Today sees the launch of my new company, MVMNT. We’re going to help organisations of all sizes become more inclusive, enjoying the rewards this will bring – and sell themselves better to a more diverse candidate pool. I feel like I’ve been building up to this for a long while now and I’d like to share some of the story with you. I promise future posts will not be so long 🙂
I’d like to take you back to summer 2010. I can’t remember what the weather was like, but I do know that Teen Dream by Beach House was continually on my record player – and Toy Story 3 had brought me closer to tears than any grown person probably should be whilst watching a “cartoon”.
My wife had been back at work for about three months following the birth of our first child. Pretty much every day, she’d come home in tears and not because she’s dreading seeing me or our boy – although I’m sure the state of the house in the aftermath of ‘father-son time’ didn’t help. She was deeply unhappy at work and, despite my almost daily encouragement to cut her losses and move on somewhere else, she was determined not to “fail” or to look “weak” in front of her employer.
Three months earlier, on her very first day back working for this well-known media organisation, she had been told by her immediate manager that “this isn’t going to work” when going through her working week plan. She’d been able to negotiate a four-day working week as a compromise (she wanted three, they wanted five) with Fridays as a non-working day. In my experience of Fridays, in days gone by in the media world, not that much happened anyway apart from extended boozy lunches (which of course I never instigated!). Despite the fact that Monday’s were internal meeting days, it was made very clear that her absence from work at the end of every week was going to cause real problems.
It’s difficult to truly capture the frustration, anger, sadness and bewilderment the next few months brought with them. The way that she was treated, compared to her colleagues, in a job that she had loved was infuriating and heart-breaking. Meetings were deliberately booked on her non-working day as if to prove “it wasn’t working” and she felt at best, excluded from what was going on – and at worst, like she didn’t belong in this world anymore. The ridiculous part was how hard she was working – frequently on her non-working days and at the weekend to “compensate” for her situation. She wasn’t going to let it beat her.
Eventually, without her knowledge, some work colleagues approached HR and told them what was going on. Rather than taking positive action to rectify the situation, she was offered a package to “go quietly”. After a family discussion (although it’s difficult to know if my one-year old’s contributions were out of concern for his mother or a result of an empty tummy/full nappy), she decided to take the offer.
Once this horrible saga was finally over, I was left with a determination that I wanted to do somethingto stop this being something that happened to all parents returning to work. Over time this has morphed into wanting to ensure that all the groups that June Sarpong calls “others” in her wonderful book Diversify (more on that in future posts) have a place within the workplace. This was the spark that brought me to where I am today.
Not knowing quite where to start, I quite naively sent a letter to the then Prime Minister (call me) Dave Cameron. In this letter, I informed him that, if he really wanted a “big society”, there is an army of people out there who can get this country working again, but feel left out and discounted, namely Mums. I, of course, let him know that I could help build something to encourage this. I got a cursory response from IDS (that’s a D in the middle) but it went no further.
Just as naively, I began registering lots of job board URLs around working mums and mums4work but never did anything…(sorry Dads and everybody else – as I said I was naïve)
A few years and another child have passed but my passion has only grown. After leaving my most recent role as MD of a recruitment marketing agency in the summer, I decided the time is now to finally do something real about inclusion.
Having revisited my correspondence with the previous PM and my list of long-lapsed URLs, something hit me. I’d been focussing on the wrong thing. Instead of making it my mission to help groups who feel excluded back into work, something else had to be done. The focus had to be on the companies offering work, otherwise the same old problems will persevere.
Workplaces have to become more inclusive, it really is as simple as that. People of any gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age and physical and mental ability should not only be able to find work, but feel that it is a safe space that welcomes and wants them.
The other crazy thing about all this is employers are crying out for good people! As has recently been reported, there are as many as 850,000 vacancies in the UK and so many of them will go unfilled or be filled only for another to become vacant. Companies continue to leave these communities feeling that they don’t have a place and yet bemoan the lack of great talent. Surely, this can’t continue?
So, this is MVMNT. We want to help companies create workplaces that are more inclusive to all and, for those ready to do so, we can help them shout about it so that they can attract the very best people. We want to enable organisations to benefit from all the great things a diverse and inclusive workforce brings through increased creativity, productivity and ultimately profit.
I appreciate that stories normally have an ending but this feels like it’s a beginning. It’s going to be one hell of a journey – but for those of you who know me well – that is the reward 🙂← BACK TO BLOG