October is Black History Month in the UK, while the context of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement continues to shine a light on societal disparities which exist globally. We are maintaining our focus on creating inclusive environments in which all types of diversity can thrive – and remain focused on building momentum as we convert discussions into action.
On 30 September we kicked off the first digital instalment of our annual Diversity Summit. Over the last five years, the Diversity Summit has created opportunities for conversation, sharing and understanding – and this year, through a series of virtual events, we’re bringing together perspectives and ideas to help us keep making progress.
The September event saw over 100 colleagues join an interactive session on ‘allyship’, which explored the responsibility we all have to be allies and take courageous action to drive inclusion. Lively debate from the panel session included discussion and advice on challenging behaviours or comments, being a role model, and the importance of curiosity and vulnerability for our personal growth.
We invited panel speakers to share their insights with us. Our host speaker was Tinna Nielson – Anthropologist, Social Entrepreneur, Global Change Maker, and Founder of Move the Elephant for Inclusiveness. Also on our panel were: Cassa Pancho MBE, Founder, CEO and Artistic Director of Ballet Black; Brenda Trenowden CBE, Former Global Chair of 30% Club; and Benjamin Brust, Head of our General Counsel’s Office and also a representative of LGBT Great.
Over the remainder of the year, we will host sessions with further guest speakers from across the globe. Following the opening session, Lynne Connolly, our Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, said:
“It’s really important for allyship to be a continual activity. It’s not ‘one and done’ but is about changing behaviours and our actions for the long term, and evolving over time. We all have times in our lives when we need an ally – someone to champion you and help create a change in the world. That’s real empowerment in practice.”
Lynne also spoke recently with Anjli Shah, an Investment Director in our European & US Equities, Smaller Companies Team, about the importance of an inclusive culture to our business and society. You can read the interview here.
We continue to take action to support our Black colleagues and communities, as well as colleagues of all ethnic minority groups – and our Diversity Summit Series is just one of the ways that we’ve equipped colleagues to learn and do more. Additional sessions have been hosted by teams and senior leaders across our business, and by Unity – our ethnicity and multicultural colleague network – who are hosting a series of events for colleagues throughout UK Black History Month.
Working with Unity, we are also forming charity partnerships and providing funding to US and UK charities, helping young people from disadvantaged and ethnic minority backgrounds to reach their potential. In the US we are supporting Oliver Scholars and EmbraceRace, and in the UK the Amos Bursary, Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and Youth Community Support Agency. Through the Standard Life Aberdeen Charitable Foundation, we’ll also be supporting The Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Banking and Finance programme.
We maintain ongoing support for ethnic minority communities and work with a number of partners to diversify entrance routes into our organisation, as well as supporting colleagues to develop. The Diversity Project’s #talkaboutblack initiative is one such partnership and – along with Investment20/20, the Investment Association’s talent solution – they have recently launched a new cross-industry mentoring programme. It involves mentoring from industry leaders to help senior Black professionals develop, thrive and progress into senior executive roles, and reverse mentoring for executive leaders to benefit from insight into the lived experiences of Black people in the industry.
For the pilot programme, Keith Skeoch, who chairs the Aberdeen Standard Investments Research Institute, has been selected as a mentor and Vannessa Whitehead, Risk & Compliance Investments Technical Manager, will be one of those mentored. Our participation builds on the launch of our own in-house reverse mentoring programme, where members of Unity are acting as mentors to senior leaders in our business.
Across our global business, we work to ensure that our workforce reflects the diversity of the communities we operate in. In Luxembourg, our business has become an official signatory of the ‘Charte de la Diversité’ (Diversity Charter). This is an initiative that allows organisations to commit to actions promoting diversity and social equity, beyond simply their legal obligations.
Dirk Schulze, Head of Luxembourg and Managing Director at Aberdeen Standard Investments Luxembourg (ASIL), commented:
“I am delighted that ASIL has committed to the values of the Luxembourg Diversity Charter, which reflects our own purpose to invest in a better future. We have a long and well-established presence in Luxembourg and we can play a crucial role in ensuring that our workforce reflects the diverse, dynamic, innovative and international society in which we live. Being able to build on this is a cornerstone in paving our future success and delivering excellent service to our customers.”