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Diverse Interim Executives – A catalyst for change

The business case for diversity is now established beyond doubt. Organisations that form teams of mixed gender, ethnicity, physical ability, age and sexual orientation are more representative of their customers. Together they offer a variety of viewpoints and a wider range of experience, which can improve decision-making and problem-solving perspectives.

The question many organisations are now struggling with is: ‘How do I go about effecting change?’


Everyone has a role to play in creating a more inclusive workplace, but senior leaders can have a much greater and enduring influence.

Board or executive level leaders have the power and influence to drive through organisational change. And diverse senior leaders send a powerful – and often very visible – signal that an individual’s background is no barrier to career progression within an organisation, providing inspirational role models to those coming through the ranks.

However, whilst progress has been made in some areas of boardroom diversity in recent years, overall change in some sectors has been slow and sluggish.

The number of female board members is on the rise, but is still a long way from achieving equality with men. Evidence suggests there are both glass ‘ceilings’ and glass ‘walls.’ The overall percentage of women on boards was around 22% in 2017, according to figures from the Guardian.

Also, the Parker Review, published in November 2017, found that only 8 per cent of board members in the FTSE 350 were non-white even though 14 per cent of workers came from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Moreover, there is no openly out LGBT+ CEO of a FTSE 100 company and the fact that no official or reliable data exists to show the number of disabled board directors perhaps tells its own story.

audeliss-Interim-2Part of the reason for the snail’s pace of change is that opportunities to make new permanent senior hires are few and far between for most organisations. So, even if the appetite for a move to a more diverse leadership team exists, it may take years to achieve.

This is where hiring interim executives from diverse backgrounds can play a role, since interim roles arise far more frequently. This could be a great opportunity to introduce a more diverse candidate who – even within a limited timeframe – can have a major impact.

In fact, the idea that small changes can make a big difference to wider organisational culture has gained credence in recent years, following the publication of influential books such as ‘Little Bets’ and the idea of ‘Trojan Mice’.

These management theories suggest that – rather than wait for a huge, grand plan – organisations should instead focus on making lots of small changes that catalyse wider change. The hiring of a diverse interim executive can be one of these – quickly introducing fresh perspectives and a diversity of thought that is unhindered by groupthink.

So how do you go about finding a diverse interim executive? (more…)

Diversity of Thought: Why Interim Managers are Key to Inclusion & Innovation

nterim Managers Thought Diversity Article Exec Grapevine Interim Guide Feb 2017

Diversity appears to be under-represented in the interim world – the Institute of Interim Management (IIM) reported that women make up just 28% of the interim managers surveyed in their 2014 annual report, with no recent statistics on other minority groups – however, the disappointing lack of diverse interim managers does not mean that interims cannot bring diversity to businesses. Conversely, interims are perfectly placed to instil the increasingly popular practice of diversity of thought.

Audeliss were interviewed by business publication Executive Grapevine on the host of benefits that interim managers can bring to diversity and inclusion across industries and sectors. Our article in the new Interim Management Guide 2017 outlines how to identify whether your organisation is at risk of stagnation and could benefit from diversity of thought, and how to achieve real diversity and inclusion with the help of interim management.

Follow the link below to read the full article:



Audeliss Hosts House of Lords Chairman Dinner on Ethnic Diversity Board Representation

HouseOfLords-Feb2017-web-_DSC1700[1]Audeliss were delighted to host our Chairman’s Dinner at the House of Lords, held in partnership with The Rt Hon. the Baroness Prashar CBE.

Following the recent Parker Review revelation that 53% of the FTSE lack a single non-white Board member, the event provided a rare opportunity for thought-provoking discussion on driving ethnic minority diversity at Board level.

Manjit Wolstenholme, Chairman at Provident Financial Group spoke about her personal experience as an ethnic minority leader on a variety of Boards, and Baroness Prashar, whom Audeliss recently appointed as Non-Executive Director of Nationwide, drew on invaluable insights from her 45-year career across the not-for-profit and public sectors to lead the conversation on driving diversity and inclusion.

The guest list comprised of Chairmen, CEOs and Board level executives from the UK’s leading organisations.  They provided a variety of experiences and insights, informing a passionate and inspiring conversation. Whilst discussion involved the merits of mandatory Board targets and anonymised CVs, the final consensus favoured education of the benefits of diversity and inclusion, with agreement that allies and role models are vital in helping to pave the way for increased ethnic minority representation in senior leadership.

Suki Sandhu, Founder and CEO of Audeliss comments, ‘I am thrilled with the success of our Chairman’s Dinner, and would like to thank all those who attended and provided us with their stories and experiences, which delivered a highly engaging and enjoyable debate. With inspiring leadership and true commitment to diversity and inclusion, we continue to move closer to a future where Boardrooms are fully representative of our diverse communities.’

For interest in our future events, keep an eye on our Events page and subscribe to our Blog.

Mental Health – The Last Diversity Taboo?

mental health diversityRecently participating in an event supporting a pioneering mental health campaign, Audeliss were impressed with the Lord Mayor’s 2016 Power of Diversity programme and in particular, the openness and inclusivity with which leading senior professionals were willing to discuss the topic of mental health.

Whilst awareness and acceptance surrounding mental health have increased rapidly over the past few years, businesses are often reluctant to engage their employees in related discussions, further contributing to the existing social stigma and devastating effects of mental illness. The Power of Diversity programme reveals the shocking and saddening results of its recent survey on the business and personal impact of mental illness:

When it comes to this often-overlooked diversity strand, London and the South East of the UK are amongst the most progressive British regions, but mental health remains a taboo topic across many industries, regions and countries.

There is a wealth of information evidencing the damage done to diverse employees who are uncomfortable being themselves at work – LGBT+ employees who can be out at work are 32% more productive than employees who hide their sexuality – allowing us to only imagine the benefits to be gained by supporting employees who suffer with mental health problems.

With increased awareness of the importance of mental health support, how can businesses become more accepting and inclusive of their diverse employees?

Suki Sandhu is the Founder and CEO of Audeliss.

3 Easy Ways to Improve Gender Equality in your Boardroom

Equality in the BoardroomFollowing the latest FTSE350 gender diversity recommendations from Women on Boards, Audeliss agree that ‘A Gentle Touch is Too Feeble to transform the Boardroom’: and it’s not women who need to change.

With C-Suite gender equality over 100 years away, we must take drastic action to level the playing field – and fast. Business is full to the brim with excellent female candidates, and although gender still presents a barrier to professional success, companies have the power to attract, retain and develop senior female executives and champion gender diversity across their organisation.

Here are Audeliss’ top tips for improving gender equality in your Boardroom:

  1. Lead from the top – getting commitment to gender equality from your CEO and senior stakeholders will help drive change, and awareness and support will ricochet down throughout the organisation
  2. Tailor your recruitment practices – anonymise CVs and therefore prevent discrimination and unconscious bias towards female candidates, and ensure your business has a robust hiring process that is welcoming to, and inclusive of, people from all backgrounds
  3. Collaboration – work with external partners who specialise in improving diversity at the senior level, who can provide an objective viewpoint and help deliver a strategy for positive change that is bespoke to your organisation.


Chris Bernard is the Managing Director of Audeliss. Contact her at chris@audeliss.com


Business BAME Role Models: Latest Research White Paper from Audeliss

lack of ethnic minority BAME business role modelsAudeliss is proud to launch our latest research white paper on the shocking lack of role models for BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people in the business world, and explore the way forward to achieving greater racial diversity.

Earlier this year our UPstanding initiative reported that only 4% of FTSE 100 CEOs are not white, despite the BAME community making up 14% of the UK population.

Our research revealed that:

Read the white paper here

Visible role models are vital, both to increasing the awareness of opportunities for BAME individuals and in empowering organisations to value diversity and foster inclusive workplaces.

In the coming weeks, we will be following up the ‘what’ with the ‘how’: a thought leadership piece exploring how senior executives can attract and retain excellent diverse talent, ultimately achieving increased business success, through championing diverse role models.

You can download the free white paper here and read more about the impact of diversity and inclusion here.


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2016 Emmy Awards are Most Diverse Yet – But at What Cost?

Emmys Diversity InclusionMonday night’s Emmy Awards celebrated some fantastic wins for diverse talent in the entertainment industry, with female, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Emmy nominees and winners including:

However, whilst the above achievements suggest that actors of ethnic minority background are achieving greater visibility and recognition for their work, and the media and public alike are celebrating with the hashtag #EmmysSoDiverse, the Emmys have also presented some worrying signs that suggest progress in achieving racial equality has stalled – and in many ways is rapidly worsening.

One immediately noticeable trend involving the BAME winners and nominees is that the majority of the actors were nominated and/or won for their role in The People vs OJ Simpson: a television show focused on the criminal trial of a black man suspected of brutally murdering a white woman. This is problematic in itself but also points to wider issues in the entertainment industry.

The People vs OJ Simpson has received a wealth of critical praise and in terms of racial diversity is leaps and bounds ahead of the American television industry on average, with a fantastic opportunity to showcase non-white talent that resulted in a brilliant diverse cast. However, the show is based on real-life events and all characters are based on real people, of whom a large proportion are black or have an ethnic minority background: from the very beginning the show necessitated, and executives specifically sought and cast, non-white actors.

The disappointing element of the increase in racial diversity is that, although inclusion of BAME actors is always a welcome step towards greater diversity, it was not achieved in this instance because of a proactive attempt by businesses to tell original stories of three-dimensional BAME characters or to open up opportunities for diverse actors. OJ Simpson has more black cast members than other shows only because the story could not have been told without black actors. This then begs the pivotal question:  Is diversity still progressive – and beneficial – when lacking in diverse intentions?

The seeming progression of increased BAME representation also stands in stark contrast to the struggles for racial equality throughout the rest of America. The real-life OJ Simpson trial in the early 1990s shone a spotlight on institutionalised racism, and provided a powerful platform for previously unheard voices to raise awareness of criminal justice bias and police violence against the black community. But more than two decades on, what has really changed?

Though people with ethnic minority backgrounds have won increased legal rights and protections, BAME people across the US, UK and the world still face discrimination every day. Activist groups such as Black Lives Matter argue that police violence against the black community has actually worsened – in America, unarmed black people are five times more likely than unarmed white people to be shot and killed by police.

Whilst entertainment businesses are taking positive steps towards diversity and inclusion, there is a still a long road ahead for greater racial diversity across industries: in the UK,  just 4% of CEOs of FTSE 100 companies are BAME. The opportunities available to actors of ethnic minority and the worrying representation of BAME people in the media reinforce the need for visible role models and increased awareness of the importance of diversity. By championing diverse role models from all backgrounds and career paths and by celebrating our differences, we are on the way to making our world a better and more inclusive place for everyone.

enei Awards 2016 reveal Shocking Diversity Statistics and Inspiring Progress

enei_logo-e1453056380793We at Audeliss were delighted to attend the Employers Networks for Equality & Inclusion (enei) Awards last week. Hosted by The Law Society, the awards aim to celebrate the achievements of organisations that proactively challenge discrimination and demonstrate inclusivity across their workforce.

The enei event revealed interesting new insights into diversity and inclusion, and presented a wealth of shocking findings, which included:

The enei winners and shortlisted organisations have delivered incredibly inspiring achievements, some of which included: proactively recruiting multiple ex-offenders, instilling flexible and agile working across global organisations, work placements for individuals with mental health challenges, outreach programmes for disadvantaged young people, setting and exceeding gender diversity and BAME targets, and topping the Stonewall Equality list for LGBT+ inclusive initiatives.

The wide range of winners stretched across the public, private and third sectors and across a variety of industries, and included EY, Bank of England, Sodexo, Pinsent Masons, the Civil Service, Surrey County Council and Royal Mail. Congratulations to all those awarded the coveted highly commended and winning positions.

You can find out more about enei and the awards here.

Breakthrough with PwC

On 5th July, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the PwC Breakthrough Programme Relationships and Networks session. Breakthrough aims to increase the diversity of PwC’s leadership and uncover biases whilst working to create new attitudes and behaviours.

I worked alongside senior PwC leaders and their clients in sharing my experiences of creating and building networks. We also discussed the importance of being authentic in the workplace and overcoming barriers to effective networking particularly in terms of gender and culture.


Other guest speakers included Jonathan Howe from PwC and Nicky Moffat CBE. Helen Beedham from Cityparents was also a guest speaker and thoroughly enjoyed the experience:

The discussion was lively, wide-ranging and constructive and the participants’ clients added another valuable perspective to the mix.  PwC is one of 79 City firms who have corporate membership of Cityparents, so I was delighted to collaborate again with them and support their efforts to promote female progression within the company.

The session was organised by PwC’s Inclusive Leadership and Breakthrough Leader, Nicola Caldwell: “I’m really proud of our Breakthrough community who are making a tangible difference to the everyday experiences of their colleagues and clients. Our aim is to truly be able to value difference to enable all our people to flourish.”

We are looking forward to future Breakthrough events!

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What Will Brexit Mean for Diversity?


What will Brexit, Britain leaving the EU, mean for Diversity

Last week’s referendum vote to leave the European Union has sent shockwaves up and down the country and leaders across the UK are debating the possible consequences for our industries and economy. Brexit has the potential to significantly impact diversity and those who identify as part of a minority group, not only in the UK but across Europe and around the world – and in some cases people are already being affected:

The uncertainty of the current political climate reinforces the need to continue supporting and championing diversity and inclusion everywhere. By exercising our rights to vote for party leaders, defending those under attack from discrimination and promoting unity and equality, we can protect diverse and minority groups whatever the outcomes of Brexit.

Minority Women Leaders Series: Jean Lee, President & CEO of MCCA

Jean Lee is a Korean-American lawyer who was recently appointed as the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. Prior to her new role, Jean was Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

I was on the MCCA board for a few years and now it’s fantastic to be in a position where I can focus on my MCCA work full-time,” she says.

Since coming into her new role, Jean is rapidly developing MCCA into a global leader in all issues of diversity:

Diversity looks different across the globe. Our vision is to be a global thought leader. We already have members outside of the States and 2017 will be our year focusing on working internationally and developing what we do.”

Jean is also keen to reach out to younger diverse candidates. “I’m keen to develop strong pipeline programmes for diverse law school candidates. We are working with law schools on specific programming as you need to start the discussions around diversity and inclusion as early as possible. We need to be proactive rather than reactive.”

The MCCA prides itself on being a holistic diversity and inclusion association and not just a minority network. The internal make-up of the organisation has changed and grown accordingly with its members:

Over the years, I’ve seen our board really diversify. We don’t just have African Americans and Caucasions, we have Asian Americans, Hispanic and LGBT leaders. The MCCA encompasses more than race: we also champion women, LGBT and generational diversity. We recently conducted a study on how milennials embrace diversity of thought and also examined the different approaches to diversity around thought, age and people.”

Focusing on diversity of thought and the millennial generation is a very interesting area. Research from the latest consensus in the USA shows that by the year 2040, the USA will be majority-minority for the first time. Millennials now number 83.1 million and have surpassed Baby Boomers at 75.4 million.

Milennials are the most diverse generation in history: “Diversity is a rapidly-changing and growing issue. Soon, we will need a new term to refer to ‘minorities’ and our research is already placing us in a position to take on these issues and launch ourselves as a true global diversity leader,” she says.

For more information: http://www.mcca.com/

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Happy Pride Weekend…


Audeliss LGBT London Pride Week 2016


Our diversity-championing team have always been proud to support Pride since our inception and this year we are wearing our rainbow wings: our logo has been specifically enhanced to reflect the LGBT+ flag to celebrate Pride Week.

The still-raw devastation wrought by the Orlando shootings last week is a poignant reminder of the importance of Pride and its meaning for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world. Embracing diversity and uniting against homophobia and transphobia are even more vital in the wake of Orlando and recent set-backs in the struggle for equality worldwide, including research from London Pride revealing that 74% of LGBT people feel the need to hide their sexual orientation and the uncertainty of what Brexit will mean for the UK’s diverse workforce.

However, the LGBT community and straight allies still have many reasons to celebrate. This week marks the one-year anniversary of the legalisation of same-sex marriage in America and organisations across the globe are strengthening their efforts in the battle against prejudice and discrimination, with small businesses in New York working to become more inclusive of diverse employees and trade unions actively fighting homophobia.

Every single step of progress including small victories for trans students proves that when we work together to celebrate diversity and champion our differences, we make the world a better place for everyone.

Enjoy your weekend and have a very Happy Pride!

New Google emojis tackle gender stereotypes


The technology sector is particularly affected by gender inequality. Last year, McKinsey’s study on recruiting and retaining women in technology organisations revealed that the number of young women completing engineering and technology programmes has dropped significantly over the past 30 years. The National Centre for Women & Information Technology also found that a little more than half of all US women who do enter technology fields leave their employers mid-career.

Naheed Afzal, Co-Founder of Contracts IT recognises the deficit in public perception and commented, “The world is moving on and we all have a role to play in changing unfair perceptions” These studies also show that the issue is not just recruiting and retaining women in science and technology. The problem is also how these careers are perceived.

In March 2016, Always – one of Proctor and Gamble’s biggest brands – noted:
Data from the most recent Always Confidence & Puberty Survey shows that more than half of girls surveyed (54%) feel that female emojis are stereotypical, and 75% of girls would like to see female emojis portrayed more progressively, including professional female emoji options.”

With the likes of Michelle Obama also tweeting that she would like to see the emoji of a girl studying, female emojis turned into a mainstream discussion. Earlier last week, four Google employees proposed creating a new set of emojis that ‘represents a wide range of professions for women and men with a goal of highlighting the diversity of women’s careers and empowering girls everywhere.

Funke Abimbola, General Counsel & Company Secretary, Roche UK welcomed Google’s proposal saying, “Being the largest search engine used globally means that Google’s market dominance leads to it being uniquely placed to influence perceptions and realities on a global scale.” The proposed emojis planned to tackle institutionalised stereotypes across the following sectors; Business, Healthcare, Science, Education, Technology, Industry, Farming, Food service & Music.

But is this a positive step in the right direction or too little, too late? Miranda Brawn, noted diversity champion and city barrister, said, “I think the proposal for gender equality is great, however I would like to see this applied to other forms of diversity such as race, same-sex, disability and age.” Naheed Afzal continued, “By making these available, they [Google] will impact all of our natural biases so that the image of a woman is more nuanced, in line with current day thinking, and able to impact young children who won’t balk at the idea that a woman can be a scientist or an electrician.”

Whilst this step forward is potentially raising a large public profile for these ingrained unconscious biases, it is important to not let it away from the bigger and more pressing picture of creating talent pipelines for STEM jobs for women. Roberta Liebenberg, Founder of DirectWomen and Partner at Fine, Kaplan and Black, said, “While I think it is wonderful to have emojis that depict women in STEM jobs, what we really need to work on is ensuring that women are applying and being promoted in these occupations and are having the same opportunities to succeed as their male counterparts. I hope the same creativity, energy and imagination that is being devoted to the creation of women emojis will be devoted to developing bold and innovative programs that will help create a real level playing field for women.”


Top 100 most impactful BAME executives named in inaugural UPstanding list

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The inaugural UPstanding list, created in partnership with the FT, is the first ranking of it’s kind to wholly unite business leaders from across all BAME communities, internationally. This profiling initiative forms part of a wider campaign to shine a light on BAME business leaders who have made an impact and achieved great success and to champion those with a passion for driving the BAME agenda forward. It is produced to encourage and inspire the BAME leaders of tomorrow.

Today, just 3% of CEOs in FTSE 100 companies and 7% of AIM CEOs are not white, despite the BAME community making up 14% of the UK population meaning that ethnic diversity in British board rooms lags almost 2 decades behind female representation at the top level.

These statistics are shocking and quite frankly –unacceptable. That’s why profiling those individuals that are succeeding, in spite of this bias, as often as possible is so important.

The organisations profiled in today’s list employ over 5.3 million people worldwide. Our potential reach is huge and the impact will hopefully be felt not just in the UK and US but also in countries where equality is not a promoted agenda.

The fact is, there is a diversity deficit at the very top of organisations in both the UK and the US and we whole-heartedly believe that highlighting diverse role models and celebrating them is the most powerful way to address this as you are demonstrating to the leaders of tomorrow exactly what is possible for minority ethnic groups. The message of this list is that there should be no boundaries or barriers for your potential.

Stonewall Equality Dinner 2016

Stonewall Equality Dinner

The time was upon again for the Stonewall Equality Dinner.  I invited my guests to join me which is my third year hosting a table at this fabulous event.  I have been an ambassador of its work for several years and I look forward to contributing to the cause for as long as I can.

Speakers on the night included actor Malcolm Sinclair, rugby player Keegan Hirst, Chair of Stonewall’s Board of Trustees; Group Brand Director at Aviva, Jan Gooding, and the dedicated CEO Ruth Hunt.

Keegan Hirst talked about his own experience coming out in a masculine driven industry and his thoughts about other athletes who may be remaining in the closet in fear of bruising their careers.

“Our message to the world and to athletes isn’t we want you to come out, it’s when you’re ready we will be here and we’ll support you.”

Sir Ian McKellen was amongst the crowd and the one and only retail guru Mary Portas; just to name a few famous faces.

Though this was a night to celebrate the great success Stonewall has done for the LGBT+ community, it was also a night for them to raise funds for the year ahead. It was a thrilling battle of bidding during the live auction of which I completely failed to win: the three-night stay in a luxury penthouse in the Mediterranean island Valetta or the three glorious year’s supply of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream.  They raised £410,000 that evening which is amazing.

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, concluded the speeches; ‘It’s vital that we continue our work so that all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in every country, community hospital and school, are free to be themselves and are accepted without exception.’

It was a truly inspiring evening that never fails to disappoint.  Roll on 2017….

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#CSuiteSoWhite: Launching ‘The UPstanding Executive Power List’

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One of the biggest topics in global news this year has been ethnic diversity. From University admissions to the Oscars, there is an unsettling sense of regression in the number of visibly successful BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic- including Hispanic and Middle Eastern) people in both the UK and the US- and corporate c-suites are one of the worst offenders.

Our most recent research has discovered that despite BAME communities making up 14% of the UK population, just 4% of CEOs of businesses listed on the FTSE 100 are BAME. The situation is just as bad in the US where although the non-white population make up 28% of the total just 11% of businesses listed on the S&P 100 have non-white CEOs. #OscarsSoWhite? #CSuiteSoWhite!

This means there is just one BAME CEO of a FTSE 100 company for every 1.8 million BAME people in the UK, compared to one white CEO for every 600,000 white people. Looking at the problem from the bottom up paints an equally bleak picture; despite 1 in 8 of the working age population coming from a BAME background, only 1 in 10 are in the workplace. In response to this, we are launching a ground-breaking initiative, ‘UPstanding’.

UPstanding will profile, for the first time, the top 100 BAME business executives from the UK and the US based on their efforts in improving the BAME agenda in and out of work but also their success in breaking through to the top echelons of business.

Are you, or do you know, someone who is living in UK or US and is ethnically diverse, who proves that race need not be a barrier to success and who positively and actively supports the BAME cause at an executive level? If so, please nominate them or yourself for our 2016 UPstanding Executive Power List before Sunday, April 17 by clicking here.

To encourage others to get involved, share the link for nominations using the hashtag #CSuiteSoWhite.

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