Diversity needs to be tied to commercial strategy, says PwC director of diversity

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Diversity and inclusion programmes must be tied to commercial strategy or risk failing due to “diversity fatigue”, Sarah Churchman, director of diversity, inclusion and employee wellbeing at professional services firm PwC said yesterday.

Speaking at a Radius Business event on using diversity to drive business last night, Churchman said diversity was directly tied to PwC's long-term strategy. "Our business strategy is around growth, so our slogan is diversity is good for growth," she said.

"We need to look to where future revenue is coming from and the market place is changing dramatically," she added. "There's a lot of diversity fatigue around because not much has changed in the past 10 years. So we've smarted up the business case. It's about commerciality."

Also speaking at the event were Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, head of D&I at Google, Michelle Fullerton, head of diversity (Europe and Emerging Markets) at Bank of America Merill Lynch and Stephen Golden, head of equality and corporate sustainability at Transport for London.

Fullerton said she had asked to separate her diversity budget from HR. "I now have to ask for money directly from the business," she said. "I have to go to the business with a begging bowl and make the business case."

The panellists agreed diversity strategies need to be about the long-term and require a mix of both CEO buy-in and grassroots movement to be successful. "Commitment at the top is important but you can drive amazing change from the bottom up," said Palmer-Edgecumbe. "The problem is often in the middle."

Golden added that deep culture change was more vital than simply upping the diverse headcount. "There's no point getting more diversity if the business is not ready to welcome them," he said. "It takes a long time and huge amount of patience and commitment. [Diversity and inclusion leaders] need to realise you can never change people's beliefs, all you can change is how they behave at work."

Radius Business is a networking organisation for the LGBT and LGBT-friendly communities.