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Steve Butler on the launch of ‘The Diversity Project’ book

I’m a white, middle-aged man, with nothing that would count as a disability. I’m not an obvious champion for diversity and inclusion. However, my journey to becoming chief executive of an investment and savings business with 150 staff tells its own story.

I attended state schools. Neither my parents nor my grandparents had a university education. A combination of this, my own lack of maturity (and some very dismal A-level results!) meant I never went to university either. Instead, after just one interview, I started my career at age eighteen as an office junior with an insurance company called AXA Equity and Law in Southampton and worked my way up.

The question I ask myself is this: would I have got where I am today if I had been either Black, female and or living with a disability or perhaps all three?

Despite the educational, demographic and cultural shifts across society that we have witnessed in recent years, it is still far more difficult to rise to the top in the financial services sector if you do not come from a narrow band of the population. Addressing the lack of diversity and inclusion in the Industry isn’t down to those at the ‘wrong end’ of the in-built inequities. They aren’t the ones responsible for a culture that has long made it hugely problematic for certain groups in society to achieve their full potential. They aren’t the ones with the levers to effect change.

For these reasons, two years ago, Punter Southall Aspire and CAMRADATA became members of the Diversity Project and I joined the Advisory Board. Since that time, I have been in absolute ore of the work of the Diversity Project and the passion and commitment of everyone involved. I think the Diversity Project is genuinely something quite remarkable.

However, I had a couple observations from my early interactions. Firstly, the workstream leaders have some really challenging stories to tell and I wanted everyone in my business to hear them. Secondly, the Diversity Project has incredible support at Executive and grass roots level but really needs to reach the army of line managers across the industry in order to maintain its current momentum.

Having published two management books on intergenerational teams and age diversity, I suggested that perhaps we publish a book about the work of the Diversity Project as another medium in an attempt to spread the word further.

So, in the Spring and Summer of last year I interviewed the founders, a number of the workstream leaders and some of the ambassadors. I couldn’t speak to everyone because my word count target was only 40,000 words and there was so much to say.

I am now pleased to say, in time to celebrate the five year anniversary of the Diversity Project that The Diversity Project: Accelerating progress towards and inclusive culture in the investment and savings industry is available as eBook and paperback on Amazon and other good book seller platforms.

My ask of all my industry colleagues is to use the book to share the personal stories of the leaders within the Diversity Project to support the change towards inclusive cultures in all our organisations.

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