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Difrent
Nov. 12, 2020

Diversity: Are we getting the basics right?

4 minute read

Episode 2 Difrent Talks

Image: Difrent Talks: Diversity - are we getting the basics right? Difrent logo, Youtube logo

Last week, we spoke to Rita Brockless, Sandeep Bansal and Daniel Leakey about building high-performing digital delivery teams in Healthcare. This was a great panel of experts and they gave us some amazing insight into bringing teams together to deliver quality products and services.

Meet our panellists

Image of a smiling Nadira Hussain Text: Nadira Hussain Director of Leadership Development & Research


Nadira Hussain is the Director of Leadership Development and Research at the Society of Innovation, Technology and Modernisation (SOCITM). She has worked for 25 years in the public sector, across numerous operational and strategic functions, including transformation, customer services and shared services.

Image of a smiling Sam Shah Text: Sam Shah Global Digital Health Advisor

Dr Sam Shah is the director of the faculty of future health. He is also Chief Medical Officer in a digital health company, advising organisations about digital health. Sam is working to make the entirety of health accessible, reduce inequalities and to find a way of improving outcomes and reducing inequality in society.

Image of a smiling Rachel Murphy. Text: Rachel Murphy Difrent CEO


Rachel Murphy is the CEO of Difrent. Before Difrent, Rachel worked in the public and private sector for around 20 years. Rachel’s motivation around building Difrent was wanting to build the right sort of organisation that could help both healthcare and government in delivering business change and digital services.

With recent events such as COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, can diversity be ignored any longer?

Diversity is something that has dominated the news and something that everyone is talking about right now. With Black Lives Matter being increasingly in the public eye, everyone has something to say about diversity.

Diversity cannot be ignored any longer

If anything, COVID-19 and the issues happening in the US, UK and elsewhere around the Black Lives Matter movement clearly highlights that dealing with race and inequality is something that is everyone's business, and just can't be ignored.

The research identified that people from ethnic minority groups were experiencing harsher symptoms and death from COVID-19 far more than other groups in society. We still don't know why, but there was disparity there, not only by race but also by age. You can clearly see those people living in deprived areas who are older, and from ethnic minority communities suffered far more from COVID-19.

Inequality exists in a range of groups

Inequality exists between lots of different groups. Between men and women, different communities, and also between those with different educational status. It's not just race, but race is a big dimension of it. It's important when thinking about inclusivity, that we want the best outcomes for society.

We need a more inclusive workforce, a decision making workforce more representative of all of those in society whichever background they come from. People that come from ethnic minority communities and also in particular women in the workforce are even more excluded than others.

What we can do to create a more diverse workforce

We are repeatedly seeing organisations and teams pulling together business cases to justify why diverse teams, organisations, workforces and communities deliver better outcomes. We haven't got it right by any stretch, we're right at the start of this journey, we've got a long way to go.

People truly have to take responsibility and accountability. This can't be lip service, this has to become second nature. It needs to be part and parcel of how we measure companies and organisations that we want to do work with. We should be looking at that data and asking if this organisation is truly a diverse employer.

Have that difficult conversation

This is about helping people have an uncomfortable conversation about a difficult topic, and about recruiting from areas where they may not have history or relationships with. Actually opening their minds to try and embrace that degree of diversity, which is not just diversity in terms of people, but diversity in terms of the pool that they're going to recruit from.

We have got to do something different and part of that is challenging and speaking out. Far too often excellent candidates either don’t even get shortlisted or don’t get an interview. In the industry, we still have a situation where it is significantly less likely that a candidate who is of an ethnic minority will be put into a role or get a shortlisting.

Remember it’s not just about the pandemic

None of us expected to be living through a pandemic in our lifetimes, but lack of diversity was a problem before COVID-19. What's happened is it has shone a light on these issues in various ways. If anything, this gives us a catalyst to say enough, in the same way that lots of us are going to vote with our feet and we're not going to race back into the office because somebody suggested we might fancy it.

We have found a different way to work and a different way to operate. We've got to seize this opportunity to say enough is enough. When we get the workforce back and our operating models are put together, diversity must be fundamentally at the core of what and how we operate.

Questions from the audience

After the panel spoke, we had great questions about how to get people into roles who typically are left behind, particularly in leadership roles. Our panel talked about top talent initiatives to empower people and to put together communities of practice. This gives people more confidence to apply for leadership roles.

They also talked about organisations and employees meaning well, but not having that lived experience. They can have a negative reaction to a movement like Black Lives Matter. This is both because they have never experienced racial prejudice themselves, but also because it feels uncomfortable to focus in that way.

“...one of my experiences is, colleagues mean well, but they don't have the depth of understanding, and they don't have the lived experiences.” Dr Sam Shah

There were many more great insights and experiences from our panel and our audience, so if you’d like to learn more, go to our YouTube video about diversity and whether we are getting the basics right.

Alternatively, you can listen via your preferred podcast platform or down below

In this interview, the term ‘BAME’ is used a few times. We’ve since had an internal discussion about adjusting the language we use when talking about people from a diverse range of backgrounds. We are aware that the term is something a lot of people don’t accept as an accurate description of themselves. This is something we are looking to raise more awareness of within Difrent and beyond.

This post about the use of the term BAME from the civil service blog has some helpful information about the kind of language we should be using to be as inclusive as possible.

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