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AudaCITY – Talent Rising Conference

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Fiona Woolf

Women’s Business Council (WBC) Member


The Lord Mayor of the City of London and Women’s Business Council Member, Alderman Fiona Woolf, discusses the importance of widening diversity in the talent pool.

On Monday 7th July, it was my pleasure to be the host of the AudaCITY event at the Guildhall. In attendance were the various Affinity Groups from across London City with a unique opportunity for the leaders of the Affinity Groups to meet each other, share experiences and best practice and ultimately to harness the power of diversity.

The aim of this event was to challenge normative thinking and to develop ‘audacious’ ideas to meet the needs of the Audacious City of London; hence AudaCITY. Synonyms for audacity in the dictionary include fearless, boldly, daring. That’s what we are aiming for. I want to ensure a lasting legacy of diversity for the future Lord Mayors of London by establishing a 12 point Manifesto for the City of London to use as its Diversity blueprint.

This event was hosted by the BBC’s Evan Davis and it was interactive from the start with audience participation and continued via personalised iPads. The first part of the event was a ‘Fishbowl’ debate with leading diversity experts to meet, listen and argue or agree with;

• Former Attorney General, Baroness Scotland
• Diversity thought leader, Rachel Short of YSC
• Transgender pioneer, Antonia Belcher of MHBC
• Powerlister & philanthropist, Ken Olisa, Restoration partners
• Paralympian & ex-FSA head of CSR, Claire Harvey
• Hedge fund manager and broadcaster, Alpesh Patel

If we look back in history, it was really only during WWI that women started entering the workforce en masse, most of them doing ‘men’s work’. We’re now in 2014 and yet only 7.7% of top Exec roles are filled by women but we do finally have FTSE 100 Boards with at least 1 woman board member, and 39 companies with at least 25% Women on Boards. And in the City we are not much better; we still do not fully represent the communities in wider London. Most organisational diversity is inward facing; a tick box exercise as opposed to outward facing into the community. We still stick to ‘people like me’ through unconscious bias rather than search for the person(s) that could make a difference. And yet diversity is everybody’s responsibility and it should be seen as ‘business as usual’ – rather than an extra burden on top of the day job. We should be aiming for ’better than’ rather than ‘not as good as’ – hence our Manifesto.

To kick-start the thinking behind the Manifesto, it was all change into table discussions for the ‘Hackathon’ covering 4 topics; Recruitment, Communications, Talent and Measurement. We wanted to map out how to help talent to rise and that the Manifesto would be a symbol of our commitment. With each of the topics we asked the tables to consider the following:

• Who has the greater share of the voice?
• How do we share knowledge?
• How do we demonstrate greater transparency?

This enabled each table to become a Hackathon Cluster and the actions generated as the ideas towards the Manifesto. The overarching successful idea was ‘Your Success, My Success’. A mandatory objective as a balanced scorecard for middle managers, as well as across all management layers. It’s about looking beyond metrics; talent mentoring, talent sponsorship and coaching linked to career progression for the line manager and upwards.

In terms of next steps, we wanted to achieve a Network of Networks across the City of London; an overarching Affinity Group that everyone could feed into. Please check back for the Manifesto and the legacy websitehttp://www.thelordmayorsappeal.org/events/affinity-conference-talent-rising/

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