Blog

Gavin Slark - Workplace diversity is key to business success

21st August 2019
In order for genuine equality to be achieved in the modern workplace, we need commitment from people of all backgrounds and levels within a company. That’s why we’re proud to feature on our most recent post, an insightful piece from Gavin Slark, CEO of Grafton Group plc.
 

Why is diversity important?

For any business to succeed with a diverse customer base, a diverse workforce is essential and for me, diversity goes beyond gender. Ethnicity, economic and educational backgrounds, outside interests, perceived disability and sexuality all frame an individual’s thoughts, ideas and principles, therefore, we should be embracing the widest possible spectrum of views to get to the broadest customer base. A diverse workplace is more stimulating, interesting and creates a more enjoyable place to be.
“For any business to succeed with a diverse customer base, a diverse workforce is essential and for me, diversity goes beyond gender.”

What are the challenges of being diverse?

The construction industry has a historical trend of being male-dominated. There is no doubt that we have seen some outstanding female talent come through in recent years, particularly in Marketing, Finance, IT and HR but it is still a challenge to find that emerging female talent with hands-on operational experience.
 

Have you ever felt excluded or different in the workplace?

I left school at 16 at started work immediately, as my career progressed, many of peers had university degrees and there was certainly a view amongst some of them that by not having a degree that I was a second class citizen to them, in truth, it just motivated me, even more, to prove that you could be a success whatever your background.
 

What can we do better?

We need to constantly challenge ourselves as business leaders to front up against historical prejudices or stereotypes and give people opportunities based on their performance, talent, work ethic and ability to develop, not based on their gender or any other personal or background element.
 

How am I trying to influence?

I am in the fortunate position to be a CEO, this does give me the ability to influence how the culture of the organisation evolves and I hope that people would recognise that I have a history of appointing great people irrespective of gender or background.  50% of the people on the planet are female, it, therefore, follows that 50% of the great business leaders should be female too.
“50% of the people on the planet are female, it therefore, follows that 50% of the great business leaders should be female too.”

Do you have any positive role models?

When I first started work, I had a female boss and we are still in regular contact 35 years on, she was a great advocate of “you can be whatever you want to be” and that should be the message that we are giving out today.
 
Interested in reading more male advocacy posts? Check out our piece with Joe Hudson!
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