In the latest instalment of our HR executive interview series, we spoke to Sue Liburd MBE, Non-Executive Director at ABSTRACT and winner of the Champion of Inclusion Award at the 2019 Inclusive Companies Dinner…
Who are you?
I am a person who wants to change the world. I believe this can be achieved through organisations because business is not separate from society. Business is made up of people who live in, represent and have an impact on all sections of society.
I am an award-winning businesswoman, human capital innovation consultant and business mentor. I have a special interest in assisting under-represented groups achieve C-suite success. Through my work I promote the importance and understanding of intersectionality and equality as a driver for business success. I was very proud to be awarded an MBE in 2016 in recognition for my services to Business, Charities and Voluntary organisations.
What does your role involve with ABSTRACT?
As a non-executive director, I act as independent wise counsel to ABSTRACT company directors, I am the in-house diversity and inclusion specialist, keep a watching brief on organisational governance as well as act as a brand ambassador for ACCELERATE, our flagship Career Management Development Programme and our Critical Thinking Series™, developed for senior business leaders and changemakers to significantly improve the quality of their judgements and decision-making.
How did it feel to win the Champion of Inclusion Award at the 2019 Inclusive Companies Awards?
I was awestruck, humbled and moved to receive this award. I was initially surprised that I had been shortlisted and when I saw the shortlisted nominees in the category their achievements were so impressive that I had no expectations of winning. When my name was announced I was genuinely shocked. I think I delivered the shortest acceptance speech in the world of acceptance speeches. Allow me to be clear this is not false modesty – I am very focused on delivering positive outcomes and moving the dial on gender and race disparity in organisations that I hadn’t stopped to think that I was trail blazing nationally and it was being noticed. It was also great recognition for ABSTRACT of the work that we have been doing to support the advancement of women in business in the UK, Ireland and internationally through the ACCELERATE Programme.
What do you think about the progress of women and black, asian and minority ethnic groups in business?
There is a substantial body of evidence showing that diverse teams bring added value to organisations and that companies with a more equal gender balance substantially outperform those without. Yet study after study shows that women, people of colour, LGBTQ people and those with disabilities remain massively under-represented in senior roles. It is my belief that we still have stubborn race and gender disparity because we are still using a diversity 1.0 playbook influenced by audit, compliance and penalty. Many of us are complicit and to accept that it will take nearly a century to achieve parity is simply not acceptable in a civil globalised world. Without equal inclusion we will not grow our economies and have shared prosperity in our communities.
I maintain that the UK as one of the wealthiest countries in the world should have a national culture where every person regardless of ethnicity is able to fulfil their potential. What if we redefined D&I success and stopped focusing on the shortcomings of anyone who does not match up to the homogenous white male success model as if it were the gold standard of normal. What if we simply decided to focus on removing barriers that stop people from achieving their full potential? Would we still be talking about people from minority ethnic backgrounds or women as being ‘other’ than normal or simply be talking about enabling people to be the best versions of themselves.
Where do you think the diversity and inclusion agenda is going?
To date, most diversity and inclusion conversations and interventions centre around representation, for example increasing the number of women in the workforce and at particular levels. This results in interventions to increase representation. The more fearless diversity thinkers and influencers are changing the rules and changing the conversation by asking a different set of questions. For example, what barriers do we have to remove in our organisations in order that talent can thrive physically, mentally and emotionally? Why would we not want an integrated brilliant diverse and inclusive workforce? What can be learned from those with the lived experience of being in a thriving diverse and inclusive workplace? What is a ground-breaking new normal?
Most people want to be recognised for their uniqueness, to feel valued, have a sense of belonging and be included in the workplace. Diversity thinking recognises uniqueness and Inclusion thinking brings the differences and uniqueness together. Successful organisations need both. The future of diversity and inclusion is to elevate the experience of inclusion.
How have your plans for the rest of 2020 been impacted by Coronavirus?
My plans are still simple: Influence more organisational and institutional change by helping senior decision makers reshape themselves and their organisations for a better future. When business plays an active leadership role in building a better world communities thrive, and societal problems are solved. Better business creates a better world.
I was due to be speaking at a wide range of conferences, events and expert forums, many of which have been postponed or moved to other forms of delivery such as by webinar and podcast and I am keen to ensure that the diversity agenda continues to move forward, not backwards, in these unexpected times.
You can contact or get in touch with Sue via ABSTRACT at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also find her on LinkedIn.
Further details about ABSTRACT can be found here https://www.abstractuk.co.uk
And ABSTRACT’s award winning ACCELERATE Programme here; https://www.accelerateprogramme.com