We sat down to talk to Asif Sadiq ahead of his session at Women of the Square Mile 2019, to talk D&I, being an ally, and creating a sense of belonging for female talent in business.
Who is Asif Sadiq? Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at the Telegraph. I have worked in the D&I space for a number of years and worked in the public sector (police service), private sector (professional services) and now the media.
There seems to be a real issue, not so much with attracting women into the industry, but actually retaining female talent. Is it the culture? What do you think organisations should be doing to bolster a sense of belonging?
The real challenge lies in creating a sense of belonging for female talent. A lot of organisations focus on the recruitment piece but then when women join an organisation, they don't feel a sense of belonging. What do I mean by that? Well, some women don't feel that they can be themselves and feel that they have to act or be a certain way to achieve success rather than being their authentic self.
The key thing that organisations need to do is create a truly inclusive culture that allows for different ways of thinking to succeed. This involves challenging their own culture and processes to see if they have biases and work on what needs to be done to change that.
What do you feel is your role, as a man, in getting more allies involved with the conversation?
I strongly believe it is not just about being allies but more so about encouraging more men to start championing what they believe in. Let’s take flexible working, I know a lot of men who have young families but still don't feel comfortable to work flexibly, either because the culture doesn't allow it, or they are not confident in asking for it. It is only when men champion things, like flexible working, will it then become part of the organisation's culture, otherwise it will always be seen as a thing that women take and unfortunately will have a negative impact.
Intersectionality is a very important topic that will be discussed at Women of The Square Mile. Why do you think people find it awkward to have these difficult conversations surrounding other aspects of diversity such as ethnicity and disability?
The biggest barrier is a fear of saying the wrong thing or getting the terminology wrong. We really need to focus on overcoming this if we are going to make any progress. There will never be a right or wrong thing to say to everyone, as everyone is an individual. We need to focus our efforts instead on making change happen through having the right intent, moving beyond discussions and taking action.
What do you think is holding back the advancement of diversity in the corporate world?
We still view diversity as an HR element and haven't really understood the important benefits of diversity across business. I do think a lot of companies have started the journey towards seeing diversity as a business imperative and this has been evident with recent milestones in the D&I space, but a lot more needs to be done to really embed diversity as a top priority within organisations.
Finally, what can our readers, as individuals, do to push for diversity and inclusion?
The greatest thing anyone can do is to understand the importance of the D&I agenda and the role each individual can play towards creating a sense of belonging for others. Diversity is not just something that has to be led from the top, we can each play our part in making the workplace more inclusive, even if it is one small step at a time.