Making Equality the ‘New Normal’

Making Equality the New Normal roundtable group shot

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted and exacerbated long-term inequalities that permeate almost every aspect of life and work. The built environment sector is no different, with a talent pool that isn’t diverse enough at entry level and narrows to a heavily white, male top tier.

Lockdown provided time to reflect; the George Floyd murder and revitalised Black Lives Matter movement provided impetus. This is the moment to put good will into action, address inequality and deliver lasting change.

At this roundtable, a core of invited guests connected senior change drivers with next-wave leaders including FoL alumni. Alumni make up a purpose-driven urban leadership network with members quickly moving up to run major projects and organisations. We encourage this next-gen group to challenge their peers and sector leaders – as they did at the event, and continue to do in their day-to-day actions.

In a truly galvanising session, guests shared insight on the work ahead – for all kinds of under-represented groups ­– and offered sector challenges and personal commitments to make equality the ‘new normal’.

Session video

To find out more, check out these links and the resources below!

Roundtable participants with LinkedIn links

The inspiring individuals below formed the nucleus of the event, but all attendees were welcome to ask questions and contribute shareable resources via Chat:

  • Kelly Canterford – Programme Manager, Changing the Face of Property
  • Kate Dodsworth – CEO, Gateway Housing & diversity champion
  • Hasanul Hoque – Operations Director, Camden Town Unlimited & Euston Town BIDs, Camden Collective & Alternative Camden Innovation District
  • Anouk Khan – Operations Director, RE:Women
  • Diane Lightfoot – CEO, Business Disability Forum
  • Leona Menville – Director, Customers & Communities, Inquilab; Co-Chair, Unify (BAME) Network
  • Charlotte Morphet – Principal Planner, LB Waltham Forest; Co-Chair, Women in Planning; Chair, POS NOVUS
  • Onyeka Onyekwelu – Strategic Engagement Manager, London Office of Technology & Innovation (LOTI)
  • Jahanara Rajkoomar – Director of Community Investment, Metropolitan Thames Valley; Leadership 2025 candidate
  • Marina Robertson – Senior Director, NPS Group
  • Akil Scafe-Smith – Co-founder, RESOLVE Collective; Trustee, Participatory City
  • Seth Scafe-Smith – Programme Director, RESOLVE Collective; Area Regeneration Officer, LB Lambeth
  • Anita Singh – Programme Manager, Turner & Townsend & Member, GM Future Leaders
  • Neil Smith – Inclusive Design Lead, HS2
  • Vicky Thompson – Director of HR, Montagu Evans
  • Becky Utuka – Director, Development & Sales, Gateway Housing; Leadership 2025 candidate
  • Lisa Taylor – Executive Director, Future of London; Director, Coherent Cities (session producer, moderator)

Additional resources

(please email Oli to add your own!)

On recruiting, from speaker Hasanul Hoque:

Camden Town Unlimited (current team avg. 50% female, 20% BAME, average age of recruit 23 yo)
  1. Recruit where you wouldn’t normally look such as the “job centre” as that’s where you can make the biggest impact
  2. Lower the barriers to entry such as degree or experience for junior roles which most probably don’t need them. Focus on enthusiasm, can do attitude and transferable skills. Some are fortunate to have time to focus on studies and gain relevant work experience where other young people often fall into a catch 22 in a retail or hospitality trap as they cannot gain the relevant qualification or experiences to transition into office work.
  3. Create a supportive working environment which will allow growth and collaboration. Organisations always say they don’t have time to hold hands and need someone ready to hit the ground running. Home grown talent creates award winning cultures in our experience.

Camden Collective (current founder breakdown: 60% female, 33% BAME, average age 27yo)

  • Focus on value adding organisations and community collaboration not rent.
  • We look for organisations that will add a new business dynamic or market segment to the co-working space and who will add value to the high street with our pop ups.

On culture and opportunities, from speaker Leona Menville:

  • Culture – Acknowledge that organisational culture and structures are a fundamental part of the solution. A lack of genuine diversity at the top table has led to a “group think” mentality determining what ‘good’ or ‘success’ looks like. Leaders have to be willing to dismantle and deconstruct these structural barriers to effect genuine and meaningful change.
  • Encourage self-selection of initiatives – Open up all opportunities to all people. There are many more talented and skilled black and ethnically diverse people within organisations than those that are spotted, sponsored, and put forward for opportunities. Remember that feeling when you were picked last for the sports team at school? Imagine, having to go through that every time an opportunity arises.
  • Encourage the regulator to develop a race standard within the forthcoming consumer standards Act. Providing a carrot and stick approach will ensure the issues remain prominent and become entrenched in the way we develop people and deliver services.

On a variety of topics, from speaker and FoL alumna Charlotte Morphet:

On mobility and transport, from guest and FoL alumnus Gareth James, LB Hounslow:

National Assn of City Transport Officials have been hitting it out of the park lately with some of their work and statements. I also attended From Ally to Accomplice: How to actively use your power and privilege to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the mobility space.”

From guest Neil Smith (other links and recommendations in Chat):

I have just listened in to this morning’s webinar which you hosted, and just wanted to say how interesting I found it.  As a ‘white middle-aged male’ (there must be an appropriate acronym that we can come up with for that!), I always need to remind myself not to take my position for granted and to challenge the way that I view and do things.  It has to be the case that diversity in any organisation/team makes us so much stronger, and prevents us becoming an ‘echo chamber’ of like-minded views. Also, what a fantastic cohort of speakers!!
Anthony Van Hoffen, Partner (Real Estate), Lewis Silkin LLP

#LearningFromCrisis is true to Future of London’s USP: We’re sharing practical cross-sector ideas; featuring next-wave and operational leaders along with top tier; and applying diversity in thought and participation to the wicked problems we face. Find out more here.

This session also ties to FoL’s Speaker Diversity Network, bringing fresh voices to urban debate and supported by housing association L&Q and consultancy NPS Group; our cross-sector leadership programmes; and the Emerging Talent initiative we’re developing with the G15 housing group and Altair to help broaden, develop and promote a more inclusive talent pool.