Vision Voices: Leading business figures tell us how they are embracing diversity

Kirstie MacLennan of Brodies
Kirstie MacLennan of Brodies

Shepherd & Wedderburn is committed to fostering an inclusive culture because we believe that our clients, colleagues and business are best served by a diverse workforce, with the multiplicity of experiences, ideas and perspectives that this brings.

Kirstie Maclennan – director of human resources and development, Brodies

Having a diverse workforce is important to us. With the right opportunity everyone has the potential to succeed, regardless of their background.

We implement a number of diversity-focused measures across the firm; these include unconscious bias training and removing education and address details from all graduate applications.

We also pay full diploma contributions for our trainees, and we’re now on our second Career Ready Mentor programme, providing guidance to students from less advantaged backgrounds.

We’re particularly proud to be founding members of PRIME, providing young people from underprivileged backgrounds with the opportunity to excel in the legal profession.

In 2017, we offered 30 placements in our offices, involving both clients and colleagues in the process. A number of our PRIME students have gone on to study law at university and Ellen Smith, right in the picture, who completed a placement with us in 2013, will join us as a trainee lawyer next year.

The programme is an important step in driving change in the legal profession, not to mention an incredibly rewarding experience for us as a firm and for the students who take part.

Laura Reid – chief executive, SIMUL8

Our intern programme has been well established for several years and we maintain a high profile with several universities by doing talks to students that demonstrate diversity across SIMUL8.

Many of our employees come from our intern programme, including our chief technical officer and director of sales.

By encouraging anyone, regardless of gender, to apply for intern roles at tech companies through the university talks and fairs we attend, we remove bias in the recruitment process.

As there is evidence that females don’t always sell themselves well in an interview, our intern programme allows a much more natural setting for individuals to demonstrate their strengths and personality, as well as getting a feel for the company and the sector.

By starting early and ensuring gender diversity at the recruitment stage, we’ve fostered and facilitated a self-perpetuating, continually diverse environment with a balanced workforce, including an exec team that is majority female.

Alastair Scott – managing director, 20/20 Productions

At 20/20 Productions we are proud of our diverse workforce.

For over 28 years we have been committed to hiring, training and retaining the best in the industry so we can deliver the best work for our clients.

We pride ourselves on this.

Young people are the lifeblood of our business and we dedicate our time to nurturing young talent to develop skills for the future.

20/20 Productions has ongoing relationships with Scottish universities, schools and colleges and we offer multiple internship and placement opportunities throughout the year. In 2017, we were accredited as a living wage employer, being recognised for giving employees equal and deserving pay.

We have always felt strongly about giving our employees what they deserve and I’m incredibly proud that 20/20 Productions has been recognised as an Investors in People organisation and Investors in Young People.

Investing in our young people not only helps our business perform well, it sets a precedent for the industry and wider business community.

Alex Baker – acting chief executive, Social Enterprise Scotland

Social Enterprise Scotland was an early adopter of 50/50 by 2020, the Scottish Government initiative that challenges organisations to achieve gender balance on their boards by 2020.

It recognises that greater diversity of thinking on boards leads to better governance and better performance. 

We met the voluntary target in 2015 and now, in 2018, almost two-thirds of our board members are women. And that includes a female 
vice-chairperson.

This diversity gives me confidence in our ability to have richer conversations and more innovative thinking to help us develop as a business. 

Our social enterprise members are also setting the bar high for gender diversity – 64 per cent of Scotland’s social enterprises are led by women. 

It’s really inspiring to be surrounded by so many female leaders and I hope it encourages other young women in social enterprise and beyond to aspire to leadership positions in their businesses.

David Watt – executive director, IoD Scotland

The drive to increase boardroom diversity is something we at IoD strive to promote. Currently, issues around gender equality are very prominent. However, we should be focusing on diversity of thought, as well as of gender.

The Year of Young People should make us think more about age diversity of the board. The boardroom should be a place of varied background, education, age, gender and skills.

It must clearly be the home of diversity of thought if we are to be successful – not a location for dogma.

We need to move forward to build capacity and competence and ensure we train and develop our directors to get the best out of them and their organisations for the benefit of our economy and our society.

Yvonne Brady – partner and chair of the gender focus group, Shepherd & Wedderburn

Shepherd & Wedderburn is committed to fostering an inclusive culture because we believe that our clients, colleagues and business are best served by a diverse workforce, with the multiplicity of experiences, ideas and perspectives that this brings.

We launched our first diversity group, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Allies (LGBTA), in December 2015 followed by our Gender Focus Group and Healthy Working Lives and Disability Group the following year.

In 2016 we also signed up to the Time to Change employer pledge on mental health awareness and achieved an initial top 250 ranking in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index on LGBT workplace equality.

The following year we established the Race, Faith & Beliefs and Social Mobility groups and also extended our relationships with external organisations promoting diversity, including Project Scotland, Aspiring Solicitors, Mosaic and IntoWork.

Shepherd & Wedderburn has now launched S+W Together, a diversity umbrella group which aims to bring greater clarity, consistency and focus to our equality and diversity initiatives by adopting a more holistic approach to improving employee engagement through inclusion.

To date, 26 per cent of our colleagues and partners have signed up to S+W Together diversity groups.

Hamish Watson – UK human resources director, ScottishPower

At ScottishPower our approach to diversity and inclusion is key to creating a workplace where all our people are energised, drive innovation and work well together.

It’s crucial to our business that we attract and retain diverse talent, a workforce that mirrors the communities we serve and understands the diverse needs of our customers.

As an example, flexible working practices at our headquarters in Glasgow, along with our leave policies, seek to provide an opportunity for employees to work in an agile environment, integrating all aspects of their lives.

Additionally, our work to secure the UK’s best talent continues this year through our scholarships programme.

We are offering 16 students the financial support to take forward a master’s degree, and to demonstrate how they can contribute to our future by developing their skills and knowledge.

We are also proud to partner with a number of organisations, from the Business Disability Forum and Carers UK to Enable Scotland and Stonewall.

Likewise, we are committed to advancing the professional development of women in the UK energy sector through our partnership with POWERfulWomen and work with Equate Scotland to support a Women Returners Project.

This gives women engineers the opportunity to gain work experience with the objective of returning to the profession after a gap.

The programme is undoubtedly a useful recruitment channel for our business too.

Quite simply, having a diversified workforce means I have a team who are willing to challenge, try new ways of working and make better decisions.

Phil Prentice – chief officer, Scotland’s Towns Partnership

Scotland’s unique story is one of invention, migration and immigration and a cultural identity linked to strong social values.

There are 25 million Scots diaspora scattered globally today and the fruits of our invention are everywhere: penicillin, television, telephones, roads, bicycles.

From the Enlightenment to current day policies such as community empowerment, living wage, free personal care and free tuition, Scotland has always been a beacon of fairness and equality. Our diversity makes us who we are and enriches our lives, from the large-scale Irish and Italian immigrations to the more recent support for Syrian migrants.

Scotland might be cold but its people are warm and welcoming and its government is focused on equality and inclusion.

At Scotland’s Towns Partnership we value diversity and equality, our board and staff reflect this and so do our core values and approach.

Marjorie Strachan – head of inclusion, Royal Bank of Scotland

Becoming an inclusive bank is not an optional extra for us. We will only achieve our ambition to be number one for customer service, trust and advocacy if we understand the needs of all of our people and our customers.

At Royal Bank of Scotland, we offer colleagues the opportunity to attend career development courses and join any employee-led network they associate with (or want to support).

Our network for employees with disabilities is called Enable. Enable has around 650 members and is supporting the bank’s plan to become “disability smart”.

We run webinars on a range of disabilities to ensure everyone understands the impact these can have and the adjustments we can put in place to support them.

We’ve also implemented our first disability-focused career development programme and our evaluation shows our approach is making a difference, with about 90 per cent saying they will use the learnings from this programme in their role and personal life.

Quite simply, if we’re a more inclusive place to work, great people will want to work here and more customers will want to bank with us – it’s a business imperative.

This article appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Vision Scotland. Further information about Vision Scotland here.