HomeBusinessAlisa Harewood, We-R-One: ED&I Cannot Be A Tick-The-Box Activity

Alisa Harewood, We-R-One: ED&I Cannot Be A Tick-The-Box Activity

Alisa Harewood is the Director of We-R-One Diversity Management Consultancy, a company that helps corporations foster Equality Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) in the workspace. A key point is that true ED&I cannot happen unless employees internalise ED&I values and commit to making ED&I strategies part of their business’ DNA.

How Does ED&I tie in with sustainability?

Alisa Harewood: We all too often look at these areas through two different lenses when in a nutshell both ED&I and CSR are about reaching out, connecting with and impacting long term sustainable change within communities by bringing new insights to the table and driving collaborative solutions. If we take a look, for example, at the shared goal for gender equality we will identify a clear link between broadening a company’s leadership capabilities while lifting up local economies. A 2015 McKinsey study outlined that if women were to globally reach their full economic potential, it could add $12 trillion to the economy. The other area that connects the two is the shared focus on providing and improving the rights both socially and economically for all human beings to have access to basic levels of housing, education, healthcare etc so that they have a chance to make a generational change.

What are the changes that you’ve seen in the space over the last 3-5 years? What are companies doing well in the UK in terms of ED&I and where are they still lagging behind?

Alisa Harewood: Firstly, I do think that companies have tried to make diversity and inclusion a priority specifically over the last 10 years. We must look at and learn from the successes we have and the improvements we have seen in the following areas:

⁃ Women in leadership roles

⁃ Focused strategies to support inclusion and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ communities

But we must also be honest about where we still have much progress to make. I believe what we are seeing now is the long-suffering impact of what we call the ‘Noah’s Ark’ syndrome. For decades companies, rightly or wrongly, have believed that if they just recruit a couple of females, or a couple of people from ethnic minorities or underrepresented groups and so on, that this would solve their diversity issues.  We still have a lot of discussion and solutions that need to be addressed in regards to race relations and increasing the representation of BAME within senior leadership. We need to look at how we can adapt not just the infrastructure but also technologies to increase the recruitment and development of people with disabilities. Also, there needs to be an acceptance that organisations have to focus more seriously on mental health and well-being needs in order to address and provide improvements from a preventative and curative perspective.

How are companies reacting to the new conversation on EDI in the public space?

Alisa Harewood: On the most part very positively and we must ensure that we celebrate the fact that we are becoming more comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations. We do however need to err on the side of caution, as what I am finding is that ED&I is becoming very prescriptive and target driven rather than looking to find solutions to really impact and influence immediate and long term sustainable change.

How should a company just starting out include ED&I at the core of its strategy, so that it becomes part of their ethos as they go?

Alisa Harewood: D&I cannot be a tick box activity, where a company creates a couple of committees or partners with the latest philanthropic movement to show that they are flying the D&I flag for fear of being seen to do nothing at all. To make long term sustainable change companies need to create a D&I strategy that comes from a place of authenticity. It needs to be embedded into the DNA of an organisation’s culture, driven through that organisation by their leadership team and invested in financially; if these things are made a top-level priority we could start to see real change happen.


We-R-One Diversity Management Consultancy enables organisations to digitally analyse and diagnose the health of their current Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) journey, help them create and implement a D&I strategy which will enable them to attract, train and retain a diverse workforce.


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