DIAL Global Summit: Pandemic has exposed social mobility shortcomings — and why we need long-term solutions

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read

WATCH: DIAL Global Virtual Summit day 1

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing school closures has meant social mobility will become a bigger issue than ever in the next couple of years, according to speakers at the DIAL Global summit which kicked off on Tuesday.

In a panel entitled ‘Moving the DIAL for socioeconomic equality,’ executives talked about their organisation's journey to create greater socioeconomic equality.

“The pandemic has brought the issue in much sharper focus,” said Collette King, HR director at Studio Retail, which provides a personal shopping service.

She said it is essential to look at the impact COVID-19 will have on the education and career aspirations of children in the years to come, especially for those who are less academically inclined and might find it harder to catch up.

King said any work done now must be “future proof” and take into consideration these concerns, be it via the government’s apprenticeship levy or investing in training and development.

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DIAL Global Virtual Summit, in partnership with Yahoo Finance owner-Verizon Media (VZ), is a two-day free event where senior leaders from FTSE100 and Fortune 500 Companies discuss diversity, inclusion, and belonging and how these components are essential for successful businesses.“We’ve gathered some of the world’s most authentic and inspirational leaders to talk openly about hot topics in diversity,” said Leila McKenzie-Delis, CEO and Founder of DIAL Global.

“We leave behind the rhetoric and empty talk about diversity and inclusion and talk about what really matters — real actions and real results. This Global Summit allows us all to learn from each other about how to best create change in our workplaces and in our lives. Because in our workplaces, there is much to do, much to heal, much to restore, much to build and a lot more to gain.”

The panelists agreed on the need for businesses to reach out to the communities in which they operate, particularly those that are in social mobility “cold spots.”

DIAL GLOBAL SUMMIT
Photo: Yahoo Finance

Zareena Brown, chief product officer at soft drinks company Britvic (BVIC.L), said her firm is focused on creating strong partnerships with the schools in the areas in which they operate, “giving children access to us as an employer to share more about us and open up the opportunities that they see available for them.”

Britvic also provides a mentoring service for those in higher education to help them “make that transition into the workplace.”

It has an engineering apprenticeship which focuses on targeting girls schools and faith schools “to make sure we are supporting social mobility.”

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She said that in order for Britvic to “be the company we want to be” it is essential that it brings in diverse talent and fresh thinking

Another key element of the company’s social mobility agenda is removing bias from the system, so as to not favour only those who come from affluent households.

Going forward she would like Britvic to disclose measurements around how it is doing in terms of its social mobility programmes, something other companies are starting to do.

She said her biggest learning from the work done so far is such initiatives cannot be standalone, they need to be weaved into the company’s wider diversity and inclusion agenda and need to be tackled with a holistic approach.

King echoed these sentiments when she said it s important to “understand the demographics of where we operate”.

Studio Retail is based in Lancashire where it is major employer. It operates in one of the most “disadvantaged and deprived areas” in the region, she said, and thus plays a key role “in supporting our community.”

Meanwhile Helen Webb, chief people & services officer at Co-op, said the firm has launched a racial inclusion manifesto and its board is half men half women, with one-third coming from minority backgrounds.

“We’ve got an awful long way to go but we have the foundation to make a difference,” she said.