Senior leaders and the majority across the wider levels of companies want more inclusive working environments.  They want to work in more diverse companies, they want to realize the benefits of difference…but change is slow.

To ensure the ‘new normal’ becomes a reality the above insights are critical points to be progressed and worked through.

  • How do we ensure that the commitment from senior leaders is actively seen at all levels across firms?
  • How do we create truly meritocratic organisations where people progress because of their talents and ability to do the role - and not because of their background or any other factor?
  • How do we ensure the City of London is relevant, responsive and continually attractive to the global talent required for the future?

The Power of Diversity programme has a number of legacies that will be delivered with the continued input of the supporting companies and the continued drive by the City of London Corporation.  These include:

City Leaders / Future Leaders Forum – executive leaders will continue to come together to shape their thinking and execution of the diversity and inclusion agenda.  They will continue to have the opportunity to meet future/middle managers and continue to build practical steps to create change at all levels of organisations.

Recruiting an Inclusive Pipeline – led by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) the principles of how companies create the diverse pipeline of talent at all levels to ensure their recruitment methods, and those who support them, are inclusive and recruiting from the broadest talent pool.

City Research – Impact and Meritocracy Research – In 2013 Fiona Woolf commissioned a survey to find out what people in the city really thought about diversity in the workplace and the impact they think current activity has had.  This is an effective benchmark to measure future changes in city workers perceptions.  The survey will be conducted on a regular basis to measure and review the progress made in the city.

Collaborative and Collective Intelligence – the ‘Power of Diversity’ website has been created and will act as a ‘collaborative Intelligence’ tool pulling together the findings and reflections throughout the programme, share case studies of what has and hasn’t worked in organisations and share practical tools and actions for mid managers to embed diverse and inclusive thinking into their daily activities.  The site will also sign post to other key resources that will support and drive change.

Creating the Right Measures – we will continue to focus on what are the right measures to really identify the impact of creating more inclusive cultures and measure the progress made.  These measures will be created as recommendations appropriate for all companies to adopt.

Let’s not forget the progress that has been made over the years, let’s celebrate the progress made throughout the mayoralty and let’s also focus on the continued energy and focus required to realise truly inclusive and diverse companies as the ‘new normal’.

You can be involved in the continued programme in a number of ways:

For your company to be involved or for you to be added to the mailing list, contact

To join the debate on Linked In, search ‘Power of Diversity’ on Linked In Groups

To contribute to the website visit



   Freeman Charlotte Sweeney


Mobile: +44 (0) 7825 454 853


Twitter: @charlottesweene