CEO Steve Fraser took the time to chat to us candidly about what he thinks inclusion means, the role he plays in creating an inclusive space for colleagues and touches on his own personal experiences throughout his career…
What does Diversity and/or Inclusion mean to you?
This is an interesting one, to me it just means everyone gets an equal chance. Over my career it has never been something that I have seen an issue. I grew up in an environment that has a diverse population and if I look at my friendship group around me, that in itself, is diverse. However, over the last 4-5 years I have become much more aware that it’s not the same for everyone; that not everyone does have an equal chance.
I have become more aware since running companies that a lot of people in business do have prejudices and my opinion on this is that we should no longer be passive or deal with things on a case by case basis, we should create a platform where we openly discuss the challenges that people face when it comes to equality.
Because of my personal experience, my reflection of this company and the one that I worked at previously, is that there is work to do on creating the environment we want and need, and we need to do more with our middle management to help us to become a much more diverse and inclusive company.
Do you have an experience that has shaped you?
Diversity isn’t just a nice to have, it should be a pre-requisite for a safe and resilient company.
In my previous company there was an incident where there was a bug in the local water supply which affected around 300,000 people. We had to communicate with those communities as they had to boil water otherwise their lives could be at risk.
Within the communities we had a high number of mosques and we relied on the small number of colleagues of Islamic faith to speak to the imam in the mosques, who could successfully communicate with the elder generation where English wasn’t their first language. This is a key example of this being critical, not just a nice to have.
Thinking about your position, why do you think it’s important to address diversity and inclusion issues?
If you want to develop out your staff to give them the best chance of success and be the number 1 company, you need the widest pool of talent. You can’t keep sourcing future talent from the same pool as you’re picking from only 25% of the population. As we’ve always said, we want our people to reflect the communities we serve.
How do you advocate a diverse and inclusive culture?
I have always been around diversity due to my upbringing, my education and sports that I enjoy. What I sometimes find difficult when advocating this, is that I don’t see diversity as a barrier. I see the person for who they are, their experiences, skills or the value that they bring. Therefore, I see part of my role is needing to remind myself, and others, that unfortunately, people can sometimes see differences negatively.
Has there been a time in your life/career where you have felt excluded that others can learn from?
I was born in a council house and I am from a working-class background. When I was younger I remember being in meetings where because of my accent, I was spoken to differently and was told I needed to speak or behave in a certain way to ‘fit in’. At times I felt like I don’t belong or that I shouldn’t be here.
10 years ago, with my coach I would have been working on how to change my accent but now, I feel like I don’t want to change that as it’s my background and part of who I am.
One of the big things I want us to do, is to become more aware of situations like this, where people feel like they don’t belong and might lack confidence, because of who they are or where they are from. No one should have to change who they are, we should all strive to make ourselves better, but not change the core of who we are.
Any final thoughts?
It's important we appreciate people, make them feel included and ensure that they can make a difference and add value - regardless of who they are and their job title.
Inclusion is about everyone in this company and you should treat everyone with the same level of respect! I like the saying that you should treat the cleaners with the same level of respect as you treat the CEO.