Gender diversity only 'tip of the iceberg', says Helena Morrissey


Workplace diversity programmes should look beyond gender and towards other areas such as age and social mobility, according to Newton Investments CEO Helena Morrissey.

Speaking at The Economist Talent Management Summit: New Model Leaders in London, Morrissey, who is also founder of the 30% Club, said that social mobility and gender are part of the same "change continuum".  She added that the age of board members is another area that should be addressed.

"While I don't think the average age (55 years) of a board member needs to change, I think introducing age diversity within that board would be advantageous," she said.

"If you have an age range between 35 and 70, that would introduce a diversity that would bring a range of ideas."

Estee Lauder group HR director Martin Brook revealed that the company has a "reverse mentoring" scheme to give young people a voice in the company.

"There is a young employee who helps me to understand social media," he said. "It's not only helpful for me, but it gives young people in the company a voice with people high up in the business."

Mary Goudie, a diversity campaigner who is on the board of Vital Voices, added that businesses could do more to promote social mobility, along with workplace mobility.

"There is no doubt that since the financial crash inequality has increased," she said. "Employers can support people who might not have had a chance to gain qualifications first time around by allowing them to go on workplace courses or gain qualifications while working. At the moment they're not always prepared to do this."

Asda executive people director Hayley Tatum claimed the retail sector is ahead of the curve on workplace mobility, with employees regularly working their way from the shop floor to senior management.

"Our new CEO left school with one O-level," she said. "I'm proud of the fact that people who may not have had access to education or gained qualifications when younger can make real progress in the company."