POLITICAL and business leaders can help to deliver vast economic benefits by collaborating to turn Leeds into the UK’s most inclusive city, according to an adviser for Channel 4.
Sue Pascoe said that implementing policies to support a workplace meritocracy would help to unlock commercial and strategic benefits.
Ms Pascoe, who is working with Channel 4 to increase its inclusivity culture, added: “In our drive to see our standards of living increase, we’ve forgotten that it’s standard of life that sustains us and our diverse interlocking communities.”
Ms Pascoe was one of the participants in a panel debate to consider issues surrounding inclusivity in the workplace which was held at Sky Betting & Gaming’s office in Wellington Place in Leeds.
It marked the end of a month-long series of activities to celebrate inclusivity organised by businesses based in Wellington Place and MEPC, the site’s property investment and development firm. The Pride of Place campaign helped to raise funds for Yorkshire MESMAC, which is one of the oldest sexual health organisations in the UK and Leeds LGBT+ Sports Fringe Festival.
Ms Pascoe said Leeds could take steps towards becoming an inclusive city by establishing supportive communities and networks.
She added: “You achieve this by putting the basics in place to support diverse people and those with protected characteristics. I have seen the impressive work that the council has been doing on community well-being and the initiatives under the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, which I support. They provide interesting examples of what can be done across the city.”
She added: “There are a real strategic benefits from having a diverse workforce. It’s really fantastic to see such a diverse group of companies coming together and having pride in their workforce and pride in their organisation. I feel inclusivity is the way the city of Leeds can differentiate itself.”
Another panellist, Charlotte Sweeney, who runs a consultancy specialising in diversity and inclusion strategies, said: “When you’re bringing people into your organisation, you want to get the best out of them and you want to create an organisation where they can give their best.
“If we don’t innovate and think differently we are not going to create new products and structures for our clients.
“We need leaders who want to create a learning environment and want to learn from others.
“In Yorkshire we are doing a lot of great things. We’ve still got more work to do, but I wouldn’t say that many other cities are ahead of us.
“Having a focus for a full month around LGBT + has been brilliant.
“The challenge is to make sure that continues.”
Tanja Lichtensteiger, an engineering manager at Sky Betting & Gaming, told the audience: “I don’t believe inclusivity is a fad and as businesses, we shouldn’t become complacent. At some point, the highly skilled will choose their boss and selecting the right talent should come from within.”
The Pride Panel discussion, which was held in Wellington Place, Leeds, also featured Kathryn Watson, from Leeds University Business School, Craig Burton, a founder of The Works Recruitment, Tom Doyle, the CEO of Yorkshire MESMAC and Rob Wilson, the chair of Leeds City Council’s LGBT+ staff network.
The debate was chaired by Greg Wright, The Yorkshire Post’s deputy business editor.
The panel considered what frameworks could be put in place to make business culture open and inclusive. In July, it was revealed that Leeds had moved a step closer to becoming the home of Channel 4’s new national headquarters.
Bosses at Channel 4 revealed that Leeds, Greater Manchester and Birmingham were all in contention to host the new HQ.
Research published by Lambert Smith Hampton found that over five years, the effective ‘saving’ from being located in one of the shortlisted cities as opposed to London’s Westminster amounts to £35.8m in Manchester/Salford, £39.3m in Birmingham and £48m in Leeds.