“Imagine – it is 4pm, and you walk into a playground full of mothers, chatting to each other, and their children are running around, laughing, screaming. How would you feel? Probably that you don’t belong? That happened to me – only that I walked into a room full of white men in a social investment event. I felt like I didn’t belong, but I chose to stay. I stayed, to try to make things better.”
This was my confession at The Gathering, a convening for the 100 most active social investors in the UK, two years ago. I felt uncomfortable talking about my experiences, but I was hopeful that my story, coupled with some hard statistics, could start a wider conversation. And it did.
The Diversity Forum is a collective of individuals on a mission to drive inclusive social investment in the UK, through the convening of sector-wide groups, commissioning research and knowledge sharing. This is not diversity for diversity’s sake – there is both intrinsic and instrumental value inherent in promoting investor diversity within social investment. I was struck by Inclusive Boards’ definition that, diversity counts the numbers, but inclusion makes the numbers count – and the latter is very much our vision at the Diversity Forum.
Starting from two surveys conducted by my firm, The Social Investment Consultancy (TSIC), and Big Society Capital back in 2017, we are grateful for the support from the Connect Fund last year to propel us forward. After a year of hard work, we now have a group of 50 social investment professionals acting as Diversity Champions, driving initiatives within their own organisations to promote diversity and inclusion and a broad base of senior leaders who signed up to our manifesto.
Last week, we also published the Inclusive Impact report authored by Inclusive Boards, and a practical toolkit. The report is an exciting milestone for the sector – we simply can’t fix what we don’t measure. The toolkit provides practical resources and steps for people to get started today. As we prepare for the launch of these two resources at the House of Commons on 24th January, we are also charting what 2019 will bring for us.
It is our hope that these resources will translate into concrete improvement in diversity statistics in the sector, so that gradually we become an inclusive sector. The scale of the problem is not small, but the social investment sector also has the unique advantage of being small and connected. If we put our hearts and heads together to solve this, hopefully, we will be able to set a leading light for other sectors.
Bonnie Chiu is the Managing Director of The Social Investment Consultancy, an international impact advisory firm with a focus on convening the impact investing industry around gender and diversity. In this capacity she convenes Women in Social Finance, a network of 100 senior-level women in social finance in London, and the Diversity Forum, a network of leading impact investors in the UK committed to diversity and inclusion. She is a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur in Europe, a frequent speaker and Forbes contributor.
List of related articles/blogs:
- How to get out of the diversity trap? Start with breakfast – Pioneers Post, Danyal Sattar
New report finds drop in female representation on social investment boards – Social Investment Business
- Social investment sector still plagued by lack of diversity – Pioneers Post
- Still White, Still Male: New Report Quantifies Impact Investing’s Diversity Problem – NextBillion.net
- Launch of the report video