Our Diversity and Inclusion Journey
Ever since the business was founded by my parents back in 2003, we’ve always worked hard to make anyone who comes into contact with Howarths feel included, welcome, heard and valued. It’s just something we like to think we do as a matter of course, perhaps stemming from the family values that underpin the business. I am proud of that, but I also know we can always do better.
So earlier this year I found myself thinking more and more about how Howarths can become more inclusive and diverse. I read many articles on the likes of Linkedin about changes other businesses were making, such as including pronouns after your name, and I’ve also seen (with some scepticism I must admit) many big businesses change their logo to pride colours during pride month.
I started to think how we might forge our own way in being more diverse and more inclusive. Not just what is legally required, but how we could stand for more proactive and positive change.
I have to be honest and say to begin with, I was somewhat hesitant about moving into the area of diversity and inclusion in a more proactive way. I was worried that we’d get it wrong, or just as bad, that we would come across inauthentic (the very last thing I wanted). With something so important, I wanted to do it right; no token gestures, or for the wrong reasons.
I spoke to a few staff members about my thoughts and was reassured by their responses. Not only were they very engaged when talking about all things diversity and inclusion, but they very much welcomed the idea of Howarths standing for more in this area.
I was then invited to a meeting with a long-standing client of ours who has for years championed diversity and inclusion, long before there were awards for such things. The CEO and Director of People and Culture were very generous with their time and explained their view on it, why it was important for them, and what it meant for the business. One phrase from the CEO really stood out – “to be effective you need to be reflective”. That was it, just the push I needed. I left there inspired and ready to make change.
The very next day, I sent an email to the whole business saying that I wanted to set up our first ever Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I asked for 4 volunteers to join it with myself. I’d decided I would chair it at inception to make sure the initiatives and changes we decided upon can be implemented properly and fully across the business. To my surprise and delight, 14 people from the business put their names forward for wanting to be part of it, with others saying how pleased they were that Howarths were progressing in this area.
We selected the 4 committee members and off we went. We spent the first meeting setting the terms of reference – how often we would meet, what our core purpose is, how we would communicate, how members are selected and what areas we want to start by tackling. We wrote all this up which resulted in our Diversity and Inclusion Charter, an action log and our D&I Agenda. These were then shared with the whole business.
Since inception of our committee back in July, we have met several times (roughly every 4 weeks) and implemented some important initiatives across the business. These include celebrating a culturally diverse calendar, with Outlook diary invites across the business to remind people of significant events across the cultural calendar. We also follow these up with awareness raising emails and communications. We’ve had a world food day fuddle celebrating food and cultures from across the world, and we’ve celebrated world inclusion week with fun activities like a baby quiz, bringing the Howarths team closer together.
As we look ahead to the next calendar year, we’ve set our sights on increasing our understanding and commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, and continuing to deepen our awareness of disability in the workplace. In readiness, we’ve recently written a whitepaper about disability at work which we’ve shared to all stakeholders, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who work at Howarths have shared their personal stories with colleagues and clients alike, which has been brilliant.
As time went on and we started to get into our stride a little bit, we collectively made a decision to tweak the name of our committee. It is now called our Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee, which we internally refer to as our ‘DIB’ Committee. We felt that adding the word ‘belonging’ was really important, as it really captured the very essence of the culture at Howarths, and what we aspired for going forward.
It is a given that we will make many mistakes. We are bound to get the tone wrong, misinterpret things and put emphasis in the wrong areas. However, what is just as true is that by not committing, we won’t make positive change, and we want to make positive change. So, wish us luck as we embark on the next phase of our journey with our DIB committee leading the way in ensuring Howarths is as inclusive and diverse as it can be.
If you are interested in doing something similar in your business, but don’t know where to start, do not hesitate to contact us. We’d be delighted to share our experience further and support you and your team to make positive change by embracing diversity, inclusion and belonging.
Author: Gavin Howarth, Managing Director of Howarths