Businesses are making progress, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.
Following a 24-hour live streamed event spanning three continents, business leaders from around the world have offered their thoughts on advocacy and equality in the workplace.
The overarching takeaway from the Economist’s Pride and Prejudice summit was that businesses, whilst doing well, still have a long way to go. Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor in Chief at The Economist said that while businesses are ‘making progress’ we need to move up in to implementation stage and get ‘broad implementation’ from large organisations right the way down to the small.
Michael Gold, senior editor for The Economist Intelligence Unit, mirrored Beddoes comments stating that ‘LGBTQ+ rights can very easily start to move in the wrong direction. This is something where the business world really has a duty and a responsibility to step up and make sure that it doesn’t happen’, and said that he was ‘personally optimistic, hearing all the stories and feeling the enthusiasm in the room today, but it still feels like there’s a long way to go’.
Gina Miller, transparency activist for the True and Fair Campaign, said that advocacy today requires a huge amount of homework. ‘I’m very concerned that we’ve got a real fracturing of society, a real negativity that’s becoming the norm’, before adding that ‘in that sort of environment, it’s much more difficult to be an advocate because you have the media attacking you and people attacking you for your ethnicity, gender, or the way you look’.
Sir Nick Clegg, former deputy Prime Minister vocalised thoughts that ‘regressive politics’ cause a ‘backlash against liberal advances’ from the likes of Trump and Putin, he added that there is a lack of direction from the UK government, stating that ‘the government now is basically malfunctional, so gridlocked by its own internal condescend it can’t speak with one voice’. His call to action for businesses was to ‘be controversial’ but make sure they’re providing an explanation – it’s all about storytelling and ‘businesses need to speak up’.
Sir Roger Carr, Chairman for BAE Systems, made one of the strongest comments during the summit when he declared that it wasn’t sensible to ‘exclude people for reasons that have nothing to do with the contribution they can make in the workplace’, and that processes need to be put in place so that they are ‘not just words, but deeds’.
Carr’s call to action was that:
It’s important to be the constant ally and advocate of something that is good for business, appropriate for human beings, and recognise that diversity is a healthy thing to have in a business and not a strange thing to have in a business.
Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, added that it was time for companies with a certain amount of ‘muscle’ to be a bit more ballsy and confident in showing their advocacy than they currently are, especially those that operate in markets that might ‘face backlash’.
Further highlights from the Pride and Prejudice summit can be seen below.