HOW A DIVERSE CITY INCREASED MY THOUGHT DIVERSITY
How a diverse environment helped expand the perspective of someone with no diversity in their background
by Editorali Staff
I grew up in the countryside, about 30 miles outside of London. I was from an upper-middle class family, went to private school and then to a university, where a large proportion (approximately 35-40%) of my fellow undergraduates also went to private school, and (in my college) almost half the undergraduates were Christians like me.
My exposure to diversity was learning about the other world religions as well as Christianity in my O-level studies aged 14-15 years. There were very few people who were not white at my schools or university, and if there were people with different sexual orientations to me as a heterosexual, I was not aware of it.
Two years after graduating, I moved to London. There are probably several reasons my eyes have been opened to diversityand its benefts as I have got older, but I am sure that working in and (for 8 years) living in London is one of main reasons.
London has always been diverse to varying degrees, but I think the 1990s (the period when I was living there) in particular saw an increase in diversity in many ways. Architecture, food, and culture all became more diverse.
Skyscrapers rose up, living alongside historic buildings; restaurants with international cuisine of every kind became available; the arts scene grew – whether it be art, cinemas or music venues. And diversity begets diversity. These options ledmore people to be attracted to what London had to offer.
With economic growth, more employment became available and with the open borders individuals from diverse backgrounds were attracted by the jobs but also the diversity of lifestyle that was available.
Even London’s three different elected mayors since 2000 have been diverse: Ken Livingstone, a life-long left-wing politician; Boris Johnson, a right-wing journalist-turned-politician who went to Eton
(and is now the Prime Minister); and Sadiq Khan, a Sunni Muslim whose parents migrated to London from Pakistan two years before he was born.
The only way that London has become less diverse in the last 50 years is probably with respect to industry and the economy, with a lot more ‘white collar’ service jobs (fnancial services, lawyers, professional services) and less industry and commerce (the London Docklands is now a fnancial services
hub). However, even this has led to more diversity.
Where I worked was more diverse than it had been before. From the mid-1990s, I worked for an American energy company, and the London offce had employees from about 20 different European countries and many more from across the world; then I worked for Standard Chartered, a global bank with a large footprint in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East – and correspondingly a number of people from those areas in their global headquarters. Diversity at this time came naturally; there was no specifc diversity initiative or target, but the companies I worked for sought people with diverse ideas or who had a diverse footprint – and having people from diverse backgrounds was the result.
These individuals were attracted to the jobs but also to what London had to offer: a global city where everyone could find their place.
London is a global city, but how did that impact me? After my un-diverse background, I was living in the centre of this diverse world. I lived in Soho for a few years, an eclectic area in the centre of London. In this small area, people from all backgrounds fnd something that suits their tastes. I lived five blocks from Old Compton Street, the centre of London’s LGBT community. Everywhere I went, there were people who looked, sounded, or dressed differently from me. That made me more aware. My workplace was more diverse, and I came to realise that diversity of background led to diversity of
thought and, when this was acted upon, it yielded benefits.
When I started managing a team, we all did a behavioural questionnaire to identify our strengths and weaknesses and I saw the grid for the whole team. I started looking to recruit colleagues whose characteristics complemented the rest of the team, rather than mirroring it, to create a team with a
range of behaviours, with strengths across all areas, rather than recruiting people who thought and acted like me. Since I joined State Street, I have continued with that approach, at an organisation which is committed to Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity; this is demonstrated by its culture and specifc
actions – including a global strategy that specifcally aims to address racism and inequality.
Diversity is good for any number of reasons. But people sometimes need a catalyst to help them to understand that. I do not know if it was the only catalyst, but living and working in London was defnitely an important catalyst for me inbetter understanding the benefts of diversity.
Senior Vice President CEO, State Street Trustees Ltd