We welcomed over 100 of the country’s CEO’s and senior business leaders to our 2nd Business of Diversity Lunch sponsored by Danske Bank and First Derivatives, at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry.
Our keynote speaker was Gary Kennedy, Chair of Greencore and also Chairman of Connect Group plc and Green REIT plc. Gary co-chairs the Government sponsored gender diversity initiative Balance for Better Business which was launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to improve gender balance in senior leadership in Ireland.
Gary was interviewed by journalist and broadcaster, Wendy Austin and spoke passionately about the impact of gender disparities in the workplace across Ireland and the impact of implementing diversity and inclusion programmes to drive business growth.
Some of Gary Kennedy’s key insights noted from the event:
“The importance of Diversity is rubberstamped by me by having a daughter and would like to see some of the barriers removed for her now in her career.”
“Sad statistic is that women are underrepresented at senior levels in companies yet 50% of the world’s population is female, 54% of 3rd level graduates are female, 70% of consumer spending decisions are taken by females but we don’t have that breadth and depth of wisdom in business.”
“The need for change must be driven by the willingness of the organisation but also pressure from stakeholders and proxy advisors. Investors are also looking now at companies diversity policies. There are no barriers if you have the right mindset.”
“To get the buy in of the whole company in diversity terms, emphasis must start at an early age by challenging stereotypes and you have to challenge the stereotype in companies and marginalise the naysayers.”
“Change has to come from the top but has to be pushed everywhere in the organisation. Potential employees no longer just look at a company’s salary when looking for new jobs they look at so many criteria including corporate social responsibility and the environmentally responsibility of the company including it’s diversity.”
“Countries like Norway/Canada/New Zealand and Australia are leading the way in terms of gender diversity offering things like 6 months fully paid maternity leave followed by 6 months fully paid paternity leave.”
“Diversity has to be championed by the Chairperson. There has to be strong leadership and you have to find champions on the workplace especially male ones to bring everyone forward and hold them accountable.”
“It’s all about all potential change agents working together and Diversity has to become part of the fabric of the organisation.”
“You have to be innovative in bringing female employees back into the workplace after maternity or other leave and to bring them back with integrity and dignity so they can progress in their careers. You have to consider as a CEO of the business that nurturing someone is an investment 5-10yrs down the line for your business. You also have to find ways to engage with women when they are off on maternity leave to keep them involved with the company and to interact. We have to stop undervaluing and underestimating the experience that women have gained when they are out of the office.”
“Most significant change in employment over the years is that people have at least 5 jobs over 30 years rather than staying in one job all their life as used to be the case.”
“We totally underestimate the calibre, power and hunger and intellect of the young generation of today. So use initiatives to involve them with your business decisions. At Greencore for example we recently had the new graduates involved in leading some strategic discussions of the company.”
“The key thing is to keep human capital in tandem with business direction. You have to take a risk and fast track new employees as Boardroom apprentices.”
“The world is constantly changing but I don’t fear change, I think we should encourage and embrace it.”
Head of Business at Diversity Mark, Christine White said “Hosting this series of events is extremely important as it signifies the crucial work needed to further gender balance and diversity in the workplace. As women make up 50% of the population, we place emphasis on gender diversity and recognise the need for a wider diversity and inclusion in organisations for them to reach their full potential. A balanced workforce is good for business, customers and profitability and I would urge companies to sign up to Northern Ireland’s independent, not-for-profit Charter Mark for diversity and inclusion”
We want to thank Gary Kennedy for such an honest and insightful interview and we really appreciate him supporting our work on Diversity.