Diversity, Sport Business | Nov 4, 2019
Notes from our latest Diversity Series event.

Over 150 executives from across the sports industry, representing teams, leagues, governing bodies, agencies, charities, community projects, broadcasters and brands – gathered at Facebook in London on Thursday 31 October for Leaders Meet: Diversity; Black Excellence. It was the latest event in the Leaders Meet: Diversity Series, in partnership with Facebook, which aims to accelerate the pace of change across the industry by sharing stories and practical insights.

In order to encourage as open and honest discussion as possible, the event runs to Chatham House rules, but we can offer you this flavour of a few of the key themes to emerge from the three on-stage conversations and the many questions and thoughts posed by the audience during the morning.

The next generation of black sports leaders

The event gave a platform to a group of young black executives who shared their career paths to date and their daily workplace experiences. What became clear is that balancing a perceived need to adapt and modify their own approach day-to-day – particularly when it comes to something like language within a workplace – with the confidence and bravery to drive change within that environment is an ongoing challenge. Imposter syndrome and micro-incivilities – tiny, often unconscious, comments or gestures committed by colleagues – are other factors that can require appropriate coping strategies.


Consider where and how you look for new talent

To expand your pool of talent and ultimately build a more diverse workforce, you need to be searching in the right places – and that may not be where you’re currently looking. As one speaker put it “if you’re not looking for them or they don’t know where to look, it’s going to be difficult”. At an educational level, while relationships with individual universities are positive in terms of unearthing new talent, it does inevitably narrow your focus. Consider other institutions and other ways of engaging with the BAME community. And when hiring for more senior executive roles, at mid and senior level, try going beyond a LinkedIn post if you want to find a more diverse talent pool to dip into.

Take your people on a journey

Nobody likes or responds well to being told what to do, so when it comes to making diversity a central part of your organisation’s culture and DNA careful thought is required. At a time when diversity is being discussed more than ever, ‘diversity fatigue’ can be a factor so consider the tone and pace of your staff education process. Starting out with a discussion of what makes good business practice can be a good ramp towards threading in diversity, equality and inclusion challenges and solutions. Changing a culture is difficult and it requires seeds to be planted and foundations to be built, as well as regular monitoring. Really robust data sets such as inclusion indexes and attrition rates provides a good baseline.

Encourage, listen and action

It can be challenging to talk openly about diversity but it should be encouraged by creating a safe space in which to do so. It’s important for senior leaders within organisations to be willing to listen to the experiences of BAME employees, not to respond but to understand – that’s the environment best suited to finding solutions and new approaches. Allies are important, but it’s important to recognize that some people are allies without realising it – think too about the best way they can be supported. ‘Opening the door behind you’, BAME leaders supporting BAME executives joining an organization, was widely agreed to be an important concept’.

Reaching those not in the room

Simply attending the event indicated a level of buy-in to the need for the industry to become more diverse, but what can be done to engage those not in the room – particularly C-suite level executives. Some people won’t change – or have a fear factor about how to do it effectively or sensitively – but a new generation of sports leaders is emerging for whom diversity, equality and inclusion is a front-of-mind topic. As one of those on stage succinctly put it: “Gen Z are coming through and they won’t wait to have the door opened.” Building out the community and encouraging those who are engaged to bring a colleague to a future Diversity Series event is part of Leaders’ plan for 2020. Standby for more details.

The next events in the Leaders Diversity Series, in partnership with Facebook, will take place in London and New York on Friday 6 March 2020, to celebrate International Women’s Day. Our next Leaders Meet: Black Excellence event will be in New York, as part of Leaders Week 2020, on Monday 18 May 2020.

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