Leeds pioneers the diversity and inclusion evolution

Four nationally recognised brands have launched a new learning network, CIC (Creating Inclusive Cultures), in Leeds.

CIC is a collaborative hub of companies that strive to take advantage of the benefits of Diversity & Inclusion to achieve their business objectives and position Leeds as a thriving business centre.

Joining CIC is a pledge to not only share existing and develop new strategies to foster cultures of inclusivity in their own organisations, but to advance their respective industries’ understanding of the impact of diversity and inclusiveness.

The founding members of CIC are commercial law firm DWF, leading international professional services organisation EY, leading global specialist recruitment group Hays and nationally recognised transport network Northern Rail.

As a Northern economic centre, Leeds is positioned to pioneer the Diversity & Inclusion evolution as, not only does Leeds have the foundation of a top city to do business, but resources and support have been committed to the city to see it improve.

Leeds, as with many cities, can benefit from putting Diversity & Inclusion higher up its agenda, which CIC aims to achieve.

Charlotte Sweeney, previously heading up Diversity and Inclusion for Nomura and special advisor to former Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf, developed CIC to support organisations that see inclusivity as a strategic advantage. Companies that understand socio-economic trends, such an ageing population, increased global migration and the laptop lifestyle movement, are able to adapt and thrive.

The result is a company that has better talent attraction, development and retention. This has a positive impact on profitability and shareholder attitude.

Charlotte Sweeney, CIC founder & CEO, said: “175 years after the Industrial Revolution changed the way we perceive an effective organisation, the D&I evolution is set to do the same. Stagnant and homogenous workplaces of the 20th century are being overthrown by business leaders who can see what the workplace, and workforce, of the future looks like.

“Not only do tomorrow’s success stories see the value of innovation, creativity and better decision making that comes from diverse teams today. But they see the advantages of the changing demographics of tomorrow’s workforce, and adapt to work with them.

“They see a generation of workers with skills and experience that are second to none getting to retirement age with little or no pension. They see a generation of workers entering the workplace with new attitudes and values, that work to live, not live to work. They see a generation in the squeezed middle, that need to adapt their work pattern to caring for ageing parents, or looking after children without giving up work.

“These are the business leaders of the future. And CIC is here to support them.”

Suzanne Robinson, partner and D&I Leader at EY in Yorkshire, said: “Diversity is about differences and inclusiveness is about leveraging those differences.

“The ability to learn from different perspectives is critical to driving innovation, and delivering the best approaches for clients and opportunities for employees.

“By building diverse workforces and concentrating on inclusiveness, firms can create high performing teams that are not only equal and fair, but help to realise competitive advantage.

“We believe that diversity and inclusiveness should be business imperatives – led from the very top of organisations – and look forward to working as part of CIC to share insights and develop new approaches to D&I.” 

Pam Lindsay-Dunn, managing director of Hays in Yorkshire, said: “As recruiters we are at the forefront of sourcing and selecting candidates for employers of all sizes across the UK. The responsibility to provide employers with access to the widest possible talent pool and the best candidates, regardless of background, is our biggest diversity and inclusion challenge.

“At a time where skill shortages are spurring a war for talent, enlarging the pool of potential candidates is an imperative for organisations. By taking action to address this challenge and recognise the value of diversity we will not only help our own industry thrive, but by seeking talented individuals from increasingly diverse range of profiles and backgrounds we will be able to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and performance of organisations across the UK.

“As the leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people, people sit at the heart of our business, both in the people who we employ and also the services that we offer. Hays is proud to be a founding member of CIC. We are confident that CIC will play a key role in enabling organisations to realise the many benefits of having a truly diverse workforce.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring our expertise to this programme and also actively share its recommendations with our many clients in the Yorkshire regions.”

Lee Wasnidge, sponsoring director of Northern Rail’s working together strategy, said: “Building an inclusive environment is so important to our business because we value all our employees equally. We aim to create a culture that develops our employees and promotes fairness and equality.

“Recently, we achieved silver status Investors in People and we are also the first train operating company to achieve the Investors in Diversity accreditation. We’re now working towards becoming a Leader in Diversity. 

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve already made and we are committed to do even more. We will continue with our commitment to become a truly inclusive employer, where our employees can build a career as well as recognise the importance of the community we serve and create an environment where all colleagues treat each other with dignity and respect.”

Nikki Hosty, head of HR Support Services, Northern Rail, said: “I am a firm believer that equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is good for business. In order that we can grow and support the Northern economy, more businesses need to work together, build partnerships and share best practice. The CIC will enable us to do this.”

Gail Taylor, diversity and community engagement manager at DWF, said: “At DWF, our values inform who we are, what we do and how we do it. We aim to demonstrate performance and value throughout all aspects of our business and the delivery of a performance enhancing diversity & inclusion agenda is no exception.

“Becoming more diverse rarely happens by accident, it has to be recognised as a key driver in building a profitable, sustainable and values led business, where leaders are motivated to leverage the benefits of diversity to enhance productivity and better decision making.

“We aspire to do things differently and being a visible part of the Creating Inclusive Cultures movement is consistent with our aim to leverage the benefits of diverse teams operating within an inclusive culture, to deliver unrivalled service for clients and creating a great place to work for our people.

“The biggest diversity and inclusion challenge facing our industry is responding to a changing society. The legal sector has been slow to respond to the opportunity that diversity can bring, and more needs to be done to change perceptions and traditional attitudes to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces and cultures.

“A diverse business is a stronger business that can attract and retain the best talent, and deliver enhanced service for clients who are increasingly looking to work with advisors who reflect their own diverse businesses.”

“We hope to challenge the status quo through demonstrating the business benefits and setting measurable diversity objectives to implement real change in our organisation and across the wider legal sector. Diversity is not just a HR issue. It presents a real opportunity to leverage key business benefits, and we would encourage all law firms and businesses across Leeds to implement key reforms to help improve diversity & inclusion across the city.”

Tom Riordan, chief executive, Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds City Council is pleased to be supporting CIC, which we view as an important initiative. The city has achieved significant economic growth in recent years, outperforming national comparators and demonstrating the hard work of businesses, the universities, the third sector and the council.

The Council believes that now, more than ever, is the time for all communities in our diverse city to share in the benefits of the city’s economic growth.”

Companies looking to capitalise on the benefits of Diversity & Inclusion can join the network at any point by contacting info@charlottesweeney.com. In September 2015 the programme of events and meetings commences. Representatives from the member organisations of CIC will benefit from:

  • Identifying and progressing a small number of focused work-streams that respond to issues that are important to member organisations.
  • A place on the Senior Leadership Forum, which supports companies in their Diversity & Inclusion strategies.
  • Access to exclusive events on pertinent Diversity & Inclusion topics.
  • The opportunity to contribute to biennial research on an issue decided on by the Senior Leadership Team and CIC’s advisory board.
  • CIC launching in other UK cities from 2016.


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