Inclusion at the heart of ESG - Fireside chat with Gina Miller

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Author: Maha Khan Phillips

Gina Miller is leader of the True and Fair Party and co-founder of SCM Direct and MoneyShe. She is an activist, philanthropist, and now, political figure. At CFA UK’s virtual conference, Miller talked to Will Goodhart, chief executive of CFA UK, about getting inclusion right.

Gina Miller believes in the importance of etymology. More specifically, she is wary of the way words are used in the debate around diversity and inclusion. “I often think that words carry a meaning that then leads to actions. We focus and become almost obsessed with words such as diversity, inclusion, and fairness, but how do they then effect what happens around us? Particularly in the business world, people often think that diversity and inclusion are synonymous, and somehow there is this idea that one leads to another and I think this is mistaken and these are two quite different things,” she said.

Speaking to Will Goodhart, chief executive of CFA UK at the Inclusion at the Heart of ESG virtual conference, Miller argued that while diversity looked at the spectrum of human experience from age, gender, marital status, ethnicity and sexual orientation, inclusion was “the arms around that. What is it in an environment that makes you feel valued, respected, and welcomed? The two sit side by side but because one is seen as the same as the other it may explain why we haven’t made the advances that we could have made professionally and socially,” she said.

Miller went on to say that she was more concerned about inclusion today than she was when she started her investment career in 1996. “I am more worried now than I was then because discrimination and misogyny and lack of opportunity was much more out there. Now it is so nuanced that it is much more difficult to call out.”

She said she wanted to see a more ‘positive’ agenda which focuses on equality of opportunities and openness. “What you are saying is that everyone deserves opportunities, encompassing everything that we are, ensuring that there are no barriers to being promoted.” 

Miller acknowledged that the view would not make her popular with everyone. “Some of the equality champions think we need positive discrimination, that we have to champion diversity and get people on the board level. But I would argue that that doesn’t create an equal environment.”

She warned against companies using diversity and inclusion to pay lip service to the issues, arguing that institutions should not be allowed to feel that they have hit their targets and can move on, but rather that they should be listening to people in the organisation at all levels to ensure that their programmes were working. “[Companies] can say we have a D&I agenda, we have an inclusive organisation, but that doesn’t change the fact that somebody doesn’t want to come into that organisation,” she said.

Miller also argued that the investment industry needs to do a better job of advocating for itself. “One of the problems I have with our industry as a whole is that we underestimate how valuable we are to society. We haven’t learnt how to tell our story and talk about social capital and what we offer the end consumer. If we could find a different way of communicating our value to society, then that benefits us all,” she said.

Goodhart and Miller also discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the campaign to raise trust within the investment profession. Miller said the issue was vital. “A culture has to be built on solid moral grounds. One of the cornerstones of that ground is trust. How do we amplify our inclusion as a sector?”

She felt that there were still legacy issues from the global financial crisis, with the industry not doing enough to step up and communicate the advancements it has made, countering any negative narrative. She wants governments to bring financial education into the mainstream, so that people can be educated about finance early. “There are initiatives happening, but there aren’t enough that are happening on an industry-wide basis. Education is the place we could start.”

 

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