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An Alternative, Personal View on Diversity

This piece was originally written by Clarissa in June 2018 for Impact Magazine, Durham University Business School’s award-winning thought-leadership and news magazine.

As a mixed-race, White British & Black Caribbean female, having recently worked in the City of London for a Japanese bank covering the Nordic countries, I have a personal perspective on the topic of diversity and internationalism within the modern working environment.

Happily, I have never felt excluded or discouraged from the financial sector due to my personal makeup and background. Great strides have been made with open access workshops targeting young people to open financial services to the widest possible pool of new recruits – for an industry focused on acquiring talented youngsters, would you expect anything else?

We have quite rightly celebrated and championed the first of many things in the diversity arena: the first female astronaut, the first openly homosexual politician, the first Muslim Mayor of London. Looking at these ‘firsts’, you notice how determined and driven these individuals are. They have at times overcome adversity, challenged convention and admirably shown another path to success. These are lessons for us all.

Delivering a talk to students at a post-offer visit day

However, the further I advance within the financial and related fin-tech sectors, I hit upon an inescapable observation. The concept of what I shall call characteristic-based diversity (i.e. gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.) is the same as something which I think is lacking in many organisations today: diversity in thought.

The hues of the office have broadened, the number of nations represented soared, however my peers and I tend to follow a similar pattern; the same education milestones, the same friends and social circles, even the same politics. This leads me to some perplexing questions. Despite our growing outward diversity, has our similar life experience and subsequent groupthink mentality been advantageous in the modern era? How can our outlook keep up with the fast paced, constantly evolving world that we all experience in everyday life, when all the ideas we have are the same?

I contend that what matters most now, and what we need more of, is the ability to be expansive in our outlook, more accepting of new ideas and welcoming of constructive criticism. You may think this is idealistic but being preeminent now is no guarantee for success later on. The question is how you stay relevant. An inquisitive and broad outlook must be part of the answer.

It has been widely stated that one of the benefits of diversity is the concept of ‘If I see people that look like me, or have characteristics that are most reflective of me, then that means I can do it too’. I would challenge all readers of this article to think a little braver on this point. Instead, I would like to change the narrative to, ‘If I see an organisation accepting of a broader range of views, what can I bring to the table that could benefit our discussion?’

For me, thought diversity is all about how you think and a reflection of the type of person you are and want to be. You are in complete control of what value you can bring to an organisation, and employers are hunting to find a future crop of people willing to shake things up.

Find out more

Durham University Business School – durham.ac.uk/business

Impact Magazine – durham.ac.uk/business/impact

Clarissa Milne

Hello, I graduated from Durham University Business School with BA (Hons) in Business Finance and am now Director of Growth & Operations at OakNorth. In this blog I share my own personal view on diversity.
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