Building a More Inclusive Company

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Naomi Curtis joins us to talk about how CIL approach DEI, the initiatives we’re working on and why we think an employee-driven approach is the way forward.

How did you get involved in DEI at CIL?

I have always been passionate about inclusivity and equal opportunities, so naturally, when I joined CIL, I was interested in getting involved with the DEI team. When I first joined, the team was a loose group of interested people. As the company has evolved we have moved to a more structured approach, and as part of that I have become the lead on DEI initiatives.

As Global DEI Manager I am responsible for DEI across the whole company, including the international offices. This means coordinating workstream leads that organise all our initiatives, including benchmarking, surveys, events, and DEI quizzes. The role is wide-reaching as I also call the wider steering committee into action and push things through at a senior level.

How has CIL’s approach to DEI changed over time?

At CIL, DEI is employee-driven, rather than reliant on an external or full-time member of staff. The team cares about diversity and inclusion and takes on roles in addition to their day jobs.

We used to have a relatively unstructured approach allowing anyone to get involved in whatever area they wanted to support. This was fine for the size of the company at the time, but as we have grown the need to formalise the team and add scalability came to the fore. We now have more defined roles, more defined expectations of what we should be doing, and more defined timeframes for our initiatives operate on (such as annual benchmarking, annual surveys, and monthly quizzes). This allows us to have more people involved with accountability to drive useful and specific change. Our approach to DEI is evolving as our company evolves, and we are pursuing it proactively to make sure nothing falls by the wayside.

At CIL, DEI sits across a range of departments. It has its own specific team, but there are a lot of crossovers with HR, recruitment and ESG. Everyone who works at CIL is responsible for creating an inclusive workplace and we have a statement on our approach to DEI at a company level. While HR is responsible for implementing specific DEI policies and outreach to underrepresented groups, the DEI team takes responsibility for a broad but connected string of things which don’t necessarily fit under one function of CIL’s internal operations team.

CIL’s DEI team is responsible for internal initiatives that help contribute to an inclusive workplace environment. Our team members are from both the client-facing and operational sides of the business, driving internal engagement and allowing us to work together and be involved with something bigger than our own individual work. That engagement and desire to create productive spaces for addressing DEI issues contributes heavily to the company culture.

How does CIL make a positive impact on the industry and the world around it?

I think CIL’s commitment to providing equal opportunities has a positive impact in itself given the inequality already in the world. However, this is quite an easy thing to say and harder to evidence. For specific examples, our upReach internships are great. All our internships are provided through upReach, meaning they’re protected for underrepresented groups (with a focus on those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds). Our internships can lead to a job offer at the end of them. That is a direct way that we can draw people from underrepresented groups into consulting.

I am personally proudest of our school leavers placement programme, which started this year. It’s a 6-12 month placement for students who have finished year 13 within a state school, and could also lead to a job offer. This goes further than the upReach internship because it develops a route into consulting without a degree. I am a strong believer that you don’t need a degree to be a consultant, but it is a barrier for a lot of people and there is still some hesitancy around it within the wider industry. Offering this placement is a big step forward for CIL and for consulting in general. I am hoping that in the coming years we can expand the initiative to take on more people. Anything we can do to provide a wider range of routes into consulting and break out of the “privilege to consulting pipeline” is really beneficial.

We also host a range of external events that aim to support those from underrepresented groups among our clients in the wider industry. We host an annual Women in Private Equity dinner to help forge important social connections between women in what is largely still a male-dominated industry. These events help bring together different stakeholders in our ecosystem in a way that is diversity oriented.

It is subtle but through hosting these events and promoting DEI in our external messaging, we help to engage and bolster underrepresented groups with the aim of increasing representation within our industry. We are already seeing an increase in diversity within our employee base.

What does the future of DEI at CIL look like?

It is widely recognised that diverse companies perform better and that diverse opinions lead to stronger advice. CIL is an advisory consultancy so diversity is a real asset that we will continue to draw on. In the context of CIL’s future growth plans, we aim to be 500 people by 2030 which will inevitably come with more diversity. It is our responsibility to foster that and promote it. Diversity can happen naturally, but it is our job to retain diverse talent and maintain an inclusive workplace environment.

At CIL, we prioritise internal promotion, meaning the work we are doing now to support DEI will feed into the company’s diverse future workforce, as newer intakes get promoted through the organisation. We need to ensure that we retain those people by making our workplace inclusive and accessible for a diverse group of people all the way up the company; whether that’s through inclusive parental leave policies, adaptations for disabilities or shifts in working patterns to accommodate for religious observance. We don’t want to lose anyone for a reason that could have been easily avoided and we will continue to be employee-driven allowing us to create the best DEI policies for our colleagues.

It is our responsibility to the people that work here and to our clients to be giving the best advice we can by drawing on diverse perspectives. It is also our responsibility to society to try and level the playing field and offer equal opportunities. Strong DEI practices are inherently integral to the running of a good business and we continue to strive to create a better world to work in.