Sourcing & Social: DE&I

DE&I: Say Vs Do

Our most recent Sourcing & Social event was held on 10th October at the Malmaison in Leeds. It was  a brilliant event with an expert panel challenging many of the common excuses we here from companies as to why DE&I initiatives aren’t being implemented or have been put on hold. There were some fantastic takeaways that generated a lot of conversation, and we’re looking forward to seeing change happen across the tech landscape as a result.



  • Kirsten Brumfitt - Founder of Onion Consulting – with over 20 years’ experience in HR and people focussed roles, Kirsten has a wealth of experience and knowledge on how companies define, deliver and drive the people agenda to support business goals.
  • Holly Straker-Humphreys - Head of Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging at Improbable – Holly has spent her whole career working within people focussed positions, from culture to wellbeing, inclusion and TA, Holly has a real passion for how a diverse, equal and inclusive workforce can have a significant impact on the bottom line. 
  • Amy Thirtle (Assoc CIPD) - Senior Manager - Resourcing & Inclusion - Yorkshire Building Society – Amy has over 15 years’ experience working within recruitment and resourcing positions for a variety of companies. She currently leads the resourcing and inclusion function, as well as driving the Inclusion & Diversity Team to deliver the business strategy of creating an environment where all colleagues can belong, can reach their full potential and ensuring that they represent the communities that they serve. 
  • Shagufta Sharif LLB MCIPD- Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing Lead - Skipton Building Society – starting her career building the Girlguiding network to communities that don’t have access, Shagufta has spent the entirety of her career supporting organisations reach diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging goals and is extremely passionate about the impact DE&I cultures can have on an organisation. 
  • Chaired by Kevin Harper, Managing Consultant at Fruition IT -  Kev has 16 years' experience recruiting technology and change professionals across the North and Midlands.

Has focus on DE&I been lost in the tech sector with the hiring boom post covid?

The conversation this question sparked was really insightful. Holly made reference to the BLM protest in London that happened just before covid, this lead to a discussion around if this was the key driver behind the shift and increase in importance of DE&I.

Holly said “The BLM events, coupled with covid where people had the time to think and reflect was huge. The BLM protest in London suddenly put responsibility on everyone to make a change and use their voice – not just those in minority groups - and this brought new people to the table. I think it was a very profound moment, and COVID on top of that really drove the importance of DE&I forwards.”

Amy said “I think BLM was the key that unlocked our leader’s confidence to comment on politics and worldwide events that previously they may have shied away from. I think that’s the big change; people are willing to talk about their own experiences or how current affairs have impacted them or their loved ones, and this made leaders feel ‘real’ and that’s when the conversation really started.”

The concern is when the noise from big protests or events like BLM dies down. Companies need to remain focused on DE&I and it’s up to the professionals in this field to keep momentum going. Demand and expectation from employees and candidates will not revert, they want to see tangible changes and actions from employers when it comes to DE&I. 

It is clear BLM accelerated DE&I becoming a more serious topic, but COVID took this one step further. The lockdowns allowed people to demonstrate they can work from home successfully, an opportunity which some businesses had said ‘would never have been achievable’ prior to being forced into the situation. Following this, we have seen a real shift in flexible working and more remote opportunities which has made many roles more accessible.

Kirsten said “Covid has been a catalyst for DE&I because of home working and people saying ‘I want more flexibility’, for this characteristic I’ve got, it works better in a home environment, whether that characteristic be disability, gender, ethnicity, or something else.” 

How can organisations maintain a focus on DE&I in a challenging hiring market?

1.    Executive sponsorship 
Every business needs to have DE&I high up on the agenda and it needs to be bought into at the most senior level. Kirsten talked about the ‘plus one’ initiative saying "you have to start from the top. The programme of targeting senior leadership to hire one more female into the senior leadership team is a great example. Start from the top and make sure this cascades down into the organisation.”

Kirsten also touched on the importance of offering flexibility, after all, COVID proved there is no reason some businesses can’t offer the opportunity to work from home. “Females still are the main child-carers, so coming in three days a week isn’t flexible enough to make the role accessible for them.”

2.    Transparency
The panel also talked about the importance of being open and ‘stepping into the light’, sharing with the world what your business is doing. Being transparent keeps a business honest and accountable, it allows senior leaders to undestand what’s being done and why, and the expectations of future hires. Amy said "DE&I initiatives are not a thing we should be doing to make us look good, this is an absolute bare minimum."

3.    Invest in resources
Shagufta talked about investing in resources and really explained the importance of getting processes in place so that when times get tough, teams get cut down, or a business is generally too busy to focus on DE&I, the processes and systems are already in place so regardless of the situation, procedures are already diverse, equal and inclusive. 


What are the biggest challenges for organisations trying to increase DE&I in their hiring?


There were a lot of points raised in this conversation, but two key stand-out topics were budget and patience.

Budget and focus.

There is often not a specific team or individual solely dedicated to DE&I, and it can often become an additional task for many, meaning a priority for none. It is also common the people who show passion for DE&I (often those in the minorities) are the people tasked with implementing change. 

Holly said “A group of volunteers from the minority communities doing the work on top of the day job doesn't work. They often don't have the right experience or strategic-thinking skills to understand the processes needed to have the biggest influence of change. Giving responsibility to the minority to fix the problems they experience the symptoms of, rather than investing in the right resource, budget and strategy to make real progress, will never work.” 

Giving up too soon.

Don’t focus on the numbers, look at the gains. Recognise DE&I programmes are a ‘slow burn’, you have to invest and make it part of your DNA. Some organisations don’t have the patience for this and just want to see the results, but that’s not realistic. Amy stated that companies can expect to see the impact of a DE&I strategy after 2-3 years. This can feel challenging and an ‘up-hill’ battle, and if it is about ‘ticking a box’, the strategy is doomed to fail. 

What can an organisation do to ensure that what they say about DE&I is translated into tangible outcomes? 

It is crucial to map out what a business wants to get out of a DE&I strategy before starting. To do this, businesses need to reflect on where they currently stand and consider data points; what are the demographics of colleagues? What mechanisms have you got to track data? How do you engage with employees? Do you really understand how they feel?

There are lots of methods to gain an understanding of how your people feel such as surveys, mentoring circles, colleague networks, reciprocal leadership schemes, forums and generally taking the opportunity to listen. A good metric here is referrals; are your team referring old colleagues or peers to come and join the organisation? If the answer is yes, the chances are they feel the culture is diverse, equal and inclusive. 

Holly said “Data is key when it comes to DE&I, it’s so broad, you need to break it down so you know where to focus your energy. Even breaking it down into diversity, equity and inclusion – you might have a diverse workforce, but what’s the equity like? Are there pay gaps? Where are the biggest problems and what’s the most strategic approach?”

Shagufta said: “You need to look at the entire colleague journey, from attraction to onboarding, development to retention, and exit interviews – it’s important to look at the entire process, who’s involved, and what systems are in place. Look at where the pinch points are, for example, why are woman not exceeding past a certain point? Identify the problem and then create the solutions.”

Amy said “Don’t fall into the trap of looking at a list of things to tick off, it’s not going to be meaningful for your organisation. Look at your recruitment funnel process data (if available) and see where people are dropping out. Once you understand that, you can put in interventions that will have meaning, and you’ll be able to measure them because you’ve got the metrics to do so.”

Data, stats and metrics are great, especially to identify problems but what’s key is how people feel and if they feel like they belong. Data can’t always tell you that so you need to have both; data and the softer points, which come through really listening to your colleagues. 

What trends do you foresee over the next 5 years in relation to DE&I policies? 

There is much more openness and noise around menopause and supporting woman through this period. There are so many woman that have a successful career, however this falls off when menopause symptoms start to impact their ability to work. Over the coming years we can expect to see new policies that give woman the necessary support to make it accessible to do their job, and not feel they need to step back. 

We will also see people pushing the diversity barriers further to ensure all workplaces are truly equal and inclusive. It is crucial to understand DE&I is not about one area such as gender, it covers age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation and more. Shagufta said “the department of transport senior leadership team has a brilliant mix of men and woman, 50:50 almost, which is great but it’s only white woman. What’s happening to all the other woman coming through the process? In the next five years this is where the questions will be asked: what’s happening to everyone else?”

Parting comment

Gone are the days where people ‘leave their personal life at home’, people want to bring their “whole selves” to work. We are working in a world where openness and acceptance is key and allows people to feel a sense of belonging, and this has become expected when looking for a new role, not a perk. 

Transition your organisation to become more aware and more focussed on DE&I by staying focussed and put together a plan that will make a real difference to your organisation. 

  • Don’t try and take on the world
  • Be realistic in what you can achieve
  • Prioritise
  • Don’t try and re-invent the wheel - leverage what’s available

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