A CONVERSATION WITH: DR MIRANDA BRAWN

The diversity in business pioneer on why more black leaders are needed in the City and how her foundation is helping to address the issue

29 July, 2020

 

THE ROYAL EXCAHNGE: Welcome Miranda, you’ve been trailblazing your way through the City and beyond for the past 20 years. Could you share a brief overview of your professional accomplishments so far?

MIRANDA BRAWN: Over the past 20 plus years, my career has included working for the world’s best banks as an investment banker, lawyer, hedge fund sales trader and board advisor across many sectors, both profit and non-profit.

I have also spent more than 20 years studying the Laws of Success, which include being an international motivational public speaker, success coach and an author – my first published book, about my journey so far and what I have learned about success, will be available to pre-order later this year.

And I am the Founder and CEO of the Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation.

 

TRE: What is the purpose of The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation?

MB: I founded The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation in 2016, with a mission to educate, empower and inspire future leaders while helping to close the diversity gap in the workplace. It is now a multi-award-winning charity that designs and delivers innovative diversity leadership programmes and skills-building workshops. We cater for young people from all ethnicities and diverse backgrounds, and we focus on education, building self-confidence, career development and networking opportunities. Our aim is to uncover diverse talent with the potential for leadership success in the workplace.

Our scholarship programmes provide funding, work experience, mentoring and diversity leadership lecture events. Our diversity leadership lecture made UK history in October 2016 for being the first of its kind aimed at Black, Asian and Minority Ethnics (BAME) student leaders aged 14 to 21 years old.

We have just launched three new initiatives: our first fundraising campaign, called ‘Educating Next Gen’; a Black Leadership Scholarship and a new reader friendly website.

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TRE: How does the Black Leadership Scholarship differ to your other scholarships?

MB: Our Black Leadership Scholarship, launching across all industries, will support Black student leaders who are pushing forward initiatives to make sure that Black voices and stories are fairly represented in our community. They are developing thoughtful programmes that address the core issues of the Black Lives Matter movement. This includes building understanding and communications that lead to open and honest learning and discovery, learning how to love each other in unity; how to deal with adversity; and building leadership skills to usher in a new era of systemic change.

 

TRE: What made you decide to channel your energy into making a change in this area?

MB: After more than 20 years of chairing black networking groups for top global banks, and speaking up about the need for all forms of diversity, especially race, it was still the elephant in the room. There was not a lot of change taking place at the board and senior management levels of organisations. I founded my charity with the goal of launching just one innovative scholarship that was unlike anything else in the market at the time. Then it just grew organically to where we are today. This year we have awarded 50 tailored scholarships across 50 different institutions ranging from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford to various state schools across England and Wales.

 

TRE: What are the main obstacles to achieving diversity and equal opportunities in the City?

MB: The key obstacles involve getting organisations to take real action when it comes to hiring more qualified and capable diverse people (including black people) in senior and board positions, based upon merit. There is a lot of research and data to illustrate the lack of diversity in the workplace with recommendations from the Parker Review, Race in the Workplace: McGregor-Smith Review and Why Diversity Matters McKinsey Report to name but a few. This highlighted that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Gender diversity was at a lower percentage of 15. If BAME talent is fully utilised, the UK economy could receive a £24 billion boost. That said, all you have to do is look at your organisation’s board and senior leadership management to note the lack of diverse leaders.

The barriers include, but are not limited to, businesses or organisations not adapting their ‘cultural fit’ to enable more diversity and inclusion; a lack of promotion and retainment of female and black leaders; unconscious bias; pay gaps; and the lack of career advancement for flexible and part-time employees. Then there is the difficulty in juggling work and personal life, particularly for those with caring responsibilities for children and aged parents; the lack of support among women and black people; and the lack of sponsorship for diverse employees in workplaces.

There is too much lip service, without actually solving the diversity issues within the workplace.

We also have to differentiate more and stop referring to Black, Asian and Minority Ethics as one group (BAME). This is because when organisations quote their BAME statistics it is mostly referring to Asian people who are in a few senior positions. Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people are at the lowest hiring and pay levels and this needs to be addressed.

Recent data by Financial News has highlighted that there are just three – out of more than 650 – senior investment bankers in London who are Black. This is an example of the finance’s sector low levels of racial diversity, especially regarding Black people within the senior levels. The number of senior Black dealmakers – who make up less than 0.5% of those heading up investment banking teams in London – contrasts with the 13% proportion that make up the BAME category once Asian and other minority ethnic groups are included. There is a lack of Black role models in the senior levels within the City. The importance of being treated fairly and equally is key.

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TRE: Do you think things are changing in the City? And, if so, what have you seen change over the course of your career so far? What are we doing well with, and what do we still need to do better at?

MB: The City has definitely changed for the better during my career. There have been a number of diverse employees hired over the years, however it is mostly at junior levels. In order for this to improve, organisations will need to listen, understand and act more. Concentration on the action part of diversity is of paramount importance. To actively increase diversity, organisations need to set targets that are embedded within the business plans. It makes business sense and there is a lot of research to back this statement.

I have noticed that people of Caribbean descent in particular are being neglected during the hiring process. Also, the few black people that have gained employment are denied equal pay, promotion or not retained. It is vital that we talk and act when it comes to diversity, to ensure that a particular race is not being excluded for any reason. During the next year organisations should take this point on board and when hiring from diverse backgrounds consider retaining and promoting at managing director, partner and board levels.

On a positive note, many senior financial executives are supporting the racial diversity initiatives following the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the world in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and numerous other Black people. The diversity levels have shifted since my entrance to the City of London’s banking industry in the 1990s, however it has failed to shift in the senior levels.

Action speaks louder than words and quotes in the press. Let us see how many Black people are at MD, Partner and Board levels in one year’s time. The talent is out there. The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Annual Lecture 2020 is focused on ‘Inclusion’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ and will be hosted and sponsored by Hogan Lovells. The lecture event will continue our theme of supporting the promotion of cross sectors and industries alongside different diversity strands. This should be applied within the City of London across the various sectors such as banking, law, accountancy, technology, consultancy and so on.

 

TRE: What advice do you have for anyone who feels that they have been, or are being, disadvantaged in their professional field because of diversity or equal opportunity issues?

MB: Use your power, which is your voice, and speak up. I have used my voice to speak up against injustice from since I was a child. If everyone, regardless of their race or gender, were to speak up when they see unfair treatment then this would help to end bullying and harassment in the workplace.

 

TRE: And for people who don’t feel that they are disadvantaged in anyway, how can they play a role in bringing about positive change?

MB: Allyship is a key diversity and inclusion tool to help bring about positive change. Speak up for those who are being disadvantaged. Donate money, or time as a volunteer, to organisations like my charity that are working hard to make a key difference. Hire, promote and retain diverse candidates in senior positions. Mentor, read and learn more. We all matter in this movement. We all have the power to learn, grow, and find ways to address injustices and unfairness while helping to build positive change for the future. By empowering our next generation to take an active role in transforming society, we can help elevate the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Supporting scholarship programmes and educational platforms are one way to make a difference, championing the development of thoughtful future leaders in our community who can spur change in creating a better world for us all.

We have just launched our first fundraising campaign called ‘Educating Next Gen’. Donations will go towards empowering young student leaders by giving them access to education and career success via my charity’s education, scholarships, mentoring and confidence skill-building workshops. The goal is to create a more diverse and successful workforce in the years to come.

Donating to our Scholarship Programme is an investment in social justice and equity. Individual and company donations are both welcome, no amount is too small. We would welcome the support of your readers to help us close the diversity gap in the workplace via funding, volunteering to mentor our next generation of diverse student leaders, helping us with the day to day running of the charity by assisting us with skills ranging from technology to PR and marketing, and spreading the word about our work.

For further information about Dr Miranda Brawn as an international public speaker and how you can support the various initiatives of The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation, visit mirandabrawn.com and tmbdlf.com

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