The Power of Diversity

Andy Barrow discusses the power of diversity in his new blog

Throughout my career as an athlete, I worked alongside hundreds of different people. And diversity was a common theme.

Some were disabled, some not. Others were “academically” intelligent with impressive university degrees. Others had missed a lot of their education due to illness, treatment or injury.

Some spoke different first languages. Others grew up with privilege. Others lived with two other generations in inner cities, and some were in between. Some were stubborn, others were loud. Some were shy, but knew exactly when to say the right words.

During my five years as captain, I had to learn pretty quickly how to manage such a diverse group. It wasn’t always easy, but I still believe such a disparate team, both physically and culturally, was essential in working towards our goals.

Since transferring over to the corporate world, I’ve realised an office can benefit from the same setup. I was recently invited to speak at a diversity and inclusion event with Lloyds of London to highlight just that.

The conference was hosted by recruitment company HoggettBowers and the Clear Company, an organisation which aims to create better opportunities for those underrepresented in the workplace.

Kate Headly, founder of the Clear Company, led a session on the huge benefits of having an inclusive workforce. She also outlined the real and perceived barriers in policy and attitudes to employing a diverse team.

I followed Kate to talk about my involvement with Chaucer Syndicates, from when they sponsored me as an athlete, to my role with them now. I spoke about how I’ve developed the 3Cs project and, most importantly, how Chaucer allowed me to do that.

Diversity is Key

My main point throughout this session was that if I applied via traditional means to work with Chaucer, (ie applying to a job advert with a CV) we would not have the great working relationship we have now.

Wheelchair rugby took over my life at a relatively young age, so I have not carved a career the way most others have.

I have no CV. My job history reads as two weekend jobs in retail at Woolworths and Marks & Spencer. I did pretty well at school but have no qualifications to speak of beyond GCSEs.

Had Chaucer written me off for these reasons when I approached them about working together, we wouldn’t have been able to deliver a successful programme which, hopefully, empowers its staff to broaden their skills and life experiences through the CSR programme we have created.

I don’t believe we should necessarily treat everyone the same. But we should allow them the chance to showcase all of their talents in their own unique ways. People can be judge them on an equal footing.

Hopefully, Kate and I made other CEOs in the insurance world think about the way they recruit their staff. Organisations are much more likely to discover amazing candidates and, therefore, fantastic opportunities by exploring people’s skill set beyond what is written on a couple of sheets of paper!

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